by Paul Magno
Today, Golden Boy Promotions announced the signing of Paulie Malignaggi and just about everyone in the internet boxing community let out a collective, “Why?”
The Brooklyn native, who will turn 30 in November, is coming off a one-sided loss to Amir Khan and a tepid two-fight series with a bloated, used-up Juan Diaz. Before that, we all saw “The Magic Man” blown away by an aged Ricky Hatton and luckily escape with a win vs. Lovemore N’dou in a lackluster encounter best remembered for Malignaggi’s ill-conceived and distracting dreadlocks.
Malignaggi has a recognizable name and he can still rock a microphone like no one else in boxing, but as a fighter, Paulie is little more than a name on a resume at this point.
Malignaggi, himself, half-acknowledged the end of his run as a legit contender by talking about going on the road and competing on the much less demanding Euro-circuit. Realistically, from 140 to 147 lbs., you’d be hard-pressed to find a single top, world class fighter that Paulie, version 2010, could beat.
So, why would Golden Boy sign a fighter with little upside and some heavy mileage under the hood?
The answer may lie with Golden Boy’s dogged determination to make Victor Ortiz a star as well as in their simultaneous doubts regarding Ortiz’s mental toughness and grit.
Back in 2009 when Vivian Harris was signed to Golden Boy, similar questions arose. Harris, while a talented and solid pro in his prime, had certainly seen better days. His punch resistance was virtually non-existent and he had struggled with club-level talent prior to being signed to the promotional deal.
Despite a No Contest to pedestrian Noe Bolanos and a TKO loss to Lucas Matthysse, Harris was pushed forward and thrown into a bout with Victor Ortiz on the Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora undercard.
Predictably, Harris would hit the canvas after each legit punch landed by Ortiz– a total of four times in the three-round blow-out.
The win gave Ortiz a recognizable former world champ on his resume and, perhaps more importantly, it gave Golden Boy insurance against Ortiz having another meltdown, similar to the one he had when he waved off his slug-out with Marcos Maidana in June of 2009.
Going into Ortiz-Harris, Golden Boy was a guaranteed winner. A nice name on Ortiz’s resume or, in the unlikely event of a Harris win, one more veteran to be fed to their other jr. welterweight star, Amir Khan.
Prior to Vivian Harris, it was Nate Campbell, another veteran former world champ signed by Golden Boy and ultimately matched with Ortiz. Another win-win for Golden Boy as they gave their guy a respectable name to beat while covering their own backsides against any Ortiz psycho-drama.
It’s easy to see why Golden Boy is so high on Ortiz. He’s a talented, marketable Mexican-American with an easy smile and likable demeanor. Oscar De le Hoya, especially, has to see the dollar signs in properly promoting someone like Ortiz. Notwithstanding some psychological baggage and lacking the Olympic Gold Medal push, Ortiz is Oscar De la Hoya and, because of this, Golden Boy is doing their best to fit a sometimes square peg into a round hole that has been left unplugged since De la Hoya retired.
But the training wheels are not off. Golden Boy, like many of us looking in from the outside, still sees something not quite right in the eyes of Victor Ortiz. Even in decisive victory, Ortiz looks more prey than predator at times and it’s possible that the flaws exposed in the Maidana fight still weigh heavily on his psyche.
Maybe Ortiz grows out of it, maybe not.
In the meantime, Golden Boy will continue buying name opponents to be fed to their fighter. Minor promotional deals are a small price to pay in return for protecting their investment in Ortiz.
Malignaggi seems to be the latest name on Golden Boy’s “Operation Victor Ortiz Security Blanket.”