Sharkie's Machine: Hatton TKO's Malignaggi - McGirt Pulls Plug On Malignaggi in Eleventh
By Frank Gonzalez Jr., exclusive to Doghouse Boxing (Nov 23, 2008) Photo © German Villasenor  
Brooklyn’s Paulie “The Magic Man” Malignaggi (25-2, 5 KO’s) faced Manchester’s Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton (45-1, 31 KO’s) in Las Vegas for the IBO Light Welterweight title and recognition as the top 140-pounder by The Ring Magazine’s rankings.

On paper, this was an interesting match up due to the contrasting styles of the fighters. Hatton is a pressure fighter that wears you down and out, while Malignaggi is a slick boxer that can score points and win
rounds, when things go his way. Part of being a great boxer is being able to control the action in the ring. Malignaggi was unable to do so. So, things didn’t go Paulie’s way Saturday night at the MGM Grand, where a band played music and chanted Ricky Hatton’s name throughout the proceedings.

Though the fight was here in the USA, the venue might as well have been in England somewhere, as the crowd seemed mighty British. So, what’s a native fighter to do? Fight and win. This is the story of how Paulie Malignaggi came up short in what had to be the biggest fight of his life since the Miguel Cotto fight, where in a losing effort, Paulie showed big heart and earned this fan’s respect.

In the first round, Hatton pressed forward with punches. Malignaggi clinched whenever Hatton attacked. Hatton landed a few shots and so did Malignaggi, but Paulie’s punches, mostly jabs from outside, were a wee bit cleaner when they landed. I thought the first round could have been scored either way though Malignaggi did outscore Hatton in round one.

Early in the second, Hatton landed a left to the face that buzzed Malignaggi, who clinched immediately. The British fans cheered loudly. Malignaggi circled Hatton, popped his jab and scored with a few combinations that Hatton barely noticed. Moments later, Hatton landed another big left that appeared to stun Paulie, who sought to clinch when Hatton landed yet another one. Malignaggi clinched often and during an exchange from outside, Paulie landed a long-range uppercut that landed cleanly. Near the end of the round, Hatton landed a combination right, left that looked to cause a cut on PM’s left eye.

This went on and on, with Hatton always forcing the issue and Malignaggi running and clinching, rarely opening up his offense. The only way a soft punching boxer like Malignaggi could win a fight against a strong athletic fighter like Hatton would be to outbox him, to use superior ring generalship and to score points while making his opponent miss so much that the Judges notice him more than his opponent. But Hatton never allowed Malignaggi the luxury of getting into any kind of rhythm, always pressuring him with punches every step of the way.

At times, it seemed that Malignaggi might have hurt his right hand, because he rarely threw it. Paulie’s trainer (Buddy McGirt) kept reminding him during the breaks to throw his right because when he did, he usually landed it. Hatton was open for it. But Malignaggi was too busy fending off the aggressive Hatton to get into any kind of sustainable offensive groove.

Ricky Hatton seemed annoyed at the excessive holding of Malignaggi and though PM held at least ten times a round, referee Kenny Bayless never warned him about it. At times, Hatton would make eye contact with Bayless during some of the holds, but to no avail. The ironic thing is that it was Malignaggi who talked about Hatton’s infamous holding in the lead up to the fight and yet, when they met in the ring, it was Paulie doing 90 % of the holding.

In the sixth round, Malignaggi finally heeded McGirt’s advice, boxed from the outside, and successfully landed his right hand with good effect. Since Hatton wasn’t expecting Paulie’s adjustment, Malignaggi was able to score the most punches he’d scored in any round to that point. It was the only round I gave Malignaggi, save the first, which I saw as even.

From the seventh round on, it was back to excessive holding and allowing Hatton to dominate the action on offense. Hatton punished Malignaggi with several left hooks, uppercuts and a battery of punches that stunned Malignaggi often. By the time the tenth round arrived, McGirt told Paulie that he’d stop the fight if he kept getting hit so often.

The eleventh round saw Hatton go after Malignaggi with a second winded fury, landing two crushing left hooks and another left to the body. Malignaggi clinched yet again. At that moment, Buddy McGirt made his way up to the ring accompanied by an official who was waving a white towel. It was over. Hatton was the winner by TKO 11. The time of the stoppage was 0:28 of the 11th round.

I thought the stoppage was unnecessary and hurtful to Paulie, who while taking a beating, showed he could take it—and there was only one round left to go, so why not just let him fight? Who knows what ‘magic’ might have occurred if “the Magic Man” had the next three minutes at his disposal? Probably none, but still…

At the sight of the white towel, Hatton raised his arms in triumph. Malignaggi walked towards his corner and pushed McGirt away from him as he approached. I have a feeling we won’t see Buddy in Paulie’s corner next time out.

Big credit goes to Ricky Hatton, who showed good composure and his usual willingness to mix it up and fight the full three minutes of every round. He did what he was supposed to do and with his new trainer, Floyd Mayweather Senior in his corner, he showed a few minor improvements on defense and style of punching. This was a good outing for Hatton, who returned to the venue where he lost his first fight—trained by the father of the guy who beat him, and won with a convincing display of patience, sprinkled into his usual high volume style of punching. I was impressed with his ability to neutralize Malignaggi, who is normally, a very mobile, technically sharp boxer with a flashy style. In the past, Hatton has had problems against good ‘boxers’ but Saturday night at the MGM, Ricky was Grand. If former opponent, Luis Collazo was watching, he must have been impressed!

During the post fight interviews, both were gracious. Malignaggi made the argument that there was only one round left and that he’s “better than that” referring to the TKO that will reside on his record for eternity. At 27, Malignaggi still has time on his side.

Hatton credited Malignaggi for being a lot tougher than he looks. He also said he wanted to fight the winner of De La Hoya vs. Pacquaio. Of course, the only motivation for that would be greed, which is suddenly a noble practice in today’s world. I’d much rather Hatton fight the winner of WBO titlist Kendall Holt vs. Ricardo Torres or WBC titlist Timothy Bradley. How can Hatton be the highest regarded fighter in a division while there are still guys at the top of that same division that he hasn’t even fought? How The Ring Magazine make those assessments, I’d love to know.

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