Paulie Malignaggi fought for over eight extra years after dropping to Ricky Hatton. However his loss to the Mancunian put a damper on his goals. By Thomas Hauser

ON November 22, 2008, Paulie Malignaggi fought Ricky Hatton on the MGM Grand Backyard Area in Las Vegas. Getting into the ring, Malignaggi knew that the hopes and goals and exhausting work of 28 years could be distilled right into a handful of three-minute segments. All the pieces in his life had led as much as this second. All the pieces in his future could be influenced by it.

Malignaggi had turned professional at age 20 on July 7, 2001. “I had my goals,” he mentioned later. “No one begins boxing to be a membership fighter. I considered boxing as a method to carve my title in historical past and present those who I used to be on this planet.”

“I’m not simply going to be a champion,” Paulie informed his promoter, Lou DiBella, earlier than his first professional battle. “I’m going to the Corridor of Fame.”

Later, Malignaggi elaborated on that theme, saying, “My pace discourages everybody I battle. I’ve acquired hand pace and foot pace, however my finest weapon is my mind. I do know precisely the place I’m within the ring always. I’m at all times considering in there, setting my opponent up and maintaining him from setting me up.”

However Malignaggi had an Achilles heel – a notable lack of energy that might restrict him to seven knockout wins in 44 profession fights. In a manner, that made his ring accomplishments all of the extra spectacular. Usually, when he went into battle, his opponent was armed with a machete whereas Paulie was carrying a pocket-knife. He constructed his victories by including up the factors, round-by-round-by-round.

And Malignaggi laboured beneath a second drawback as nicely. He was suffering from arms that HBO boxing analyst Larry Service provider known as “as brittle as raw spaghetti.” They have been damaged a number of occasions, necessitating quite a few surgical procedures.

Nonetheless, by 2006, Paulie was undefeated in 21 fights and challenged Miguel Cotto at Madison Sq. Backyard on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day parade. “It was,” he mentioned later, “like combating the satan in hell.”

In bout one, Malignaggi suffered a nasty reduce from a headbutt. In bout two, he was knocked down. He left the ring that evening with the primary lack of his profession and damaged bones in his face that took six months to heal. However he fought valiantly, went the space, and received 4 rounds (5 on one decide’s scorecard).

Fifty-three weeks later, Malignaggi shut out Lovemore N’dou with a masterful efficiency over 12 rounds to say the IBF 140lb crown. That was his shining second in boxing. Profitable title defences towards Herman Ngoudjo and N’dou adopted. However by his personal admission, Paulie regarded abnormal every time.

Then Malignaggi acquired one other shot at stardom; this time towards Hatton.

Previous to dealing with Paulie, Hatton had a profession file of 44 wins with 31 knockouts towards a single loss. Till 2005, he’d been extensively considered a ‘protected’ fighter. Then he stopped Kostya Tszyu in 11 rounds to annex the IBF super-lightweight title. Victories over Carlos Maussa, Luis Collazo, Juan Urango, and Jose Luis Castillo solidified his declare to being a professional world champion.

In December 2007, Hatton reached for the celebrities. He signed to battle Floyd Mayweather Jnr. However when battle evening got here, he was compelled to battle each boxing’s pound-for-pound king and the one-sided refereeing of Joe Cortez. Mayweather knocked him out within the 10th bout.

Ricky returned to the ring with a unanimous resolution victory over Juan Lazcano. Hatton-Malignaggi adopted. “Yearly, I begin out hoping that this would be the 12 months I make it huge,” Malignaggi mentioned after the bout contracts have been signed. “Up to now, it hasn’t occurred. The Cotto battle might have achieved it, however I got here up quick. Beating Ricky Hatton can get me to the place I need to be. This battle can get me recognised as the very best junior-welterweight [super-lightweight] on this planet. This battle could make me a star.”

Hatton-Malignaggi was Paulie’s first battle in Las Vegas. His face was on room keys on the MGM Grand. The world press was there.
Malignaggi was lengthy on confidence throughout battle week. Though the chances have been 12-to-5 in Hatton’s favour, he didn’t consider himself as an underdog. Ricky deliberate to stress him, however Paulie supposed to frustrate his foe.

“Velocity kills,” Lou DiBella opined. “And pace significantly kills Ricky. It’s not punchers that give Ricky bother; it’s pace. Have a look at his fights towards Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Luis Collazo.”

“Don’t examine Hatton with Cotto,” Paulie added, “as a result of they’re not on the identical degree. Ricky is a median fighter. In England, he was pampered towards club-fighter opponents. He’s been very abnormal over right here. I believe he’s regressed, or perhaps he was by no means that good to start with.

