McGregor adds two-time boxing champ as sparring partner for Mayweather fight
Paul Malignaggi, a former two-division titlist, will also share his insight on the Showtime PPV
As UFC champion Conor McGregor continues to prepare for his Aug. 26 boxing megafight against former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, he has enlisted the help of a former two-division titleholder to help his transition to the sweet science.
Paulie Malignaggi, who won world titles at 140 and 147 pounds over a 17-year career, has agreed to join McGregor's camp in Las Vegas as a chief sparring partner. The offer surprised Malignaggi, who retired in March after his knockout loss to Sam Eggington in London.
The fact that Malignaggi, 36, was originally such an outspoken critic of the fight makes it extra intriguing. But Malignaggi's experience in McGregor's camp should give him ample perspective for his role as color analyst for the Showtime pay-per-view broadcast on fight night in Las Vegas.
"On fight night I will be able to share a lot of things," Malignaggi told ESPN on Friday. "It will make for some pretty cool stuff talking up the fight. It's exciting to be part of possibly the biggest sporting event of the year. I didn't expect it and gives me a reason to get in shape."
Malignaggi (36-8, 7 KOs), who said he has no plans to return to the ring, is excited to share his insight with the 28-year-old McGregor (21-3 in MMA).
"I was a speed and reflex fighter, so is Floyd, so there's that," Malignaggi said. "I think they also picked me for my boxing brains and to give my two cents. If I'm there, I'm there to help and do my part to improve him and get him ready for this big opportunity. I'd like to think there were several different reasons I was called. I am looking to make things happen for him."
The New York-based Malignaggi joined Showtime's announce team in 2012 while still an active fighter and instantly became recognized among the best analysts in boxing. He'll have his work cut out in helping McGregor prepare to be competitive against the 40-year-old Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs), who returns from a two-year retirement.
Despite once being a critic of McGregor's intentions as a professional boxer, Malignaggi respects the brash Irishman's commitment to preparing himself as best he can.
"When he got his boxing license in California, I was one of the guys calling him out and talking crap," Malignaggi said. "I admit that. So I was really surprised they called me. He's putting his pride aside to maximize his opportunity to win this fight. They wanted me for my boxing ability and my boxing brain.
"I think it really shows Conor's willingness to win in that he is ready to do what he has to, including swallowing his pride, by having his team call me. In that way it made me respect him more."
While Malignaggi said he still considers McGregor a longshot to win, he's excited about what he can bring to the preparation.
"I'm not your average sparring partner because the competitive part of my career is over," Malignaggi said. "I am going there to be of help to him, not to make a name for myself. I expect the sparring sessions to be intense. I am going there to improve the fighter so he can be as ready as he can for his fight."
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