By John Torenli
They call him the “Magic Man," but Brooklyn native Paulie Malignaggi insists he won’t need any hocus pocus to dethrone unbeaten welterweight Vyacheslav Senchenko at the World Boxing Association (WBA) championship Sunday night in Donetsk, Ukraine.
“Boxing fans want to see world title fights and this one they'll see me beat Senchenko,” the always-animated Bensonhurst product said shortly after landing in his opponent’s homeland earlier this week. “I look forward to becoming the WBA world welterweight champion.”
Malignaggi, who has won 30 of 34 pro bouts with six career knockouts, captured the junior welterweight crown five years ago, scoring a 12-round decision over Lovemore N’dou before successfully defending that title twice.
The 31-year-old appeared to be bound for the broadcast booth rather than the ring following a tough 11-round TKO loss to British superstar Amir Khan at Madison Square Garden on May 5, 2010, but the loquacious Italian-American has found a comfort zone in his new weight class.
Since moving up to welterweight in December 2010, Malignaggi has posted victories over Michael Lozada, Jose Miguel Cotto and Orlando Lora, setting up his bout with Senchenko, who is rated fifth in the world by Ring Magazine following three defenses of his 147-pound title.
Malignaggi’s bold boasts will doubtlessly be lost on the pro-Senchenko crowd during the pay-per-view bout, but the veteran pugilist believes his experience in big fights and his unwavering self-confidence will help him thrive in the hostile environment.
"This is a good style match-up,” he said. “Fans will see what Paulie Malignaggi has left and if Senchenko is for real. No matter which way you look at it, fans can get together as a group to watch, or order it individually at home. I’m not worried about fighting over there because the WBA and Golden Boy Promotions have appeased any fears I may have had at first. Golden Boy takes good care of its fighters, so I took the fight.”
While some may view this as Malignaggi’s last chance to re-establish his credibility as a marquee attraction in the squared circle, as well as the national cable TV circuit, the 5-foot-8 ring general is already looking ahead to a potential date with history in his home borough.
“This fight is driving me because I want my first title defense to be at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, October 20 on opening night,” Malignaggi revealed.
“I’m going to beat this guy to become a two-division world champion. Senchenko’s never been in the ring with anybody like Paulie Malignaggi. He’s never seen anybody like me. He has fought in the comfort of his home during his entire career against pitiful opponents.”
Senchenko’s world-renowned trainer, Freddie Roach, will doubtlessly disagree, but Malignaggi remains steadfast in his belief that his opponent will wilt under the duress of being in the ring with a savvy, slick, quick-thinking fighter, who also talks a pretty good game.
“I’m the biggest name he’s ever fought,” he said. “He’s never fought anybody on my level. He’s in for a rude awakening April 29. I’m going to force him to adapt and dig down to the point where he’s not going to want to get up and fight me every three minutes. I have the answer for everything he brings into the ring. There’s nothing he can do that I haven’t seen and can’t handle. I’m better than him.”
Come Sunday night, Malignaggi’s actions will have to speak much louder than his words.