PICTURE - Conor McGregor leaves marks on Paulie Malignaggi's face after another intense day of sparring
There were visible marks above and around former WBA welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi's left eye on Wednesday when the New York boxer spoke to ESPN following another heavy round of sparring with Conor McGregor in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
McGregor brought in Malignaggi last month to help him prepare for his upcoming professional boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Las Vegas later this month.
Veteran boxing referee Joe Cortez officiated the two fighters at a recent sparring session between the two where the official said that the session got 'a little out of control', while in the latest session at UFC Headquarters on Tuesday, Malignaggi said that he felt that the UFC Lightweight champion was trying 'to catch him off guard' in front of UFC President Dana White and former majority owner Lorenzo Fertitta.
"I went in there to prove a point. I didn't like the fact I had to fly across the country on Monday, and they have me scheduled for 12 [rounds] on Tuesday. I thought it was a little bit of a setup," Malignaggi told ESPN.
"Usually all sparring is private. I show up at the UFC headquarters and [former owner, Lorenzo] Fertitta is there. [UFC president] Dana White is there. So, I'm thinking these guys are thinking they'll catch me right off the flight, set me up for him to look good in front of his audience. I didn't like that. I kind of went in with a chip on my shoulder."
Malignaggi added that McGregor has a strong desire to to try and rough up his sparring partners in the ring but that he's also starting to see some very noticeable improvements in the Dubliner's boxing skills.
"Conor wants his presence to be felt. He's coming to win, right?" Malignaggi added. "He wants you to know you're in a fight. He doesn't want you to think it's a picnic. So, any time he's in the ring, he's trying to make it as rough as possible -- be it roughhouse tactics, be it trying to land hard shots.
"There was a pushdown yesterday. Conor on the inside, he can get a little rough. He shoved me down, you know, but no knockdowns. Obviously, 12 rounds, you're gonna see there's a mark on my face. Very, very hard work for both of us. I was starting to get in a groove in the middle rounds, starting to land some good shots. Conor really came on strong in the end. It was back and forth.
"I think the intensity Conor's reaching is starting to show in the hard work he's put into camp.
"I think he's getting better and better. I really felt improvements from two weeks ago to now ... I do see a guy who is implementing more and more of what they want to do in their game plan."