By: Kyle Eberts
A magician’s greatest trick is in the art of deception. He wants the crowd believing in a certain truth, to only then be amazed with the lie. But like most magic shows, the magician will need assistants to help pull off the greatest trick of them all.
The Florida Expo Hall in Tampa, played host to over 4,500 fight fanatics in what has been anticipated as the biggest fight of the year; BKFC 6: “The line is Drawn” between Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi vs Artem “Russian Hammer” Lobov. Malignaggi, a two time boxing world champion with record of (36-8) came in as a heavy favorite (-280) against the (+240) underdog, UFC veteran Artem Lobov with a record of (15-15).
Tensions were high in the build up of this main event dating back to the infamous sparring tapes between Lobov’s teammate Conor McGregor and ‘The Magic Man’ Malignaggi. Just weeks leading up to the fight, Malignaggi was seen defacing a McGregor Mural and then slapping Lobov across the face during a pre-fight press conference. The bad blood was running deep during these fight camps with both fighters trying to put hands on each other before the checks were ever signed.
The opening round is set to start with both fighters in the center of the squared circle, toeing the line preparing for the opening exchange. The referee announces the start of the round as Malignaggi begins setting the boxer’s pace with an array of faints and jabs to the body. Malignaggi using great footwork avoids the big shots by Lobov early as both fighters begin to feel each other out. Malignaggi is setting the pace with his jab, landing hard straights to the body as Lobov fights to move forward. The round comes to an end with Malignaggi looking comfortable in his return to the ring despite his long two year lay off.
The second round begins with a feint and big right hand landing for Malignaggi as Lobov tries to answer missing with a big left hand of his own. Malignaggi is starting to pump his piston like jab, finding its home on his opponent as Lobov tries to answer with body shots. The Magic man is proving to be too elusive for the Russian Hammer, as he’s vanishing from the big shots only to reappear with a 1-2 counters of his own. Lobov tries to press forward, landing a nice left hand but is met with more jabs and footwork by the Magic Man as the round comes to an end.
The third round starts with Lobov looking energized pressing forward, trying to create the action and set the pace. But the Malginaggi jab continues to stop the onslaught as a check hook sends Lobov to the canvas.The referee rules it a slip as the Magic Man continues to dash in and out like a humming bird avoiding big shots, scoring points in the process. Malignaggi, prone to hand breaks in the past, appears to be favoring his right hand midway through the round. Lobov presses forward and lands his biggest shot of the fight, a extended overhand left as Malignaggi circles away and takes back the center of the squared circle as the mid round comes to an end.
The fourth round takes off with the Russian Hammer pressing the action, he’s looking to make this a brawl. Lobov is pushing Malignaggi into the ropes trying to utilize his dirty boxing within the clinch. The referee breaks and resets the fighters in the circle. The Magic Man appears to now have a cut over his left eye, wiping blood from his brow. Lobov finally scoring points of his own, presses forward trying to get the better of the exchanges. But the jab, check hooks are plentiful as Malignaggi lands five unanswered shots on the Russian Hammer. The round comes to an end with one last check left hook by Malignaggi as both fighters stop to take their corner.
The crowd is thunderous and on their feet at the Expo Hall for what is the beginning of the fifth and final round of the BKFC main event. The corners send their fighters to toe the line one last time and the referee signals the round.
Malignaggi light on his feet early, dances around the Russian Hammer, landing his jab and moving away from the counters. A right hand lands by Lobov with three jabs answering right back from Malignaggi as he moves away from the pressure. A minute left in the final round, Lobov is looking to close the distance but is met with plenty of resistance. The jabs of Malignaggi are stopping him in his tracks. Lobov desperate now, is swinging from the hips with no accuracy as Malignaggi continues to land his jab. Malignaggi circles and dances away from the attack as the round comes to an end. The Magic Man takes a bow, shaking the hand of the Russian Hammer, as we await the finale of his latest act.
The judges’ scorecards are in and we have a conclusion. All three judges score the fight 48-47 and winner by Unanimous Decision, Artem Lobov. Lobov has his hand raised as the crowd reacts with mixed emotions. The Russian Hammer has just pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year in combat sports.
In the post fight press conference we have word from Paulie Malignaggi.
“I pretty much got the worst of everything because I got a shit decision and I made a tic-tac-toe board out of his face with my left hand,” Malignaggi said. “Look at my face, I got hit literally in one clinch. In one clinch, I got hit and that’s it. I took a couple of shots in that one clinch that he got me, I thought I did a pretty good job in clinches other than that, and really nothing else landed. I was very comfortable boxing.”
With a broken hand and a failed attempt on a new stage, the audience may have seen the Magic Man take his final bow. But could it be that the judges just in fact acted as the assistants to the greatest trick of the Magic Man, Paulie Malignaggis career? A disappearing act of his victory over the Russian Hammer, Artem Lobov.