If Paulie Malignaggi ever fights again, it probably won’t be in the state of Florida.
The former two-division boxing champion made his long-awaited bare-knuckle boxing debut at BKFC 6 on Friday at Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, going five rounds with rival Artem Lobov en route to a unanimous decision loss. Both men had visible damage on their face after the fight, though Malignaggi insisted afterwards that Lobov rarely managed to catch him with anything clean.
Malignaggi maintained that stance at the evening’s post-fight press conference, telling reporters that he felt the judges got it wrong.
“I pretty much got the worst of everything because I got a shit decision and I made a tic-tac-toe board out of his face with my left hand,” Malignaggi said. “Look at my face, I got hit literally in one clinch. In one clinch, I got hit and that’s it. I took a couple of shots in that one clinch that he got me, I thought I did a pretty good job in clinches other than that, and really nothing else landed. I was very comfortable boxing.
“Luckily, I have experience fighting with one hand from earlier in my career, breaking my right hand so many times, so even when my right hand was gone I thought I boxed very well in three, four, and five. He got me in the clinch in three, but other than that I thought four and five—I mean five he didn’t land at all. I was popping him with jabs and check left hooks constantly. You want to give him four, I don’t think you can, but I guess if they want to give it to him.”
Malignaggi, 38, believes he broke his right hand on Lobov’s head in the second round after throwing a funky 1-2 combination. After that, he relied on his jab to keep Lobov at bay, though it wasn’t enough to overcome the aggressive volume striking of Lobov when it came time to tally the scorecards.
Much of the action also took place in the clinch and Malignaggi said he spent time with renowned boxing, kickboxing, and MMA coach Ray Longo to prepare himself to handle Lobov in that department. For the most part, Malignaggi felt he neutralized Lobov’s clinch work, so he wondered if it was the quality of the judging in Florida that led to the verdict not going his way.
“The only thing I could come up with is a couple of times off the spin-offs I went off-balance and he kind of grazed me with some shots that maybe they thought the punches caused me to go off-balance instead of my legs and my spin-off going off-balance and they thought he was hurting me so that made them give him a round,” Malignaggi said.
“This is also a problem when you have a state that has a fight every 50 years. You have judges that don’t know what the f*ck they’re watching, don’t know what the f*ck they’re doing, and you get this. Everybody and their mothers thought I won this fight, but you know what? I’m also 38 years old and I guess this is sort of a sign to say, ‘Yo, you gotta stop.’ Because I probably would have kept doing this if I won this fight tonight... once I got in there and I got going it was kind of fun. It was like I was in the moment. Sure, it sucks getting hit, of course. But I took that one shot in the clinch and I thought I dealt with the clinch pretty well, I was pretty elusive, and so I was boxing well.”
All three judges scored the fight the same way, giving Malignaggi rounds one and two, and Lobov the final three frames. This was further confused Malignaggi, who felt that he was even more successful landing punches later in the fight.
“Ironically, the judges gave me the first two rounds and then after three they didn’t give me a round. Again, bush league shit, because I got cut in round three. Once the bush league shit came in they literally only scored my blood. The same shit was happening, he was getting out-boxed very easily, but now I was cut.
“And clearly the bush league judges scored the blood and not the actual fight or what was happening, because realistically nothing else happened aside from that clinch where he definitely got me with some good shots.”
As irked as he was by the decision loss, Malignaggi gave nothing but credit to Lobov when asked if the beef between them had been squashed.
“I think when fighters fight each other there’s sort of that soul searching of themselves and you kind of have to dig deep,” Malignaggi said. “Maybe this wasn’t (Jason) Knight vs. Lobov, this wasn’t the all-out war that Knight vs. Lobov was, but I had to dig deep and I got left one-handed so I had to stay calm in the line of fire and Artem had to dig deep because he had to chase me trying to land the shots that he couldn’t land and he had to still go for it and try to win the fight. You still gain that respect for one another, nonetheless. And I think we have that.
“I still don’t agree with everything that he did, but I’m sure people aren’t going to agree with the way I responded to everything too. So respect to Artem. He’s got a newborn baby, so he’s probably going to benefit from this and do well for himself.”