Former two-division boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi made his bare knuckle debut and came up short against former UFC fighter Artem Lobov in the BKFC 6 main event from Tampa, losing on unanimous scores of 48-47 across the board. BLH also had it 48-47 for Lobov.
Malignaggi started OK enough in the first couple of rounds, boxing and making Lobov miss, but Malignaggi seemed filled with nervous energy throughout the fight, his aging legs constantly twitching, and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with Lobov on the occasions Lobov could get inside on him. To that end, it was clear Malignaggi worked on quickly tying Lobov up to prevent the MMA fighter from working in the clinch, which is allowed in BKFC.
Lobov didn’t land a great number of clean shots or anything, but Malignaggi’s output in the last three rounds was pretty dire, and it was Lobov coming forward and looking like he wanted it more, pushing Malignaggi back even without doing a ton of damage. Both fighters got cut up, because it’s bare knuckle and that’s basically inevitable, but nobody landed any huge blows or anything.
Malignaggi, of course, felt he’d clearly won and outboxed Lobov, and he did outbox him, but he also just didn’t make any real impression. After nine fights on the undercard of guys just banging it out — there wasn’t a single bad fight, entertainment-wise, of that lot — watching Paulie poke and peck was kind of jarring. That’s clearly not what BKFC want their brand to come to, which would lead you to question why they’d ever sign Malignaggi up in the first place, but he did bring them some attention that otherwise doesn’t exist, so it was a give and take.
And make no mistake: you could score this for Malignaggi, but I don’t think he was robbed. In the end, it was all kinda much ado about nothing. It was the lone fight on the entire show that wasn’t very fun to watch, and even all the aggressive, over-the-top trash talk was dead once they actually had to fight each other, resulting in hugs and handshakes and bows.
Lobov will be back in BKFC, obviously, but Malignaggi — who says he broke his hand in the second round, which is no surprise if you’ve followed his career — says he’s done. He mentioned that he probably would have come back if he’d gotten the nod, but at 38 he sees no point in trying to rebound from a loss, no matter how controversial he believes that loss to be. That’s probably the smart idea, too.
In what basically amounted to a cruiserweight fight, UFC vets Dakota Cochrane and Chris Leben went to war for five rounds, with Cochrane winning on scores of 48-47, 49-46, and 49-46. Leben, who frankly probably shouldn’t be fighting anymore, put in his usual incredible effort and was tough as hell, but Cochrane got the better of things overall.
Johnny Bedford dropped Reggie Barnett Jr three times en route to a decision win on scores of 47-45, 47-45, and 48-44. The first two knockdowns came very early in the opening round, and it looked like it might wind up a really short fight. But apart from the knockdowns, Barnett did quite well — in fact, on the two 47-45 cards, Barnett won three of the five rounds, but the knockdowns did him in.
The win makes Bedford the BKFC lightweight champion, as this was a tournament final.
On the whole, I came away from this totally open to watching BKFC in the future. I also came away from it totally closed to the idea of watching the aged Malignaggi fight again. In his day, I quite enjoyed watching Paulie. He was kind of unpredictable, he had his charms, and he was quite skilled. This isn’t his day, and hasn’t been for a while. If BKFC are going to go after faded boxing names, maybe look up guys like Mike Alvarado or Brandon Rios instead of a slickster whose skills have been greatly eroded by time.
- Julian Lane UD-5 Tom Shoaff (49-45, 49-45, 49-45)
- Joey Beltran KO-2 Jamie Campbell (1:50)
- Joe Riggs D-5 Walber Barros (47-47, 47-47, 47-47)
- Jim Alers KO-1 Elvin Brito (0:45)
- Abdiel Velazquez UD-5 Travis Thompson (48-47, 49-46, 50-45)
- Chris Boffil TKO-3 Jared Hayes (1:55)