Having sat in the Garden for that Hamed-Kelley fight, how does it feel to be headlining an event here?
In general, to be able to fight in the Garden in a big fight, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great experience. Words canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t describe it. I got the chance after a lot of people didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be on the stage again after losing to [Ricky] Hatton Ã¢â‚¬â€œ thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s even bigger. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s almost my redemption Ã¢â‚¬â€œ in that way, my redemption will continue on May 15.
How important is it with new trainer Sherif Younan that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re multidimensional, and whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the difference between you now and four years ago?
I was always multidimensional, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just now I have a trainer that understands that and can work outside the box like I do, you know? He understands that he has a kid that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s training that is very athletic and that can work on different things that maybe you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work on with other fighters. How am I different than four years ago? Basically the difference is I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have Sherif training me, number 1, but also the experience, stuff like that. But from two years ago? ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a major difference. Because four years ago, I was actually pretty good. And I went down for two years, and I went back up. So if you compare me to two years ago, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like night and day. Where in Sherif, I have a guy who thinks outside the box and can do a lot of things, and my old trainer [Buddy McGirt] basically didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how to think outside the box, and in a lot of ways I hate to say it, I was too talented for someone like him to work with, he just could not understand the talent he was working with and what he managed to pull off was ruining a great fighter.
I follow your Twitter, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very entertaining. (PM: Oh, thank you!) What role did that play in getting this fight going? I remember back in December, you were calling him out, around Christmas you just popped up and started talking about it?
Yeah, it was back and forth on Twitter, and I think it had some effect on it, because just when negotiations were dead, I think the Twitter reignited the flame, you know? So I think the Twitter helped in a lot of ways. But also, just when you thought the fight was going to not be in New York at a certain point, I called his bluff on Twitter. He said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Oh, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to come to New York and knock Malignaggi out,Ã¢â‚¬Â and all of a sudden they were trying to take the fight to Detroit, Golden Boy was, obviously. And I was like, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Oh really, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to try to take the fight to Detroit and try to pull the rug out from under me? IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not going to take this fight!Ã¢â‚¬Â So I put it on Twitter and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Punk,Ã¢â‚¬Â something like that, Ã¢â‚¬Å“you said youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re coming to New York to knock me out and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re punking out already?Ã¢â‚¬Â Within about two hours, I got a call from my promoter saying, Ã¢â‚¬Å“TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re coming to New York, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re good.Ã¢â‚¬Â (Laughing) So I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if the Twitter did it, but it was kind of coincidental, you know?
When you were in the Garden watching the Hamed-Kelley fight, did you ever see yourself doing this? I mean, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a confident guyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
I wanted to! I said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is what I want.Ã¢â‚¬Â Obviously, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how life is going to play out. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure a lot of people want to be a pro athlete, they want to be actors, they want to be something Ã¢â‚¬â€œ IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure not everybody goes and gets it. Some people cheat themselves by not putting in the work that they really should, you know? I knew I wanted it, and I knew how bad I wanted it, that I was willing to sacrifice everything and basically not cut corners. There was nothing I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t willing to do to get there, you know? Especially after I saw that fight live that night. I said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Wow, so this is what itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like to be in the big time in this sport. I gotta have this. I gotta have this.Ã¢â‚¬Â Especially since I had been already training about six months, I was enjoying my workouts, I was enjoying getting to do it. A lot of people do it for that much time and then they quit, but I was like, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I gotta have this, man. I know IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m just starting out, but I gotta have this.Ã¢â‚¬Â All these years later, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s kind of ironic, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s funnyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ people talk about me nowÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already fought in the Garden. The same things went through my mind when I fought Miguel Cotto. I fought Miguel Cotto in the big arena, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s where Hamed-Kelley wasÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
But that was his fightÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Yeah, it was his fight, but it still went through my mind like, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Wow, all those years ago I was looking at Hamed and Kelly going at it thinking I want to be here, and now IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m in this big arena in the main event.Ã¢â‚¬Â Even though weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in the Theater this time, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still going to be very cool and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still going to be very exciting, and when I think about it, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ironic, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s funny. Because my careerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on the tail end of it now Ã¢â‚¬â€œ IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m 29, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not 20, so all these years laterÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m 30! How does that make me feel?
(Laughs) Well boxing is like, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not spring chickens, you know? ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ironic, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s funny, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m glad IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gotten to do it.
It seems like you and Paulie have always kind of had a special relationship. Would you characterize it as that? What have you seen in him?
I think we have a special relationship; itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just sometimes we get on each otherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nerves. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a family, almost. I mean, he was living on his grandmotherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s couch when he first came to my office, and he had only 35 to 40 amateur fights and won a national title. But people werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t focused on him, they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know who he was. Now IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m an Italian kid from Brooklyn. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an Italian kid from Brooklyn. You know, there was that draw. The other thing is that my grandparents were immigrants. My parents were really first-generation. And my grandparents were born in Italy, spoke Italian, the whole bit, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re very Italian. Paulie had much more than immigrant experience, and it sort of drew me to him because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like a throwback to my family years ago. And his grandparents are Italian speakers, and his dad lives in Italy, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a soccer player. I was drawn to his experience, his life experience, and I was drawn to his enthusiasm. I mean, he has desperately wanted to be a star from the time he was 19 years old. And I remember when he had that horrible performance against Hatton, which really, he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t show up mentally that night. It was a bad night for him. Everyone has a bad night. Unfortunately, his bad night was in a big fight. Later that night, and he cried and he cried, he was so upset, and I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s because his great dream was to be in the Hall of Fame, not just a champion. And he realized something remarkable would have to happen in the future for that to happen. You know what? HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s getting an opportunity right now. On May 15, if he can knock Amir Khan off the pedestal, and after those two great performances with Juan Diaz, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s set up maybe with a couple more wins to realize his dream, to get into the Hall of Fame. Certainly, to be a star in the sport. This is New York, and currently heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the fighter to carry that New York mantle. Danny Jacobs, coming up behind him, a young fighter that hopefully will take that mantle in the future. But Paulie right now is the elite New York fighter. This is his opportunity.
How do you feel PaulieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s style matches up with Khan?
I always joke with him that he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t break an egg, that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a puncher. But speed to some extent is power. And when guys fight Paulie, and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s himself, a guy will look marked up after the fight, because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have leather landing on him regularly. He just doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have that kind of punch to turn a fight with one punch. What differentiates Khan and makes him dangerous is that I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think Khan has quite the boxing ability as Paulie, but Khan can turn a fight with one punch. I think Khan was drawn to Paulie as an opponent because KhanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s biggest AchillesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ heel is his chin, and PaulieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s biggest weaknessÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ is his punch.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exactly what Paulie said. And I thought it was great in the Diaz fight when he really hurt him, and the most surprised guy in the whole place was Paulie!
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got uncanny speed and tremendous ring generalship. Paulie understands how to move around the ring, and he understands angles. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a boxer and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a puncher, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a runner. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like runners, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t watch a guy that runs and is in retreat the whole fight. PaulieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not in retreat, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just trying to not let you hit him. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s giving you angles, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s moving around you, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s moving in and out, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s weaving. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a scientistÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ but not a coward. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what makes him fun to watch.
When he goes off at the mouth a little bitÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
When he goes off, I mean, I sometimesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ like, I tremor! He goes off and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sitting there shaking my headÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mostly endearing, though.
Yeah! ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mostly endearing, but he says certain things, and then people hold me accountable for things that Paulie says. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t control PaulieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s month. I mean, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve given up a long time ago censoring Paulie Malignaggi.