Recently retired boxing star turned Showtime Analyst Paulie Malignaggi has spoken to ESPN about his first sparring session with UFC superstar Conor McGregor in a revealing new interview.
The idea of McGregor spending time in the ring with the former champion was intriguing enough on it’s own, but ‘The Notorious’ had added extra spice to the occasion during his whirlwind press tour with Floyd Mayweather last week when he indicated that he had a score to settle with Malignaggi.
“Yeah, look, Paulie talked a lot of shit,” McGregor told reporters. “He was talkin’…Look he’s been brought in to spar and then he’ll answer to what he’s been saying and then we’ll go from there after that. But we’re gonna have a knock in the gym.
“I mean, look, we’re gonna have a knock and he’s gonna have to answer to what he’s been saying. Then, maybe, we’ll see after that.”
To his credit, Malignaggi didn’t flinch from the challenge and agreed to spar McGregor at his camp on Thursday, and the first indication of how it had gone came via the Irishman’s Instagram feed yesterday, which featured a photo of him in the midst of sparring ‘Magic Man’ with his hands behind his back alongside the caption, “They say I’ve got no hands.”
On his own Twitter account, Malignaggi stated that as far as he was concerned, what goes on in camp, stays in camp, but later that day he did offer insight into how the sparring had gone in an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, who appeared to indicate that it was a suitably intense session.
“There was a lot of trash talking right away,” Malignaggi told ESPN. “A lot of fighting right away. At the end, you look back on it, it was kind of fun. I don’t have many people who can match my trash talk, but Conor definitely can. It was making it a lot of fun.”
Malignaggi wouldn’t go into specifics with a blow-by-blow account of the session, but what he did say suggested that he had come away with a new-found respect for what McGregor could do in the boxing ring.
“To say a mixed martial artist is coming into boxing and wouldn’t be awkward is an understatement,” Malignaggi said. “He’s going to have his own style and set of things he does. He’s got a game plan. It’s not what people think.
“I’ll put it like this: He knows what he wants to do and he has a method of how he wants to get there. The mechanism of how he gets there may look, to the naked eye, ‘hmm, I don’t know about this.’ But there’s a method to his madness. He’s a thinker.”
Malignaggi revealed that they were originally scheduled to go six rounds, but that soon turned into eight.
Asked about McGregor’s punching power, Malignaggi acknowledged that his left hand is dangerous, but also indicated that the Irishman was working on other aspects of his game to keep Mayweather guessing on August 26th.
“He’s got some pop in the left hand, I can’t take that away from him,” Malignaggi said. “In boxing, especially against a guy like Floyd Mayweather, you need to devise a few more weapons, and I think that’s what Conor is working on. I think … coming into this situation already knowing Conor has a big left hand … you’re probably going to prepare for that left hand.
“Obviously, Conor is working on other things besides the left hand, so there can be that surprise element to it. … There’s going to be other things he needs to make you worry about, and that’s what’s being worked on in camp. He’s effective at what he’s doing.”
Looking ahead to the blockbuster fight in Las Vegas that’s now just a little over a month away with his newfound insight into how McGregor fights, Malignaggi now thinks that his new sparring partner will have opportunities to make his mark in the fight, though naturally he still expects him to be a major underdog on the night.
“I think he is definitively an underdog, but he has a method to what he’s doing and he has a thinking process behind it,” Malignaggi said. “This is a fight of moments, and I think he can give himself certain moments.
“If those moments turn into bigger moments, that’s not up to me. That’s up to Conor McGregor.”