Paulie Malignaggi to fight in Ukraine
By Dan Rafael
Former junior welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi has had a change of heart and Wednesday decided to accept a April 29 fight with welterweight titleholder Vyacheslav Senchenko, for which he will have to travel to Senchenko's home country of Ukraine.
"I'm making this a real-life 'Rocky' story, I'm going to the Ukraine to bring that title back to the United States of America," Malignaggi said on his Twitter account. "This fight is for the people who have supported me from day one. I'm bringing the belt back to New York."
Malignaggi, who is from Brooklyn, is the mandatory challenger for Senchenko, but he was unhappy with the terms of the recent purse bid won by Union Boxing Promotions, Senchenko's promoter.
Malignaggi previously told ESPN.com that there were several aspects of the deal he was unhappy with -- the purse and travel accommodations among them -- and that he was not going to accept the fight.
Union Boxing Promotions bid $1,000,010 on the fight, while Malignaggi's promoter, Golden Boy, bid only $250,000, and no television outlet was interested in buying it. Under the bid terms, Malignaggi is due 25 percent, with the rest going to Senchenko (32-0, 21 KOs), who will be making his fourth title defense.
"Once again I am going into enemy territory, but that's life," Malignaggi said. "Gotta do what you gotta do."
Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, Malignaggi's promoter, told ESPN.com that the deal was done.
"We have a signed contract, so he is going to Ukraine," Schaefer said. "We worked everything out and now we have a fight. Paulie has a hell of a chance to become a world champion again. We like our chances and we are fully supportive of Paulie. A lot of credit goes to Paulie for taking this fight and going to Ukraine and we are convinced he will come back with a world title."
Golden Boy is entitled to a percentage of Malignaggi's earnings, but Schaefer said the company was not going to take any money on the fight.
"We gave up our percentage to help get this deal done. That is how much we believe in Paulie," Schaefer said.
Golden Boy has a deal to promote fights at the under-construction Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The arena, which will be the home of the New Jersey Nets, is due to open in the fall.
Schaefer said Golden Boy will open the building for boxing on Oct. 20, and that if Malignaggi defeats Senchenko, he envisions Malignaggi making his first defense that night in front of his hometown fans.
Malignaggi (30-4, 6 KOs), one of boxing's brashest and most outspoken fighters, tried to lure various name opponents into a fight, most recently Golden Boy stablemate Robert Guerrero. But he was unsuccessful.
Golden Boy offered to put Malignaggi-Guerrero on the pay-per-view undercard of the May 5 fight between junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Malignaggi accepted the fight for $150,0000, but Guerrero turned down the fight.
At that point, Malignaggi changed his mind about going overseas to fight Senchenko.
"I did pay my dues, but no one wants to fight me here," Malignaggi said. "I gotta do what I gotta do and fight this dude in the Ukraine. No one wants to throw Paulie Malignaggi a bone, but they throw bones left and right to cheaters. So now I have to go bone-collecting in the Ukraine. I am making a ballsy decision by going to the Ukraine, but life is a risk. Take a risk or sit back and watch someone else take that risk.
"My whole life, nothing was handed to me. I had to go out in the world and get it. So going to the Ukraine is nothing new."
The fight will take place in Senchenko's hometown of Donetsk. Senchenko has had 30 of his 32 fights in Ukraine -- mostly in Donetsk -- with one taking place in Russia and one in Monaco.
In his last defense, he knocked out Marco Antonio Avendano in the sixth round in August.
Malignaggi, 31, has won three fights in a row since Amir Khan knocked him out in the 11th round of a May 2010 junior welterweight title defense, after which Malignaggi moved up to the welterweight division.
He is coming off a lopsided unanimous 10-round decision against Orlando Lora on Oct. 15 in a fight that was on the pay-per-view undercard of Bernard Hopkins' light heavyweight title defense against Chad Dawson.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.