Paulie Malignaggi was booed, cut multiple times, then lost a unanimous decision to bitter rival Artem Lobov at the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 6 event in Florida on Saturday.
After the show, he apologized to the sport of boxing for the loss, but complained that he did not receive fair treatment from the ringside judges.
In the fight itself, Malignaggi frequently made Lobov swing, miss, and look foolish for at least the first three rounds. Malignaggi snapped jabs in Lobov’s face and body, evaded the former UFC fighter’s punches with evasive movement, and seemed to bamboozle his opponent with awkward feinting.
The American, booed on his way to the ring despite fighting a Russian in his own country, looked at home in the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship ring, successfully calling on his 44-fight experience as a gloved boxer.
Malignaggi told Business Insider earlier in the week that there were plenty of transferrable skills he could bring to bareknuckle, citing movement and counter punching.
And though the 38-year-old had it much his own way, Lobov began to force his own fight midway through, slugging away and cutting Malignaggi, who bled from multiple lacerations by the fourth.
Ultimately, the ringside judges appeared to favor Lobov’s more damaging work, awarding him a unanimous decision of 48-47 scored three times, much to Malignaggi’s chagrin.
“I felt I pretty much outboxed him the whole way,” he said in the ring after his loss was confirmed. “I’m pretty sure my right hand is broken,” he added, before saying he felt he only got caught clean during one clinch.
“A lot of people in boxing told me you shouldn’t do this and you’re above this … Maybe I was wrong,” Malignaggi said.
He then turned on the ringside judges, saying he did not get a fair shake. “I boxed him pretty well. In my opinion I was handily winning … I’m done.”
With the win, Lobov can close a vile rivalry. Malignaggi spat at Lobov during the build-up, and then threatened to do the same to his mom.
“It was an emotional fight,” Lobov said. “I came on the backfoot, more than usual. I was still slugging him. That’s a nice decision win for me.”
Earlier in the week, Lobov told Business Insider that fans may see him in the boxing ring before the year ends. The way combat sports works, it would not be out of the norm to see these two rematch with gloves.
But victory may have encouraged Lobov to go further in the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. “What is next for me … bareknuckle champion.”