Borough natives Judah and Malignaggi to square off Dec. 7
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It will be Brownsville vs. Bensonhurst, Mentor vs. Student, a five-time world champion vs. a twice-crowned title-holder and an all-out battle for borough supremacy on Dec. 7 at Barclays Center when Zab "Super" Judah takes on Paulie "The Magic Man" Malignaggi.
“We’ve hosted some great fights at Barclays Center in our first year, but this one is different,” noted Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark during Tuesday afternoon’s official press conference at the state-of-the-art Downtown arena.
“This fight is about two Brooklyn-born-and-raised fighters proudly representing their respective neighborhoods,” he added. “Paulie and Zab are pros at captivating audiences with their big personalities and boxing skills. We are delighted that they will once again step into Brooklyn’s most celebrated ring for what is sure to be another memorable night of boxing at Barclays Center.”
Billed the "Battle for Brooklyn", the Pearl Harbor Day welterweight headliner, one of several notable bouts to be televised by SHOWTIME that evening, will also pit two long-time friends in the ring. An oddity in an age when bitter rivals draw the most fan interest and TV ratings.
"I never thought that we would be in opposing corners," admitted Judah (42-9, 29 KOs), who dropped a 12-round decision to undefeated welterweight champion Danny Garcia at Barclays on April 27. "I lost my last fight here, Paulie lost his last fight here [June 22 vs. Adrien Broner], but we're still dynamite fighters. On Dec. 7, we're coming to bring the fireworks."
"All the years I've known Zab, I never expected to be across the ring from him," added Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KOs), who had his fellow Brooklynite in his corner as an honorary trainer during The Empire State Games at Hosfstra University in 1999, when he was still a budding amateur teenage prospect weighing in at 125 pounds. "We have to give Brooklyn what it wants."
Though this will be perceived as a showdown for local bragging rights, it may also take on the tone of a potential career-elimination bout for both participants.
Malignaggi, still feeling disrespected, especially by the media, following his split-decision loss to Broner here last summer, admitted that he was "torn" when considering a return to the ring.
The 32-year-old had won five consecutive bouts to resuscitate his career, including a split-decision win over Pablo Cesar Cano at Barclays on Oct. 20, 2012, before getting what he thought was a ridiculous 117-111 score against him from one of the judges in the Broner defeat.
"I was unsure if I wanted to go through everything it takes (to get ready for a fight)," Malignaggi revealed. "It's been a long road. It's had its ups and downs. The [Broner] decision irked me. There has not been a day since June 22 that someone hasn't come up to me and said, 'You got stiffed in that fight.'"
Before the loss to Garcia, Judah had most notably gone the distance in a hard-fought loss to Floyd Mayweather (2006), edged Lucas Matthysse (2010) in a close decision and been knocked out by Amir Khan (2011) before scoring a TKO of Vernon Paris in March of 2012.
With 50 pro bouts under his belt, the 35-year-old maintains that he's still focused on continuing to fight, irregardless of what happens against Malignaggi, a veteran of 37 bouts, on Dec. 7.
"As long as I keep waking up and I'm willing to go running and train, I'll keep fighting," Judah said. "I feel great. ... Where's the check at?"
Neither fighter can expect a seven-figure payday or a headlining nationally televised gig in the near future with a poor showing against the other.
But both maintain that there isn't a world title belt or big-name opponent out there that is more significant to them than winning this fight in front of a hometown crowd that figures to be split down the middle during the first All-Brooklyn main event at Barclays.
"The Barclays Center was made for fights like this," Malignaggi noted. "I have always admired Zab's skills and his resume speaks for itself. But this is the 'Battle for Brooklyn' and winning this fight is worth more than any world title."
"We have to give back to the city," added Judah. "Paulie and I have known each other for a long time and we have a mutual respect for each other. But with this fight on Dec. 7, it is going to be like ancient Roman days. There has to be a leader and that position belongs to me."
Ring Notes: Erislandy Lara (18-1-2, 12 KOs) will defend his interim WBA Super Welterweight Championship in the co-feature against Austin Trout (26-1, 14 KOs). ... Also fighting on the undercard will be Brooklyn's-own Sadam "World Kid" Ali (17-0, 10 KOs), who won his Barclays Center debut with Golden Boy Promotions last month. ... Staten Island's Marcus Browne (7-0, 6 KOs) will be fighting at Barclays for the fifth time on Dec. 7. ... Judah believes that he and Malignaggi "will break the jab count record" in their bout, as both fighters feature a fundamentally sound, technically advanced style in the ring. ... Yorkmark handed both fighters Nets jerseys featuring the 718 area code and their respective neighborhoods -- Bensonhurst and Brownsville -- emblazoned across the back. Malignaggi joked that the loser on Dec. 7 should wear the other fighter's jersey on the way out of the ring.