At this point one year ago, nearly 130 years had passed since the United States hosted a sanctioned bare-knuckle boxing match.
On Monday, former two-division boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi and ex-UFC headliner Artem Lobov were at Dave and Buster’s in midtown Manhattan to promote the sixth event under the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship banner, bringing notable names from two distinctive sports together in an entirely separate athletic domain.
Malignaggi, the Bensonhurst native, has bad blood with Lobov dating to the former’s time as a sparring partner for Lobov’s mixed martial arts teammate Conor McGregor’s lucrative crossover boxing match against undefeated all-time great Floyd Mayweather Jr.
While the Brooklynite is happy to face a man he refers to as a "punching bag" and to challenge himself in a new sport, Malignaggi acknowledged that the surprising fight purse offered to him is what made this bout a reality.
"When you’re making the money I’m making in this fight, you usually feel like it’s gonna be a tough fight," Malignaggi told reporters after the news conference. "But I’m making a tough fight’s worth of money, but for a pretty easy fight. … I live comfortably, but it’s nice to have [extra] money."
The bout will be contested at 155 pounds over five, two-minute rounds. The 10-minute maximum length is considerably shorter than a championship boxing match, as Malignaggi is accustomed to, or even a nontitle MMA contest that Lobov had competed in with the UFC.
Monday’s press event, held one day before tickets go on sale for BKFC 6 on June 22 in Tampa, Florida, was far from civil. The boisterous Malignaggi took center stage with chatter that ranged from typical provocations to NSFW vulgarity. As the two stood face-to-face and jawed at each other in front of those assembled at the end of the event, Malignaggi appeared to spit at the Russian-born Lobov, who now lives and trains in Ireland.
While this fight represents Malignaggi’s first foray into bare-knuckle after compiling a 36-8 record as a professional boxer, 32-year-old Lobov is fresh off a unanimous decision victory over fellow UFC veteran Jason Knight in his BKFC debut on April 6. Neither Malignaggi nor Lobov is known as a knockout artist, with the former tallying seven career knockout wins and Lobov (13-15-1, 1 no contest MMA) scoring just four KOs, none in his seven UFC bouts. Malignaggi has not competed since a knockout loss to Sam Eggington in March 2017.
Without gloves, however, the potential for fight-ending strikes increases. That may be especially true for the 38-year-old Malignaggi, who during the news conference said he wants to drag out a beatdown before securing a finish.
"If I had it my way, I’d knock him out in the last round," said Malignaggi, who currently works as a Showtime Boxing commentator. "I want to pummel him from start to finish."