Former junior welterweight and welterweight boxing titleholder Paulie Malignaggi announced his retirement from the sport in March 2017, a couple of days after a bad knockout loss to Sam Eggington in London, but the 38-year-old “Magic Man” is looking to get back into the competitive arena.
Not in boxing, though — Malignaggi has signed a two-year deal with Bare Knuckle FC.
”BKFC is the new wave in combat sports,” Malignaggi said in a statement. “They’re doing great things and I’m very excited to be a part of this organization. I’ve accomplished some big things in my boxing career, and I look forward to what this next phase brings.
“After a long boxing career, it’s easy to miss the limelight and the rush that combat brings. I look forward to getting back in action and the new challenge of fighting for BKFC.”
Malignaggi retired with a record of 36-8 (7 KO) in the boxing game, and given his lack of punching power — which was largely a result of numerous hand injuries — he really had a terrific career, along the way facing the likes of Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan, Adrien Broner, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia, among others. He usually lost his bigger fights, but was a respected name in the industry for several years, a charismatic guy who could sell a fight and then would give his all, in victory or defeat.
BKFC president Dave Feldman says Malginaggi makes sense for their company.
“This is a great signing for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship,” Feldman said. “At this time in our company’s growth, we needed to add a legitimate and well-established world champion boxer to our roster, and I believe with Paulie’s ability and personality we’ve done just that. Paulie is the perfect fit for us.”
Malignaggi, who now works as an analyst for Showtime and has been in some training camps over the last couple of years, is expected to make his BKFC debut in June.
He doesn’t have an opponent officially yet, but Helen Yee says on Twitter that Malignaggi may face MMA veteran Artem Lobov, which has a built-in story. Lobov (13-15 in MMA), who is scheduled to fight on an April 6 BKFC card, is close with Conor McGregor, a longtime sparring partner for the Irish superstar.
You will recall that Malignaggi worked some with McGregor in 2017, ahead of McGregor’s boxing fight with Floyd Mayweather. That went swimmingly for about seven minutes until the egos got involved. McGregor claimed to have dropped Malignaggi in sparring, Malignaggi denied it, there were inconclusive video bits of sparring shown, it became a whole side plot to selling the Mayweather-McGregor event, and it’s still a beef to this day.
So Malignaggi-Lobov would make sense if you’re a fledgling company trying to find some angles to sell fights, and signing Malignaggi makes sense in that regard, too. He’s got some name value, he’s not ancient or anything. Whether or not it really gives them the sort of boost they’re hoping for is another story, but unless it bankrupts them or something, it really can’t hurt to try.