LAS VEGAS — UFC star Conor McGregor shared a boxing ring with former two-weight world champion Paulie Malignaggi on Thursday. McGregor is preparing for an Aug. 26 bout with Floyd Mayweather.
McGregor, 29, posted a photo from the eight-round session to social media. It shows McGregor with his hands behind his back, and the caption, “They say I’ve got no hands.”
They say I’ve got no hands. pic.twitter.com/FJfvj5qjKi
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) July 21, 2017
According to Malignaggi, who says he will continue to serve as one of McGregor’s regular sparring partners during the next five weeks, the photo represented the spirit of their first sparring session.
“There was a lot of trash talking right away,” Malignaggi told ESPN. “A lot of fighting right away. At the end, you look back on it, it was kind of fun. I don’t have many people who can match my trash talk, but Conor definitely can. It was making it a lot of fun.”
Of course, the world already knows McGregor, a two-division champ in the UFC, can talk trash. The question, going into his first professional boxing match against the undefeated Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs), is whether the UFC star can box.
Malignaggi, who retired from professional boxing in March, wouldn’t divulge specific details, but repeatedly referred to his session with McGregor as “good work.”
“To say a mixed martial artist is coming into boxing and wouldn’t be awkward is an understatement,” Malignaggi said. “He’s going to have his own style and set of things he does. He’s got a game plan. It’s not what people think.
“I’ll put it like this: He knows what he wants to do and he has a method of how he wants to get there. The mechanism of how he gets there may look, to the naked eye, ‘hmm, I don’t know about this.’ But there’s a method to his madness. He’s a thinker.”
Malignaggi said they were originally scheduled for six rounds, but ended up extending it to eight. He said both showboated at times, but he couldn’t guess whether McGregor will do so in the fight with Mayweather.
Asked to describe the power of McGregor’s left hand, which has been his best weapon in mixed martial arts, Malignaggi said there is “pop.”
“He’s got some pop in the left hand, I can’t take that away from him,” Malignaggi said. “In boxing, especially against a guy like Floyd Mayweather, you need to devise a few more weapons, and I think that’s what Conor is working on. I think … coming into this situation already knowing Conor has a big left hand … you’re probably going to prepare for that left hand.
“Obviously, Conor is working on other things besides the left hand, so there can be that surprise element to it. … There’s going to be other things he needs to make you worry about, and that’s what’s being worked on in camp. He’s effective at what he’s doing.”
Malignaggi described the camp’s mood as “serious” and said McGregor initiated a conversation at the end of the session. Once the intensity of competition lowered, Malignaggi said McGregor was “actually a chill, normal guy.”
A Brooklyn native, Malignaggi fought professionally from 2001 to 2017. He faced the likes of Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Juan Diaz, Amir Khan, Adrien Broner, Zab Judah, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, among others.
“I think [McGregor] is definitively an underdog, but he has a method to what he’s doing and he has a thinking process behind it,” Malignaggi said. “This is a fight of moments, and I think he can give himself certain moments.
“If those moments turn into bigger moments, that’s not up to me. That’s up to Conor McGregor.”