When I first learned you were fighting Danny Garcia, my concern for you almost matched my disappointment in Danny. After all, and despite his recent lackluster performances, Garcia is a young, strong champion. He’s eight years younger than you, and although I’ve obviously never shared a ring with the guy, by any measure that someone watching from the rafters can conceive of, he hits harder than you. Much harder. Then again, that is true of virtually any opponent you ever faced, isn’t that right Paulie?
Like with so many of Haymon’s recently announced fights, I felt cheated. I thought to myself, “Danny should be proving himself against the best fighters the sport has to offer, what is he doing in the ring against a faded, light-fisted commentator whose first and sole idea after getting whacked like a pinata by Shawn Porter should’ve been retirement?” At first glance it seemed as unnecessary a fight as Danny’s rematch with a senile Erik Morales, or even the sacrificial ritual against Salka. Typical Haymon time-wasting exercise in boxing futility this fight was.
And I was not alone. Oh no, Paulie! Being an avid and active twitter personage yourself (more on this later), I’m pretty sure you’re aware of fan reaction on social media. But you know us boxing fans: we’re never happy with what we get, right? I mean, just look at the evidence: we wanted more boxing, and now we have Haymon shows on more networks than I even knew existed. We wanted more big names fighting more often, and now there are showcases pretty much every weekend. We wanted to get rid of the politics and corruption of the sanctioning bodies, and Haymon is downright ignoring them to set up his own boxing league.
But guess what? We’re still unhappy! Not all of us, of course, but many of us. We dislike Haymon’s product; we take offense at the fact he’s mastered the A-side/B-side dynamic to a degree not seen since Columbia Records’ heyday in the 1960s; we hate his stubbornness in refusing to deal with his competitors to make big fights; and quite frankly, we’re also getting tired of failing to see big, meaningful fights between his own clients.
Are you paying attention, Paulie? Because this has a lot to do with you, my friend. I mean, you do know which side of the table you’re sitting at this Saturday, right? In case you’re as oblivious to your situation as Victor Ortiz in a Face Lube commercial, let me spell it out for you: you’re supposed to lose to Danny!
Of course, this is news to no one. Danny’s move up to welterweight has been as protracted as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.‘s registration with Weight Watchers. There was a time when champions moving up the scales had no option but to jump right in. Sink or swim was the mentality back in the day. No more of that, however. These young titlists think moving up to take on new challenges is like going to a spa: dip your toe into a jacuzzi and bitch to the attendant to set a catch-temperature if the water’s not quite to your liking.
But finally Danny-boy has decided to take the final step up to 147-pounds, and your name was picked out of a hat labeled “Disposable B’s” (a.k.a. Haymon’s ass) to welcome him to the division. I mean, do you really think Haymon put you in there to see you compete, or give the kid a stern test, or even pull off the upset? Come on, Paulie. You can’t be that dumb!
Or maybe it’s not that; maybe you actually think you might just pull it off. After all, you’re a mobile target, you have relatively quick hands, and you have loads of experience. Is it that maybe you really think you can teach the Philly kid a thing or two on Saturday night?
You know what? This is a hell of a rabbit hole we’re going down here, because the more I think about it, the more I believe you actually have a case there, Paulie. Hah! You didn’t see that one coming, did you? Neither did I! Oh man, I wish I could see the look on your face. Now, hold your horses there, Mr. Magic Man. I may have called you faded and light-fisted, but I never said you were a bad boxer. And that’s one half of the reason I think you have a shot at exposing Danny’s weaknesses this weekend. The other half of that argument is that Danny himself has been mediocre at best ever since he bested Matthysse. In the end, styles make fights and all that, and I think an experienced sticker-and-mover such as yourself can pose a young power-puncher with no motivation and declining self-confidence a big enough problem to convince the judges to stop giving him the benefit of the doubt every damn time out.
