It may not have been the biggest fight of Paulie Malignaggi’s career, but it was certainly one of his most impressive wins.
The Bensonhurst bruiser shook off a questionable second-round knockdown and went on to showcase a strong overall performance to earn a unanimous decision over Brownsville native Zab Judah, and claim the North American Boxing Federation welterweight title in front of a crowd of more than 9,000 at the Barclays Center Saturday night.
Malignaggi (33–5, 7 KOs) also showed he deserved the crown of ‘King of Brooklyn’ by dominating the judges’ scorecard of 117–110, 116–111, and 117–110.
“It was good to get the win, but it was bittersweet because Zab Judah was a guy who I looked up to for so many years,” Malginaggi said. “It felt good to have these bragging rights and turn on to bigger and better things.”
The win was emotional on a number of levels for a fighter who thought he was done after losing a welterweight title to Adrien Broner last June at Barclays. Malginaggi says the win over Judah reignited his hunger to keep fighting.
“It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve been in some big fights but you don’t want to lose in a hometown fight,” Malignaggi said.
The fight plan was simple. Malignaggi kept his 36-year-old opponent off-balance with left hooks and jabs that took the steam out of Judah (42–9, 3 KOs ) for the most of the fight.
The only hiccup came in the second round. Malignaggi was floored on a quick left hook and quickly got up from the canvas to strongly complain to referee Mike Ortega. Malignaggi said he got tangled up with Judah’s legs and argued it was a slip, not a knockdown. Malignaggi was unfazed even when a clash of heads in the third round forced a cut under his left eye.
The pointed jabs and hooks that Malignaggi kept landing clearly frustrated Judah. The former five-time world champion could not string together a decent series of punches throughout the later rounds.
Judah visibly showed his displeasure in the final seconds of the 12th round. When the bell sounded, Malignaggi and Judah did not touch gloves, and instead yelled at one another until they were pulled away to their respective corners.
“Paulie didn’t want to engage in the fight like I thought he would,” Judah said later. “It was different than I thought it was going to be. He was working his jab and stood on the outside.”
Judah says he wants to continue his boxing career, but Malignaggi is closer to gaining a future title shot. Malignaggi loudly proclaimed he wanted to reclaim his welterweight title and he is ready to pounce on the winner of the title fight between Broner and Marcos Maidana in San Antonio next Saturday.
“With a win like this, it’s full steam ahead,” Malignaggi said. “I’m looking to see who’s out there in the welterweight division I can mix and match with. Make some money and show I’m a world-class fighter at my age.”
On the undercard, Brooklyn native Sadam Ali continued his impressive start to his pro career by recording a sixth-round technical knockout over Jesus Selig in a 10-round welterweight contest. Ali improved to 18–0 and gained his 11th knockout with a stoppage just 22 seconds into the start of the sixth round.
The two-time Golden Gloves champion and former 2008 Olympian gained full control by the fifth round by sending Selig to the mat. In the sixth round, Ali threw two clean right-handed shots that wobbled Selig that led to referee Pete Santiago quickly putting an end to the bout.
Juan Dominguez (16–0) impressed his hometown crowd with a unanimous decision victory over Camilo Perez in a featherweight bout.
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