“Hatton has flaws that I can benefit from,” Malignaggi continued. “I’ve seen all of them by means of his profession. Whenever you’re quick, you may hit anyone. I’m quick, and Ricky isn’t a superb defensive fighter. My A-game is best than Ricky Hatton’s A-game. It’s going to be a really irritating evening for Ricky. He’ll be catching rather a lot.”

“Paulie thinks he’s a superb talker,” Hatton responded. “However he tends to return out with quite a lot of bull. You’re not going to see Ricky Hatton doing the Ali Shuffle. However you will notice extra head motion and some different issues that I understand how to do and haven’t achieved as typically as I ought to recently. And also you’ll additionally see what I at all times do; fixed stress and physique punching.”

There was a query as as to whether Hatton might work successfully beneath the aegis of his new coach, Floyd Mayweather Snr. In late July, Billy Graham (who’d skilled Ricky for each one in every of his skilled fights) was fired. There was a faculty of thought that Hatton would miss Graham each within the gymnasium and in his nook on battle evening. And extra considerably, there was the problem of Ricky’s way of life. If Malignaggi’s underlying weak point was his arms, Hatton’s was the abuse of his physique between fights.

Ricky Hatton beating Kostya Tszyu

Ricky was a drinker; a heavy drinker. He was additionally a ravenous eater and usually gained 40 to 50lbs between fights. He typically made gentle of the state of affairs. On a teleconference name after coaching camp started, he’d informed the media, “I’ve been stepping out at 5.30 within the morning to run for 5 miles, which is an enormous change from the standard routine of getting in at 5.30 within the morning after an evening in town.”

However in current fights, Hatton had tended to fade within the championship rounds. Collazo, Mayweather, and Lazcano all damage him late. And conditioning turned much more of a problem when nutritionist and conditioning coach Kerry Kayes give up Staff Hatton in protest over Graham’s dismissal.

Thus, the query: What had a hedonistic way of life coupled with the aggressive follow of a brutal sport taken out of Hatton? Ricky was 30. Malignaggi was 28. However due to Hatton’s way of life, he was considered a a lot older fighter. Would this be the battle when Ricky was out of the blue too outdated to do what he did nicely?

★★★

Malignaggi appreciated to get to the sector early when he fought and provides himself time to settle in. He wasn’t scheduled to be within the ring till 8pm on battle evening however arrived at his dressing room at 5 o’clock preparatory to doing battle towards Hatton. Staff Malignaggi was with him. Coach Buddy McGirt, assistant coach Orlando Carrasquillo, cutman Danny Milano, Umberto Malignaggi (Paulie’s brother), Pete Sferazza (an in depth buddy), lawyer John Hornewer, and Anthony Catanzaro (who mentored Paulie outdoors the ring).

Whereas the others engaged in quiet dialog, Paulie sat on a chair and listened to music by means of a pair of headphones. It was inconceivable for the members of his staff to know exactly what doubts and fears have been operating by means of his thoughts. However one factor was sure. He knew the style of defeat. Its bitter residue had been in his mouth since dropping to Cotto two years earlier. He by no means needed to style it once more.

Over the subsequent few hours, Malignaggi stretched, placed on his footwear and trunks, had his arms taped, shadow-boxed, and listened to referee Kenny Bayless’ pre-fight directions. At seven o’clock, he went into an adjoining room with Carrasquillo to heat up and hit the pads. McGirt stayed in the principle dressing space to observe James Kirkland vs. Brian Vera (HBO’s first televised battle of the night) on a tv monitor.

At 7.15, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Zito entered the dressing room and made their method to Malignaggi and Carrasquillo. “You look good, man,” Stallone informed Paulie. “Higher than I ever regarded.”

“I’m prepared. The plan is to bust him up.”

“Have a superb one.”

In lower than a minute, Stallone and Zito have been gone. For the subsequent half-hour, Malignaggi alternated between hitting the pads with Carrasquillo and sitting on the arm of a worn paisley-covered couch along with his head down. Greater than any of the folks round him, he was processing the truth of how harmful and contingent the subsequent hour could be.

As various boxing insiders had speculated earlier than the battle, a fighter acquired outdated within the ring throughout Hatton-Malignaggi. However that fighter wasn’t Ricky. It was Paulie.

Malignaggi had a slight edge in bout one as a consequence of superior footwork and his jab. However he wasn’t significantly efficient with both, which was a precursor of issues to return. He let Hatton get right into a rhythm early and by no means acquired right into a rhythm of his personal.

In bout two, Ricky turned extra aggressive and, with a half-minute left within the stanza, surprised Paulie with a chopping proper hand. Thereafter, Malignaggi appeared to desert his sport plan in favour of an virtually impatient battle. He fought like a fighter with a puncher’s likelihood as a substitute of a boxer whose solely street to victory lay in placing collectively punch after punch to win level after level, bout after bout. And he didn’t have a puncher’s likelihood as a result of he wasn’t a puncher.

