- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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After 10 years together, former junior welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi and promoter Lou DiBella are parting ways.
With tension between them mounting and Malignaggi and DiBella not seeing eye-to-eye on the direction the fighter's career should take, Malignaggi will become a free agent after agreeing to buy out the remainder of his promotional agreement for $75,000, they told ESPN.com on Monday.
"It was a good run," said Malignaggi, who is coming off an 11th-round knockout loss to junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan on May 15. "I've had my ups and downs with [DiBella Entertainment] but in the end you want to finish your relationship having made money and I did that. No hard feelings. There were some things we disagreed on, so it's probably better to part amicably so the relationship remains. If we remained together, we'd probably end up hating each other and neither of us wanted that. So the best thing to do is part ways and remain friends. But it's not like I'm just walking away. I'm paying $75,000 to get out of the deal. I think it's the best-case scenario for both parties."
Said DiBella, "When I met Paulie he was a 19-year-old kid. Now he's [close to being] a 30-year-old man. So there's a different dynamic, like in a family almost. I guess he feels it's time to take it in another direction. I can respect that."
DiBella was starting out his promotional career in 2000 after leaving HBO Sports as its chief boxing programmer. With a reputation as one of New York's top young prospects, Malignaggi was about to turn pro after a successful amateur career.
They were both New Yorkers. They were both Italian. They had big personalities. Their pairing was a natural and they clicked.
DiBella signed Malignaggi and has promoted him for his entire career, helping guide him to a 140-pound world title when he beat Lovemore N'dou in 2007. After two defenses, DiBella was instrumental in helping Malignaggi land a big-money fight with lineal junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton in 2008 and then in securing him a rematch against Juan Diaz last year after he lost a highly controversial decision in their first bout.
"Paulie wants to be the master of his own boxing career and we worked out an amicable split," DiBella said. "I've been approached by promoters for fights for Paulie and I am noting those inquiries and will forward them to his camp. This split is totally amicable. I love that kid. We had a great 10-year run. Sometimes it's a good time to end a business relationship with somebody and it's time for them to start fresh with no hurt feelings or bad feelings on either side. It's the end of the business relationship, but not the end of our relationship.
"We had a lot of fun together and we've been very close. It's not the kind of situation where you want to see it end and blow up in bad feelings. So we got something done with the settlement and called it a day."
Malignaggi has been doing some boxing television commentating and acting, but he still wants to fight, although he admitted that he spent time thinking about retirement after losing such a lopsided fight to Khan in front of his hometown fans in New York.
"I think I still have a lot of options," Malignaggi said. "I'm not going to buy out my contract and not fight. The intention is to fight. I'm taking a chance because I am probably not going to make $75,000 in my next one or two fights. But to get this release, it was a risk I was willing to take. We'll see where it goes. But so we remain on friendly terms, this was the best way to go."
Malignaggi said he will follow through on the plan he and DiBella came up with after the loss -- for him to go to Europe to fight. Malignaggi grew up in New York but was born in Italy, where he still has family.
"I'll try to pursue the European market," said Malignaggi, adding that he hopes to fight there before the end of the year. "On this side of the pond there are a lot of people who think Paulie has seen better days and I want to avoid being an opponent. Over in Europe it will be different and fresh. I still like the rush of fighting and it's something I won't always have the option to do. So while I can still pursue this, I will.
"I don't have a new promoter yet, but I will weigh my options. I'll be a free agent see what the best-case scenario is. I'm not looking to be an opponent and have a promoter match me with their up-and-coming star. Ultimately, this is a business and there is still some money to be made."
Malignaggi (27-4, 5 KOs) said he's most interested in pursuing a fight with England's Matthew Hatton, the European welterweight champion and Ricky Hatton's younger brother. Matthew Hatton retained the title by outpointing Yuri Nuzhnenko on Friday in England.
"To win a European title would mean a lot to me," Malignaggi said.
DiBella wished him well.
"If he wants honest advice from me, he knows my phone lines are always open to him," DiBella said. "He and I are ending this business relationship as well as you can."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.