Down Memory Lane: Paul Malignaggi, a New-Age Yaqui Lopez?

Cliff EasthamSenior Writer IIDecember 20, 2009

By Caesar Cliffius


After watching Paul "Magic Man" Malignaggi fight a couple of times, I wondered who he reminded me of most. My memory went directly to 1980 and to perennial Light-Heavyweight contender Alvaro “Yaqui Lopez .”

Yaqui has been one of my favorite light heavies of all time. He was a beautiful boxer to watch, very slick, polished with a good jab. His biggest drawback was an extreme lack of power. If he had medium to decent power he would have been the Light Heavyweight Champion.

He had fought for the LHW championship four times and the Cruiser-weight title once. Defeated each time, he is one of the best fighters in history not to have won a championship.

He was seemingly always in an entertaining fight. In 1980, he fought Matthew Saad Muhammad in Ring Magazine’s fight of the year. During the eighth round (Ring’s round of the year as well) saw Lopez jump all over Muhammad (AKA Matthew Franklin), hitting him with everything in his arsenal.

It was reminiscent of the first fight they had in 1978 when Lopez appeared on the brink of knocking Muhammad out, hitting him with 64 punch flurry before Muhammad got his second wind. The fight was stopped in the 11th round with Lopez on the receiving end of a TKO. The results were the same in 1980, this time occurring as a 14th round stoppage.

Lopez had other major fights as well. He lost two 15-round decisions to the late Victor Galindez (may he rest in peace) for the LHW title, both decisions could have gone either way. Lopez power shortage seemed to be a deterrent to many judges in his career.

He was beaten by John Conteh in a title fight, again in another 15 round unanimous decision. He was one of the few light heavyweights who was unafraid to go into Rahway State Prison to fight undefeated James Scott . He was defeated by decision in 10 rounds.

He fought three classics with famous Philadelphian Jesse Burnett , winning one by a majority decision, one by a split decision, and losing the first one by a split decision.

In the next to last fight of his career he was knocked out in the second round by Cruiser-weight Champion “Sugar” De Leon who successfully defended his title.

Yaqui was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007.

Although about 40 pounds lighter Malignaggi is a cut from the same cloth in this writer’s opinion. A very talented boxer, but if possible, he has less power than did Lopez.

The Magic Man lost a very controversial unanimous decision to Juan Diaz in August of 2009 in Diaz’ backyard. GaleVan Hoy scored the fight 118-110 for Diaz. The man should be put on suspension for such a ridiculous scoring. Nothing like home cooking, eh?

Malignaggi reversed the tide on Dec. 12 with a unanimous decision of his own in Chicago.

He fought Miguel Cotto for the IBO Light Welterweight in 2006. After a second round knockdown at the hands of Cotto, Malignaggi stayed on his feet and lost a unanimous decision top the champ. Like Lopez, his style combined with no power, played into Cotto’s plans. He hit the champ with some good shots but after  a few of them left no damage, Cotto knew he couldn’t be hurt by him.

In 2007 he won the IBF Light Welterweight title by shutting out Lovemore N’dou in a 12 round decision. He successfully defended his title twice, before being knocked out by Ricky Hatton in an IBO Light Welterweight title fight.

Despite being 40 pounds lighter and having won a world title, the Magic Man still reminds me of Yaqui Lopez.

Here are the records of both fighters:
Lopez Malagnaggi

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