By Jerry Del Priore
Two of the borough’s most prominent fighters, Paulie Malignaggi and Gabriel Bracero, squared off Saturday night in a 10-round welterweight bout at the Barclays Center on Showtime Extreme-aired — part of the preliminary undercard to the Leo Santa Cruz vs. Carl Frampton main event.
And there was added incentive: The Brooklyn boxing title.
Malignaggi, of Bensonhurst, was the crowd favorite, and he didn’t disappoint fans as he held onto his borough belt with a unanimous decision (96-94, 98-92 twice) over Bracero, a Sunset Park boxer.
Malignaggi (36-7, 7 KOs) was the aggressor throughout most of the fight, employing his excellent counter-punching ability and jab to stave off Bracero (24-3, 5 KOs). He also used his experience and brilliant fight acumen to help keep the “King of Brooklyn” strap in his corner.
“I knew Bracero was a counter-puncher like myself,” Malignaggi said after the bout. “I was just trying to be the sharper counter-puncher. I dictated the fight with pot shots and stepping over.
“As the fight went on, I just used my movements and feints to stay in control,” he continued. “I noticed that every time he picked up his foot, he would have trouble setting his defense back up. I started taking half steps back and once he would come at me I would shoot a jab. It wasn’t super damaging, but it dedicated my distance and frustrated him.”
When the fight was first announced, the Brooklyn belt wasn’t up for grabs. But that all changed when Bracero challenged Malignaggi on Twitter earlier in the month for his Brooklyn Championship. Former two-division champion Malignaggi — who beat Zab Judah in December of 2013 at the same arena to claim the borough title — gladly accepted.
After his huge victory, Malignaggi turned to his second profession as a boxing commentator, joining the Showtime broadcasting crew to help call the action. As adept with his words as he’s with his dukes, Malignaggi’s astute knowledge and insight into the sport has earned him respect in the boxing world.
“I’m excited to call the fights tonight,” he said. “I’m a fan before I’m a fighter. I’m excited to go to work right now.”
Though rumors of retirement swirled in the boxing community in the past, Malignaggi didn’t give any indication of hanging up his boxing gloves during his post-fight interview.
So, what’s next for Malignaggi? “I’m going to head to Italy on Tuesday, take a vacation and then think about my future,” said the 5-foot, 9-inch pugilist.