Oct 16, 2013

Bensonhurst's Malignaggi to fight Brownsville's Judah at Barclays Center on Dec. 7

By Lenn Robbins

When I was growing up in Brooklyn there were unwritten rules that you followed to the letter:

You stayed in your neighborhood.

You kept an eye on your friend's back.

If anyone disrespected your neighborhood (or friend), you'd fight; fight until the other guy backed down or was knocked down.

Miss those days?

Then mark this down: On Dec. 7th, Brownsville's Zab Judah and Bensonhurst's Paul Malignaggi will square off in Barclays Center in what is being billed as the Battle of Brooklyn.

"At lot of times there were fights in different neighborhoods," Malignaggi said yesterday at a press conference to announce the bout. "It's kind of the old school, what was that movie, West Side Story?"

"You want your neighborhood to be the top of the mountain, the top of the pyramid. In that way it kind of takes you back to the old turf wars - this is our turf and this is your turf and all that."

There couldn't be two better ambassadors for Brooklyn boxing than Judah and Malignaggi.

Both fought their way out of their neighborhoods and their less than ideal childhoods.

They would both work out in Gleason's Gym, which Maglignaggi doesn't recall.

Malignaggi, 32, said Judah (35) served as an unofficial coach in the Empire State games more than 20 years ago, which Judah doesn't recall.

When the fighters were asked for the obligatory, ornery face-to-face stare down photo op, it lasted about 20 seconds.

Judah burst into laughter. Malignaggi followed: Too much respect between these veterans to fake the hate.

"When I was growing up you did not go into neighborhoods like Bensonhurst unless you had yourself buttoned down," said Judah.

"If you didn't, you might not come home. I think it's different now. People aren't as uptight."

Judah and Malignaggi said they never in their wildest dreams imagined this fight.

But after both lost in their bouts and with their careers at a crossroads, Judah and Malignaggi were more than intrigued by the thought of stepping into the ring in the borough they were born.

"We got to give Brooklyn what Brooklyn wants,'' said Malignaggi.

So there they were in Barclays Center, Judah holding up a Brooklyn Nets jersey bearing his neighborhood, Brownsville, Malignaggi hold up one with Bensonhurst.

The fighter agreed that the loser had to wear the winner's jersey in post-match interviews.

"You always rep your city in a boxing match when you're fighting guys from another city," said Malignaggi. "When you have a civil war like this, it kind of divides the alliances within the city."

"It's interesting, it kind of has the old school feel to it where two guys from the city battle it out and rep each other's 'hoods."