Something else that plays to your advantage, and could prove crucial on fight night, is the fact Danny painted himself into a corner by signing up to fight you. Think about it: if he beats you decisively, he’ll get no credit for besting an aging veteran with no punch. If he fails to convince, or even loses to you, well, there’s no telling how many veins will burst on old Angel’s forehead as he tirades against everything that’s wrong with the sport like a lunatic cursing at mind-controlling aliens on 7th Avenue. Do you think those prospects look pleasing to Danny? Are they motivating enough for him to plaster a smile on his face when the alarm clock goes off at five in the morning and it’s time for roadwork? Nah, trust me Paulie: Danny’s confidence is more shaken than an Ariza cocktail, and it might just give you the edge you need on Saturday night.
Now that that’s off my chest, let me make it clear that I may be rooting for you this weekend, but it wasn’t easy to bring myself to do it. I mean, before you signed up with Haymon I used to root for you unabashedly. You may not have been the one scoring highlight-reel knockouts, or had the best resume and lots of title belts, but goddamn it you always came to fight. I stood by your side when Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton beat the shit out of you, and was mad proud when you spilled your guts all over HBO’s pristine canvas following your “loss” to Juan Diaz. It’s a bit ironic that your finest moment as a prizefighter may have come in a post-fight interview. Then again, your mouth has always punched harder than your fists, Paulie.
But then things changed. The moment you signed your contract with Al Haymon you became a spokesman for his machine, at the same time flipping a finger to the honesty and integrity that ingratiated you to so many fight fans, myself included. There was a time when I could endure your trash-talking and your ridiculous hairdos (come on, man, seriously) and your flamboyant trunks, and I did it gladly because I knew that they were all part of what made you you. You were outspoken and uncompromising and I loved it. There was no one like you in the fight game. But following your loss to Broner (that insufferable douchebag!), a loss you believed was undeserved (although you did lose that one, bud, let me tell you), you just went “Fuck it! If you can’t beat ’em, might as well join ’em!”
Your move to Team Haymon was understandable, but what I find reprehensible is the zest with which you embraced your role as spokesman Haymon’s Empire. No one saw that coming! The outspoken Paulie Malignaggi suddenly became a vitriol-spouting PR machine whose main goal was to further his manager’s agenda. Taking full advantage of the enhanced notoriety your Showtime commentating gig brought you – and burning through all the non-renewable street cred you hoarded in your pre-Haymon days – you began an unrelenting slamming campaign against the biggest non-Haymon affiliated boxing star on the planet. You accused him of cheating with no proof whatsoever, you derided his accomplishments, you dissed him at every chance you got, and for what, Paulie? Were you trying to goad him into fighting you? Did you want to deny him the paycheck the Mayweather fight gave him? Were you just plain jealous of the guy? I honestly don’t understand this one bit.
And that was only the biggest manifestation of the twitter wars you engaged in ever since. Wars which seemed to have as their only goal the pushing of Haymon’s product and the disparaging of everyone else’s. What exactly were you trying to accomplish, Paulie? Was it all done to diminish what people on the other side of the street were doing, and to prop up Haymon’s endeavours by comparison? If so, what a cheap way to score some points, man. I mean, really? Why would you stoop that low after all you accomplished in the fight game?
Hope the pay rise was worth it, my man, because the respect you fought so hard to accrue is long gone. Not everyone liked you, and not everyone supported you, and many never took you seriously. But there were some of us who did all three, who admired your skills, and who rooted for you, in and out of the ring. And don’t get me wrong, if these days you’re getting paid the biggest checks you’ve ever seen, I’m happy for you man, because every prizefighter deserves to get paid. You and every prizefighter put your lives at risk for our entertainment. People like you are heroes to the rest of us mortals.
But there was a way to get paid without crossing over to the dark side, and you frankly just decided to ignore it. Unfortunately, that’s a bridge you already crossed and burnt, not giving a fuck to what it did to your reputation as a professional. Anyway, if you win on Saturday night, I’ll be happy for you, because it’ll remind me of the brash, young boxer you once were, the one who stuck his tongue out at his foes, boxed circles around them, ended the fight with a title strap wrapped around his shoulders and flashed a brattish grin at the TV cameras. On the other hand, if you lose, well, I’ll have to content myself knowing you’ll be happy at having sacrificed yourself for the greater good of something you deeply believe in: Haymon’s agenda.
Either way, good luck Paulie.