Saturday night's Showtime main event at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is a meaningful event for both Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi, who are avoiding their usual colorful pre-fight trash talk to convey a healthy respect for one another. The two Brooklyn natives are looking forward to their fight, and say that it's entirely about pride.
"They said Paulie and I said 'Paulie, nah, Paulie is my homeboy,'" Judah said in a conference call with media. "But I was like, 'Hey, you know, this is an opportunity that you've got to take for boxing.' So I guess we're here now. Like I said, this is a fight where there's no animosity or anything like that. It's just us going in there and representing for our city."
"For a lot of years I came up behind Zab and he kind of laid the building blocks for my generation. He was kind of the guy to look up to and to try to match his accomplishments," Malignaggi said. "It really didn't come to mind, we were in different weight classes and at different places in our career, but people started mentioning it and talking around Brooklyn the past year or two.
"But I still didn't think the fight had any chance of happening because we were still in different weight classes and kind of had different goals for our careers. We each took a competitive loss in our last fight and it's kind of a situation where you have to take a step back in way from world title fights. But this isn't such a step back because we're still world-class even with no world title on the line."
Judah (42-8, 29 KO) and Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KO) are both coming off of losses, but were impressive against elite-level, younger foes.
"It made a lot of sense from that perspective and also for us both being from Brooklyn. Until the fight was made I didn't think it would be more than Brooklyn talk and that's all. I think in the last couple of years people started getting in my ear that people in Brooklyn wanted to see what would happen if me and Zab Judah got in the ring together," Malignaggi added.
The city is the focal point for the fighters and the fans. "There's one thing a lot of people will tell you - there's a pride about being from Brooklyn," Judah said. "Now we've got the opportunity in a sport that I've been in for the last 18 years of my life to be called the king of it. I'm excited for this one and that's where the motivation comes from on my part."
Malignaggi does say that this is a big fight for him that he's trying to win, and that he expects Judah will be ready to go, too.
"The competition drives us all. That's the reason we do this and get up in the morning and train hard for each fight. You need different things to drive you. The competition always is the driving force," Malignaggi said.
"The competitor in me is driven by winning. Winning means everything to me. Yeah, Zab is someone I respect and looked up to coming up, but winning means everything to me. I'm a competitor in anything I do, especially boxing. It's not hard to get up for a fight like this. You can still respect your opponent and still get up for a fight."
"I'm motivated by the opportunity. I'm motivated by the situation. Paulie is somebody that I've known for a long time. I've watched him, I've watched him grow and there have even been a lot of fights where I've supported him," Judah added. "So now, it's kind of crazy to be going up against each other but it's the sport that we chose and, like he said, once the bell rings and the leather starts flying I think that anybody would come to their senses."
Said Malignaggi, "It's a really emotional fight. You want to be king of Brooklyn."