His father left and his mother soon remarried. When he was 16, Malignaggi was thrown out of high school. He was living with his maternal grandparents at the time, and his grandfather Umberto Vinci and his uncle Dario Vinci took him to a boxing gym to see if it would keep Paulie out of trouble.
"I ended up loving the gym and have been there ever since." Malignaggi said. "I still remember my first day there. It was June 26, 1997. I remember training with my old trainer, Willie Badillo. He was teaching me a jab and right hand in front of the mirror, but throwing them really slowly to get the form down correctly. I started with a good foundation. I wrapped my hands and thought it looked so cool."
During Malignaggi amateur career, he trained at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn. As an amateur, he won the 1998 and 2001 New York Golden Gloves Amateur Championship, as well as the 2001 United States National Amateur Championship.
Malignaggi also won the 2001 Everlast U.S. Championships on March 13-17, 2001 in Colorado Springs, Colo by beating Van Oscar Penovaroff, Antonio Davis, and Luis Merced, all by decision. his record was 40-9.
The "Magic Man" made his professional debut at age 20 on July 7, 2001, and scored a first-round knockout over Thadeus Parker in Brooklyn. He won four more professional fights before his rookie campaign came to an end, including two by knockout. In 2002, Malignaggi went seven-for-seven in the ring, including a second-round TKO over Anthony Simpkins on Aug. 30 in New York City.
"I learned when I sit down on my punches, I do have some power there," Malignaggi said after the fight. "I just have to keep doing that. I have a tendency sometimes to use my legs a little too much. I kind of stayed calm against Simpkins."
Prior to his fight against Miguel Cotto, Malignaggi's fight record was 21-0-0.
World title bouts
On June 10, 2006, Paul Malignaggi faced the 25 year old, undefeated Miguel Cotto in Madison Square Garden for the WBO light welterweight title. Malignaggi was down in the 2nd round and lost in a gruelling 12 round contest by a unanimous decision. He was left with a broken right cheek bone, a bleeding nose, and a cut around the left eye. Malignaggi, in his first loss, took it well. He was asked if there was to be a rematch with Cotto, and he stated that he would fight him again after he had had a few more matches if Cotto didn't go up in the weight. Malignaggi gained a lot of respect in this fight, he showed character and heart, in a fight that many thought would be extremely one sided.
On June 16, 2007, Malignaggi defeated Lovemore N'dou via a 12 unanimous decision to win the IBF World Junior Welterweight Championship. The bout was one sided with one judge awarding the bout a 120-106
On January 5, 2008, Malignaggi was the winner against Herman Ngoudjo in a highly competitive match. Malignaggi controlled the fight with his jab until he was stunned in the 7th round, but Ngoudjo failed to finish the job.After the seventh, Ngoudjo became ineffective with his aggression and came up short and lost a wide unanimous decision,which although fair, did not reflect the competitiveness of the fight.
On May 24, 2008, Malignaggi beat Lovemore N'Dou in a rematch by split decision to retain his IBF title. Malignaggi was in control for the first half of the fight, boxing behind his faster and crisper jab. Prior to the fight, Malignaggi was sporting hair extensions which proved to be a problem throughout the fight until his trainer Buddy McGirt cut them off in his corner between rounds eight and nine. Malignaggi appeared sloppy in the second half of the fight as N'Dou came back to make the fight close. In the end, Malignaggi pulled out a close victory and also suffered a fractured right hand in the fight. Malignaggi vacated his title on September 19, 2008.[]
Inside the ring, Malignaggi can best be described as a slickster. He adopts the "Hitman" stance popularized by Thomas Hearns, his left arm is kept beside his waist and he keeps his right hand at the chest level, leaving his head completely exposed. Consequently, he punches from his hips, something few boxers can pull off unless they have exceptional handspeed. Malignaggi moves around the ring well and counter-punches effectively against aggressive opponents. In spite of having very little power, he is able to land clean shots while his opponents come forward. This resulted in a knockdown against Lovemore N'dou and proved to be a reliable, but ultimately a useless weapon in staving off a tough and motivated Miguel Cotto.
Malignaggi has been active outside the ring in the film industry, appearing in John Leguizamo's Undefeated and a documentary about his life titled Magic Man. Malignaggi has also modeled in clothing advertisements that have appeared in magazines such as Esquire, Playboy, and Frank 151.
His father, Sebastiano Malignaggi, is a well-known former professional soccer player, and still lives in Palazzolo Acreide, Sicily to this day. Paulie Malignaggi is quite famous in Sicily, he is affectionately known as "il Siciliano," and hopes to one day defend his world championship in Sicily. He is fluent in Italian, Sicilian and Spanish.
Junior Welterweight Champion
June 16, 2007– September 19, 2008