Artem Lobov brawls and Paulie Malignaggi boxes, which is not how the bare-knuckle game is played.
It was the first sanctioned Bare Knuckle event to ever hit the Sunshine State. After being legalized in both Wyoming and Mississippi and being called the next billion-dollar sport by Forbes Magazine, bare-knuckle fighting is on the rise.
When former two-division world boxing champion turned commentator, Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi decided to enter the sport, folks paid attention.
With Artem Lobov agreeing to face Malignaggi, the stage was set for a breakthrough.
Through the unanimous decision loss for Malignaggi, many discovered that bare-knuckle fighting is not boxing. In fact, it is something totally different.
Malignaggi and Lobov came to blows in the ring after several months of back-and-forth animosity between them on social media and in person. Both fighters showed their own strengths throughout the fight by trying to strategically outperform the other in what was a close battle in front of a sold-out crowd of 4,500 enthusiastic fans at Florida Expo Hall and more tuning in live on pay-per-view.
Malignaggi and Lobov showed their resistance to engage immediately, with Malignaggi confusing Lobov with his defense and foot speed. As the fight evolved, Lobov continued to come forward and pressure Malignaggi.
Although Malignaggi landed jabs and check hooks, it was only a matter of time before Lobov’s pressure got the best of him. Lobov continued to throw punches at closer range, which allowed the Russian Irishman to begin to dominate.
By the third round, Malignaggi was cut and on his heels as the momentum had swung toward his opponent.
As the activity increased in rounds four and five, Lobov became the aggressor and scored the more effective punches. In the end, the judges scored the contest for Lobov 48-47 unanimously.
“I am not sure what the judges were looking at, but I felt like he walked into a lot of my jabs and check left hooks,” said Malignaggi, who may have broken his hand during the fight.
Undoubtedly, Malignaggi is a better boxer than Lobov. However when it comes to bare-knuckle fighting, a brawler’s mentality is needed, not a boxer’s.
“This was an emotional fight for me,” said Lobov. “I started more on my back foot than usual, but still pressed and stalked him. Even though many people talk a lot about fighting and Paulie had a lot to say, he showed up to fight so I respect him for that.”
Former MMA star Chris Leben, who also fought on the card, told The Shadow League that although boxing is a great skill to have for bare knuckle, it is not its base.
“You can’t use that boxing defense, you cant ride. You cant absorb any damage, you have to practice not getting hit at all and then the footwork,” said Leben on the PRITTY Left Hook podcast. “Boxing is pretty important but so is Greco-Roman wrestling aka Dirty Boxing.”
“You can strike, you can dance on the outside but when it in gets tight, fighting on the inside is a little different. You’re not going to peel up, fire off some shots, cover, you’ve got to under hook, grab the back of their head you’ve got to start utilizing those leverages and those control positions.”
Dirty Boxing Is Bare Knuckle Fighting
Former two-division UFC champion Randy “The Natural” Couture was the master of Greco Roman wrestling and probably the biggest star next to Matt Lindland and Dan Henderson credited with bringing it into popularity through MMA.
Bare knuckle fighting allows the clinch and this is a masterful way to “dirty box” on the inside which is perfect for a brawling scenario.
Malignaggi brought his boxing defensive playbook to the fight along with minimal offense. Lobov, having come from MMA, brought a playbook of Greco Roman wrestling moves and a brawler’s offensive vantage that easily gave him the win.
It is the reason why Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has never fought in MMA or bare knuckle. His defense, a major asset, would be detrimental on the cards in any other sport. Both MMA and bare-knuckle celebrate risk takers that are rooted in an offensive approach.
Boxing is quite the opposite, with defense and ring generalship being among the reasons for the success of “Money” Mayweather.
Combat fans are learning more about a sport that was formerly considered brutal. Bare-knuckle is now welcoming a more accepting audience.
As more boxers and MMA fighters decide to cross over, it is clear that the sport is in a class of its own with different strategies and approaches needed to ensure victory.