Boxing


Hatton vs. Malignaggi Prediction: Now you see it, NOW YOU DON’T!

By P.H. Burbridge (A voice in the crowd) IBF light welterweight champion "The Magic Man" Paulie Malignaggi (25-1, 5 KOs) has come a long way since his first career loss to Miguel Cotto back in June of 2006 and on November 22, 2008 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas he will get another shot at capturing boxing limelight when he defends his title against Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton (44-1, 31 KOs). This is one of the more intriguing match up’s on the horizon and it could very well end up being a make or break fight for each guy..

Back in 2006 when Paulie Malignaggi’s name came up as an opponent for rising superstar Miguel Cotto I gave him little to NO chance of even making it out of that fight on his feet. I was so disappointed with Cotto for taking a fight with a relatively unknown fighter that had ZERO world class experience that I nearly boycotted the fight.

I didn’t think beating Malignaggi would do a thing for his credibility and felt that if he was going to create a public mandate for the Floyd Mayweather Jr fight he would need to beat one world class fighter after another NOT some unknown kid! I asked myself “who is this Malignaggi kid who talks a million miles per hour and has no power?” I was NOT looking forward to that match but as usual when fight night arrived I watched. As I always do and as the fight started to unfold I became more and more entranced by what Malignaggi was able to do with Cotto. In the first round, right off the bat Malignaggi was cut and looked very nervous.

He was extremely tight and operating on nervous energy. That was to be expected considering this was the biggest fight that he had ever been part of and it was ONLY taking place in MADISON SQUARE GARDEN! You can actually see Malignaggi “talking himself down” and acclimating in that first round. Things didn’t get any easier in the second round when Cotto caught Malignaggi with a decent left hook that sent him down. It didn’t appear that Paulie was seriously hurt but he was clearly dazed. Malignaggi then picked himself up and made the necessary adjustments to compete with Cotto for the full 12 rounds and ended up having some moments of his own in that fight.

Also he did it while sustaining some substantial injuries. Malignaggi left that fight with a broken right cheek bone, a cut over his left eye and a bloody nose and although Cotto was correctly awarded the decision Paulie did make it tough on him at times. That fight gave Paulie Malignaggi HIS world class experience. The fact that he kept his composure amidst a vocal pro-Cotto crowd at Madison Square Garden proved his toughness and his ability to perform on a world stage. He learned more about himself in that loss then he would have if he had won.

After the Cotto fight in June of 2007 Malignaggi went on and defeated Lovemore N'dou via 12 round unanimous decision to win the IBF Junior Welterweight Championship. In that fight he dominated from start to finish and showed no signs of residual damage from the Cotto defeat. And then in January of this year Malignaggi found himself in another pretty tough battle against Herman Ngoudjo. This bout was closer then the scores would lead you to believe and Malignaggi was visibly shaken up in the 7th round. He again remained composed and controlled most of the action throughout with his jab to receive a unanimous decision.

He has shown great ring maturity with one notable exception and that was in the rematch with Lovemore N'Dou in May of this year. In that fight he wore very LONG hair extensions that Buddy McGirt was forced to cut off between the 8th and 9th round so he could see! (That was one for the time capsule!) That obviously wasn’t the wisest thing in the world to do but, aside from his “style” blunder Paulie Malignaggi maintained control of that fight and won a split decision over a determined Lovemore N’dou. He won on what appeared to be an “off night” to retain his title.

That win however came at a cost as Malignaggi who has had a history of right hand problems suffered another fracture. Over the years he has had numerous procedures on that hand and it sounds like the right hand will continue to be a burden for the rest of his career. Recent reports have indicated that his cast was removed and that he will have unrestricted use for heavy training in September. That should be plenty of time to properly prepare for the fire storm I’m sure Ricky Hatton will be bringing into this fight.

Malignaggi has steadily improved over the last 2 years and has emerged as one of the best pure boxers in the game. With the addition of Buddy McGirt in his corner all systems are “GO”. He now has the team and the opportunity to become a star and all he has to do is WIN a marquee fight.

Ricky “the Hitman” Hatton is at a crossroads in his career and badly needs a solid win over a credible opponent to validate his standing as well as justify moving forward with his career. With potential showdowns on the horizons with Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan this fight represents a REAL danger for Hatton. He not only needs to win but he needs to look good doing it. It’s amazing at how many people wrote Hatton off after just one loss. He didn’t get beat by an average fighter he got beat by “best fighter in the world” and he was also moving up in weight. I’ve always felt that win or lose one fight doesn’t make or break a fighter. A fighter’s ability should be judged over a series of fights against a variety of styles to determine where he stands. Having said that I do believe there were some troubling signs in Hatton’s fight against the “Hispanic Causing Panic” Juan Lazcano. That was the main event of a card which also featured Malignaggi’s rematch with N’dou in May of this year at Manchester Stadium. Ricky controlled the fight in the early going but then began to look sluggish and disinterested turning in an unimpressive performance. Ricky was also hurt twice in that fight and in one case had it not been for some “questionable” actions by the referee he may have suffered a knock down. He ended up winning a unanimous decision but Lazcano was able to score frequently and his punches told a story on Hatton’s face. Ricky was being hit with predictable shots that he knew were coming and he didn’t make the necessary adjustments to get away from those blows. That’s not a good sign! The fact that he was getting hit by a fighter who is not even on the same speed planet as Paulie Malignaggi may be a warning sign of trouble to come.

To beat Malignaggi Ricky MUST commit to his jab and work his way in to land that excellent left hook to body like the one he used in the Castillo fight. He must NOT abandon the jab! If he can do that then he will force Paulie down off his toes and into a messy brawl. Ricky wins THAT fight every time. If he reverts back to jumping in and trying to smother Malignaggi with those mauling tactics and NO jab then Paulie is going to pick him apart with his faster hands and feet. You may see Malignaggi enjoying some of the same success Floyd did against Ricky with the exception of knocking him out obviously. I just don’t see that happening. But, by the same token I don’t think Hatton can knock Paulie out either. If Cotto couldn’t get him out of there then I seriously doubt that Hatton will be able get the KO plus Malignaggi is a much better fighter now then he was then so in my opinion this spells one thing “the distance”.

In the end this fight could be less about styles and more about one fighter coming up and the other going down. Ricky is already one of if not THE most beloved fighter Great Britain has ever produced. He’s been blessed with the financial rewards that come along with that distinction and he’s definitely NOT hungry! I don’t think Ricky will ever be hungry again. On the flip side Malignaggi is STARVING and just now coming in to his own.

This translates to a Malignaggi VICTORY by SPLIT DECISION over Ricky Hatton AND with it “The Magic Man” will make those potential mega fights with Pacquiao and Khan disappear before Hatton’s eyes!

Article posted on 21.08.2008



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