It seemed like only yesterday when we watched Ricky Hatton boxing circles around a timid Paulie Malignaggi, shaking him up with hard shots and forcing trainer Buddy McGirt to throw in the towel after the 10th round. Never one to sugar coat reality, Malignaggi openly contemplated retirement because of recurring hand problems and an ineffective style.
In the months that followed, Malignaggi fired McGirt as his trainer, allowed his hands to heal and seemingly turned back the clock with the help of new trainer Sherif Younan. Younan got Malignaggi back to doing what made him a star in the first place. With only five career knockouts, it’s a safe bet to classify Malignaggi as a light puncher.
After an easy comeback victory over Chris Fernandez, Malignaggi seemed poised to make the career transition from ‘Contender’ to ‘Opponent’. His days of being seriously considered as championship material appeared to be over. Juan Diaz had him lined up for a comeback fight of his own.
Malignaggi went into Diaz’s hometown and predicted he wouldn’t get a fair shake. He was right, as a fight that many felt he could have easily won, was given to Diaz. The now infamous Gale Van Hoy scored the fight 118-110, in favor of Diaz. Malignaggi raised hell after the decision, holding true to his style of never pouring sugar on the truth of his feelings.
After taking his campaign for a rematch to the internet, Malignaggi got the attention of Golden Boy Promotions and HBO. In Saturday night’s rematch, Malignaggi outworked the usually tireless Diaz and beat him more convincingly, and more importantly, on all three scorecards. All three judges had the score 116-111 in favor of Malignaggi.
In a career filled with solid, but less-than-marquee victories for Malignaggi, Diaz proved to be the defining victory for the young Brooklynite. He worked his jab, moved his feet and even threw in some good stinging combinations from time to time. Malignaggi has effectively turned his career around and looks to be a player in the Jr. Welterweight division again.
After the fight, Malignaggi stated he wanted to fight Juan Manuel Marquez and the winner could move on to face former 140-pound kingpin Ricky Hatton. He also mentioned Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz, among others, as potential opponents.
The Paulie Malignaggi that fought against Lovemore N’Dou and Ricky Hatton would have had a slim-to-none chance of competing with the top 140-pounders in the world. The Paulie Malignaggi that boxed circles around Juan Diaz for at least 14 of 24 rounds stands a good chance of recapturing another world title and silencing the critics that say the Diaz fights were two flashes in the pan.
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