Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are obviously the stars of their own shows. But if we were to hand out an award to the Best Supporting Act during the buildup to Mayweather and McGregor’s superfight, it would definitely go to former world champion boxer Paulie Malignaggi, who has somehow managed to provide almost as much publicity for the match as Mayweather and McGregor have.
Malignaggi’s name first hit headlines in early August, when a report emerged about a sparring session he had with McGregor getting "out of control." A couple days later, Malignaggi confirmed that report, and added that the session included a "lot of violence."
Those two things in and of themselves would have made Malignaggi a key contributor to the overarching Mayweather/McGregor storyline, but Malignaggi kept things going a day later when he abruptly quit working with McGregor; he stepped out after McGregor’s photographers released photos that appeared to show McGregor knocking him down while sparring. Malignaggi didn’t appreciate that so much, so he ripped McGregor’s camp on social media, accusing them of doing bad business. A short time later, he referred to McGregor as "one of the biggest dirtbags I’ve ever met," and called for McGregor to release video of their sparring session to show what really went down.
UFC President Dana White eventually posted video clips of McGregor knocking Malignaggi to the ground, which seemed like it might put an end to Malignaggi’s ongoing beef with McGregor—surprise, it didn’t. McGregor and Malignaggi ended up exchanging words at a press conference earlier this week. Most recently, Malignaggi and Mayweather shared a moment that was captured by Fight Hype. During their brief conversation, Mayweather jokingly claimed that Malignaggi served as a spy for him when he worked with McGregor. If true, it makes Malignaggi an even more important figure in the Mayweather/McGregor rivalry than we already thought.
"Paulie has always been my friend," Mayweather told Fight Hype with Malignaggi standing next to him. "My friend called me and said, 'Floyd, do you want me to go to [Conor’s] camp?' I said, 'Abso-fucking-lutely.' ... Paul, thank you for going over there like I asked you to do."
As Mayweather spoke, Malignaggi referred to McGregor and his associates as "suckas." Toward the end of the clip, Mayweather said he planned to use information from Malignaggi to prepare for his fight with McGregor.
"Me and Paulie gonna stay at the house and talk about strategy," he said. "We gonna talk about everything."
Mayweather could just be kidding here—Malignaggi suggested as much during a follow-up Fight Hype interview. But if Mayweather really duped McGregor by using Malignaggi as a spy, that’s some next-level trolling on his part. If nothing else, it will be somewhere in the back of McGregor’s head on fight night. Check out the clip above to see Mayweather and Malignaggi talk about the alleged spying.