Paulie Malignaggi carried a lifetime of boxing experience into the BKFC ring on Saturday night when he took on former UFC fighter Artem Lobov, but another thing he brought with him ultimately proved his downfall - his arrogance.
His disrespect for Lobov heading into the contest was embarrassing at times. The bitterness clearly still lingered from THAT Conor McGregor sparring session a couple of years back, and his attitude towards Lobov was at times disgraceful (most notably his press-conference spitting) and reflected badly on both himself and the promotion he’d signed to fight for.
That’s not to say the promoters were that upset about it, mind you. Malignaggi’s histrionics, spitting or otherwise, helped crank up the tension and undeniably raised interest for the fight. If that was Malignaggi’s intention, it was mission accomplished.
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But the mission that really counted took place on Saturday night, and there he was ultimately found wanting. A fight he predicted he would win handily proved to be anything but easy as Lobov earned 48-47 scores on all the judges’ scorecards.
One thing this fight demonstrate was the snobbery that still exists between boxing and MMA. Malignaggi ridiculed the MMA fanbase for their “stupidity” ahead of the matchup, mocking them for believing Lobov had any sort of chance in the fight.
Well, they’re not looking that stupid now.
Some sections of the boxing fraternity have always looked down their noses at mixed martial arts, and some have mocked MMA fighters for their striking compared to the tighter, at-times more technical traditional boxing style.
But the truth is those people simply don’t understand – or don’t want to understand – mixed martial arts, and don’t have an appreciation for the sport, the range of skills and qualities required. That certainly appeared to be the case with Malignaggi, and while Lobov was unable to finish the American, he did more than enough to ram “The Magic Man’s” pre-fight mockery down his throat.
The bare-knuckle fight between Malignaggi and Lobov didn’t prove MMA was better than boxing, or vice versa. Had it been under the Queensberry Rules, Malignaggi would have cruised to a decision win, or a late stoppage. Under the Unified Rules of MMA, a lop-sided result would have gone Lobov’s way. But this fight was neither boxing nor MMA, and last night’s result simply proved that Lobov was better equipped than Malignaggi to win under BKFC’s bare-knuckle rules.
At the pre-fight press conference promoter David Feldman boldly declared that the fight was “boxing versus MMA.” No, it wasn’t. It was a boxer versus a mixed martial artist, but it wasn’t sport versus sport. The whole boxing versus MMA argument certainly sells, but it’s always been a huge red herring.
Boxing and MMA are two distinctly different sports – distant cousins that share certain qualities – but are ultimately completely different.
An elite boxer would struggle to win a world title in MMA because of the sheer range of skills demanded of a world-class mixed martial artist, while an elite MMA fighter would struggle to do the same in boxing because of the required level of fine-tuned specialism in one specific striking art.
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Both sports require an incredible level of commitment, technique and toughness to reach the top. But it’s in the technique that the two sports differ so wildly. One isn’t “better” than the other. They’re just different – like apples and oranges.
It’s high time both sides of the argument just accept their differences and respect the qualities of both sports.
After the contest, Malignaggi shook Lobov’s hand and bowed towards the former UFC star. Hopefully, after last night’s fight in Tampa, “The Magic Man” has a little more respect for Lobov. “The Russian Hammer” certainly deserves it.
By Simon Head