By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bensonhurst born-and-bred boxer Paulie Malignaggi's shot at headlining the first-ever pro boxing card at Downtown Brooklyn's Barclays Center on Oct. 20 is reportedly gone.
But the reigning WBA welterweight champ isn't exactly up in arms over the snub.
Malignaggi, who who was rumored to be in negotiations to take on fellow Brooklynite Dmitriy Salita in the main event, will instead meet 22-year-old Pablo Cesar Cano on the undercard that night.
Salita, a 30-year-old Orthodox Jew born in the Ukraine but fighting out of our fair borough, was expectedly disappointed by the news of Malignaggi's showdown with Cano, a Mexican contender with a 25-1-1 career record, including 19 knockouts.
“Paulie fighting Cano is pretty surprising to me,” Salita told World Boxing News earlier this week. “I don't know how that fight makes sense for New York as Cano is virtually unknown there. I am in boxing myself and I have not heard of Cano. ... They know I want the fight and that it would be a major historic event in NYC, especially with the opening of a new Brooklyn arena. I feel very good and confident (that I can win) if my fight with Paulie is to happen, but the decision for it to happen or not is really out of my hands at this point.”
Malignaggi, never at a loss for words himself, insists the perceived slight is nothing for his hardcore Brooklyn fans to worry about, especially with prospective big fights looming for the 31-year-old Italian-American against the likes of "The Brooklyn Flash" Zab Judah, Britain's Ricky Hatton or Amir Khan.
“There is a long-term plan. My fans should stay patient, there is a very big fight coming, but it’s hush-hush for now,” Malignaggi told ESPN.
Erik Morales will meet Danny Garcia in the headline bout on the first Barclays card, but the arena will be packed with Malignaggi fans hoping to see the champ bring in Brooklyn boxing with one of his patented flurries.
In the meantime, Malignaggi (31-4) isn't slacking off on his training for the younger Cano.
"Cano I have to take seriously," he said. "He's a very good body puncher, he'll try to take my legs away. I will take him seriously."
Brooklynites continue to make an impact on the London Olympics as Lia Neal, a 17-year-old native of our fair borough, captured the bronze medal as part of the U.S. women's 4x100-meter freestyle swimming event over the weekend.
Neal, just the second African-American swimmer ever to medal at an Olympics, was the third leg on a team that featured featured Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy and Allison Schmidt. Olympic veteran Natalie Coughlin, who helped Team USA reach the finals in the 4x100 preliminaries, also earned bronze for her participation, which made her just the third U.S. woman ever to capture 12 career medals.
"It's kind of surreal," Neal admitted on NBC's Today Show. "It's just amazing to be on the same relay team with all those girls. To get a bronze is just amazing."
After missing out on a spot on the 2008 U.S. team in Beijing as a 13-year-old, Neal took advantage of her lone opportunity to score a medal in London.
"I was just thinking about how awesome it was, just soaking everything in, listening to my music and getting pumped up," she said of the moments before she jumped into the pool and made history. "I'm honored just to be able to chip in."
Unfortunately, not all local Olympic participants earned coveted spots on their respective podiums.
Staten Island boxer Marcus Browne, who was mentored by former Brooklyn Olympian Sadam Ali, lost a tough 13-11 decision to Australia's Damien Hooper Monday in the Round of 32.
Browne, who will likely turn pro upon his return to New York, blamed himself for the poor showing after boasting that he'd be gunning for gold in London.
“I didn’t listen to my corner,” Browne admitted after Hooper took the bout with a strong third round. “My corner said to take it to him. I did it for a little bit but not the whole round. I had a one-point lead and that’s really nothing. I definitely waited too long. My corner told me more speed, less power, and I didn’t listen, but this isn’t a setback. It’s a learning experience.”
The U.S. men's basketball team had its way with France in the preliminary round, cruising to a 98-71 win Sunday.
Brooklyn-born Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony grabbed nine rebounds and Nets point guard Deron Williams fed reigning NBA regular-season and Finals MVP LeBron James with a perfect alley-oop for a breathtaking dunk in the U.S. squad's London debut.
Anthony and Williams also received post-game hugs from First Lady Michelle Obama, who was on hand to wish the latest version of the Dream Team success in its quest for a second consecutive gold medal.
The Americans were getting ready to take on Tunisia on Tuesday evening in their second game. Park Slope's Race Imboden, ranked fifth in the world in men's individual foil, was stunned by Andrea Baldini of Italy Tuesday, 15-9, during the prelimaries of the fencing event.
"I fenced really badly and he fenced excellently," Imboden said. "He did what he always does and he drew me in. He fences at a really good distance and he was too good for me. He is definitely one of the best."
Imboden, a graduate of Manhattan's Dwight School, will have a shot at redemption in the men's team foil event Sunday.
Brooklyn's Nzingha Prescod will be fencing with the women's foil squad on Thursday morning.
Former LIU-Brooklyn Blackbird Kyle Johnson played just over a minute off the bench in Great Britain's 67-62 loss to Brazil Tuesday in the Olympic men's basketball tournament.
Johnson, who graduated from the Downtown school in 2011 after registering 1,433 career points for the Blackbirds, did not score Tuesday as the Brits failed to win their first Olympic hoops contest since 1948. They'll try again on Thursday against powerhouse Spain.