Hatton was bodily stronger. Malignaggi’s main defence was motion. He didn’t have the facility to maintain Ricky off. When he landed, Hatton merely walked by means of the punches to get inside. At occasions, Paulie appeared frozen, unable to punch or get out of the best way of Ricky’s punches. Opposite to all expectations, he allowed Hatton to get off first for a lot of the evening.

“My neck felt prefer it had a stinger,” Paulie mentioned afterward. “Like there was 100 kilos on it. I couldn’t transfer the best way I normally transfer. One time, I ducked and it felt like I used to be caught. I assume that’s what Ricky does to you. However the referee did a superb job. I’ve been in fights the place the referee was a spectator. Kenny Bayless did his job proper.”

Hatton took benefit of what Bayless gave him. Now and again, he jammed an elbow into Malignaggi’s throat or raked a glove throughout Paulie’s face. However total, he fought a clear battle.

Within the center rounds, Ricky stepped up the tempo, going to the physique with telling impact. By bout 9, Paulie was struggling to outlive. Throughout bout 10, Lou DiBella went to Malignaggi’s nook and informed McGirt, “He’s not doing something. Possibly it must be stopped.” McGirt mentioned no. However he did inform Paulie between rounds that, if he stored taking punches with out throwing again, he’d cease the battle.

In bout 11, Malignaggi took a tough physique shot and DiBella returned to the nook. “For those who don’t cease it, I’ll,” he informed the coach. Seconds later, McGirt waved the white towel of give up. Every decide had given Paulie one bout.

After the battle, Paulie sat for a very long time on the couch in his dressing room. The again of his gown was pulled up and ahead over his head, fully overlaying his face.

Lastly, he lowered the gown.

“They shouldn’t have stopped the battle,” he mentioned.

There was a distraught look on his face.

“You have been getting hit.”

“However I wasn’t taking huge photographs. I wasn’t hurting that unhealthy. There was lower than two rounds left. How unhealthy might it have been? It will hassle me endlessly.”

“You have been behind on factors and also you weren’t going to knock him out.”

“He wasn’t going to knock me out both. Shedding is unhealthy. Having it on my file that I acquired stopped is worse.”

“Nobody needed to see you get damage.”

“In opposition to Cotto, I acquired damage worse. In opposition to Cotto, I might have understood somebody stopping it, though I’m glad they didn’t. Tonight; oh, man; no manner it ought to have been stopped.”

John Gichigi/Getty Pictures

The door to the dressing room opened and Ricky Hatton got here in. Paulie rose and the fighters embraced.

“It was a superb battle, mate,” Hatton mentioned. “You weren’t that far behind me. More often than not, you have been inflicting me homicide.” There have been extra compliments. Then Hatton left.

Paulie kicked a towel that was on the ground. “Crucial battle of my life and I didn’t end. I’m higher than being stopped.”

“You didn’t get stopped. Another person stopped it.”

“Yeah; however that’s not what the file ebook will say. The file ebook will say ‘TKO by 11.’ It goes down in historical past now; Paulie Malignaggi acquired stopped.”

“You fought a superb battle.”

“No, I didn’t. I fought like I used to be 40 years outdated. I noticed openings, however my thoughts and arms wouldn’t join.”

“Did your arms provide you with bother?”

“My arms are wonderful. How might I damage my arms? I didn’t hit him all evening.”

★★★

Fighters who depend on pace and reflexes as their edge over opponents peak younger. That was true of Malignaggi, who by no means fought with the talent set or hearth of his youth once more. Nonetheless, there could be extra fights and another second of glory.

On April 29, 2012, Paulie travelled to Ukraine and scored a ninth-round knockout of Vyacheslav Senchenko to say a WBA 147lb title. However that win was sandwiched between losses to Juan Diaz (later avenged), Amir Khan (a knockout defeat), Adrien Broner (by disputed resolution), and KO losses to Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, and Sam Eggington. Lastly, on the finish, there was an ill-conceived June 22, 2019 bare-knuckle battle that resulted in a loss to Artem Lobov.

Malignaggi’s last ring file (not counting the Lobov battle) was 36 wins (seven by knockout), eight losses (together with 5 KOs). The fighter who inflicted essentially the most bodily injury on him was Miguel Cotto. However in some ways, Hatton-Malignaggi damage extra. “That battle price me my goals,” Paulie mentioned years later. “If I beat Hatton, I grow to be a star. I’d even have made it to the Corridor of Fame. The best way I fought that evening will hassle me until the day I die. It was like God gave me a present once they made that battle and I f**ked it up.”

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