IT didn’t take Paulie Malignaggi long to respond to some half-hearted reports linking him with a 2019 boxing match against mixed martial artist Conor McGregor.
The former IBF junior-welterweight champion, never one to let an opportunity go to waste, realises the money-making potential in a fight against McGregor – whatever the discipline and tools involved – and is savvy enough to know, even if the fight never happens, it pays to be linked with the larger-than-life Irishman.
It’s why he hardly missed a beat.
“I think Conor knows his time is coming to an end,” Malignaggi, 38, said on the ‘Off the Brawl’ podcast, when asked for his thoughts on a McGregor fight. “He has become the pinata of combat sports, just like I predicted he would once he reached this level. He just wasn’t going to be able to hack it.
“So I think now that (McGregor) realises it’s happening, he’s trying all he can to keep himself relevant as best he can, even going as far as calling out the Japanese featherweight (Tenshin) Nasukawa.
“There’s no other fight he can make that makes more money than he does fighting me – the problem is, he gets beaten by me.”
The two have already shared a boxing ring, of course. Back in the summer of 2017, when McGregor was preparing for a ridiculous boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, Malignaggi agreed to be one of the UFC star’s sparring partners and it wasn’t long before all hell broke loose.
There was the old knockdown-pushdown debate, as well as verbal back and forth on social media, but, in the end, it meant not a thing. McGregor was still found to be well out of his depth in a boxing ring with Mayweather and Malignaggi, the retired boxer, found comfort in the sight of the mixed martial artist getting his comeuppance.
“In boxing I’d be interested in it,” he said of a Malignaggi-McGregor fight. “I’d love to do a ‘winner takes all’ fight just so he can go for free, but I don’t think he’d ever agree to that.
“I would absolutely love it because I would beat him to a pulp. I would hospitalise him and I’d make him go home broke, too.”
As far as bad blood goes, it seems genuine between the two. Moreover, in terms of storyline, there are few better, or as prolonged, in combat sports today.
Where Malignaggi vs. McGregor lets itself down, however, is when it purports to be a competitive spectacle fans have a desire to see. The truth is, very few do.
With Amir Khan seemingly set to share a ring with Terence Crawford in April, his long-time rival Kell Brook has been forced to look elsewhere for potential opponents.
One man emerging as a possibility is Jeff Horn, the former WBO welterweight champion from Australia, who, according to his promoter, Dean Lonergan, is willing to travel to the UK to face Brook at some point in May.
“I’ve got a text into Eddie at the moment and my matchmaker has an email and a phone call into Eddie,” Lonergan told Sky Sports. “We love this fight.
“If you were going to do it, you would definitely go to England, because the boxing market there is on fire, and Kell Brook in Sheffield, which is where he comes from, you’re definitely going to be filling a stadium wherever you go.”
No stranger to Australian opponents, Brook’s last foe, Michael Zerafa, also made the trip from Down Under, yet Lonergan is quick to stress there is a sizeable gulf in class between Zerafa, beaten on points by Brook in December, and Horn, a former world titleholder.
“We think Zerafa is a fighter that Jeff Horn would totally dominate and destroy within five or six rounds, and Kell Brook couldn’t put him away,” Lonergan said.
“I saw a comment coming from Brook himself, saying, ‘A lot of people, after seeing my performance against Michael Zerafa, will come out of the woodwork.’
“Well, we would have been there anyway, but we just look at that and go – it will be a good fight for Jeff.”
Frankly, given the fact Crawford vs. Khan seems a goer, and given the momentum Brook has lost in recent times, it’s a fight that would do both former champions the world of good.