HBO BAD - Jun. 16, 2007

Lovemore N'Dou vs Paulie Malignaggi

Stevens vs Dirrell

Decision Wins for Malignaggi and Dirrell

A documentary filmmaker made a movie about Paulie Malignaggi's life, which ended in his gutsy loss to Miguel Cotto last year. The film won an award at the Hoboken International Film Festival earlier this month, but left Malignaggi without the one award he craved most, a world championship title.

Saturday night the flamboyant young Brooklyn fighter got that chance against a battle-hardened veteran of 54 bouts, Lovemore N'dou, who had won a title eliminator and then was handed the belt when it was stripped from Ricky Hatton.

This time Malginaggi wrote his own, more satisfying ending to his on-going life story. Working behind a crisp left jab and constantly firing effective combos, Malignaggi threw a virtual shutout against N'dou, winning a junior welterweight title by unanimous decision, 120-106 on two judges' cards, 118-108 on a third.

"It looked easier than it was," said Malignaggi, who fell to his knees and covered his tears with his gloves after the final round. "He made me work all 12 rounds. The big question coming in was would I be in the best shape because he always come on late in the fight. And I was."

The 26-year-old Malignaggi improved to 23-1, while N'dou, 35, fell to 45-9-1.

For most of his early career, Malignaggi had labored under a broken right hand that required surgeries, and had turned into a one-handed fighter.

Ironically it was that one hand, the left, which controlled this fight and led him to a championship. Malignaggi fired a very effective and crisp jab, and used it to keep the body-punching N'dou at a distance, where the Brooklyn fighter could use his superior hand and foot speed.

But at the urging of his trainer Buddy McGirt, Malignaggi also started throwing his right as the fight went on. And it was the right hand that stunned N'dou in the 9th round and sent him to the canvas for the fight's only knockdown.

Not the most powerful boxer in the world, Malignaggi used his crackling left jab to wear down N'dou. He also got a big helping hand from referee Eddie Cotton, who very quickly stepped in and broke the fighters up when ever N'dou did manage to get inside.

But there was really no denying Malignaggi Saturday night, who thanks to his jab, out-landed N'dou in punching percentage, 44 to 24.

Entering the final round it was obvious Malignaggi had the fight won. On his stool in the 11th, McGirt urged Malignaggi to play it safe, to "stay low and clinch." But the kid who was abandoned by his parents and kicked out of high school decided he would win his title as a warrior.

Malignaggi kept firing combos, continually attack N'dou, who was head-hunting, knowing a knock out was his only chance for victory.

With 15 seconds left, and the pro-Malignaggi crowd at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort in Connecticut on its feet, the new champion chose to go toe-to-toe, throwing a furious 10-punch combo to put an exclamation pound on the brash talking fighter's most outspoken moment.

Where does Malignaggi go from here? He has said repeatedly he wants to fight Ricky Hatton and last night he said again, that if Hatton beats Jose Luis Castillo next Saturday, he wants the Brit as his next opponent. He also said he wanted somewhere down the line another crack at Cotto.

"I know I would take another beating from Cotto, but this time I think I can win enough rounds to beat him," Malignaggi said.

"I know I would take another beating from Cotto, but this time I think I can win enough rounds to beat him," Malignaggi said.

Even if Hatton does beat Castillo, at this stage of the Brit's career it is unlikely he would fight Malignaggi any time soon. Hatton has made it clear he is looking only for big money fights.

There are some attractive match-ups, however, for Malignaggi, including reunification fights with current junior welterweight title holders Ricardo Torres and Junior Witter. "The Contender" runner-up and former champion Stevie Forbes, and another ex-title holder, Vivian Harris, would also be TV worthy.

The most emotional moment Saturday night was when Malignaggi, the boy who nobody wanted, was given the championship belt. He hugged it like a security blanked and openly cried.

On the under card, unbeaten 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, Andre Dirrell was facing his toughest test to date in rugged young Brooklyn prospect, Curtis Stevens, whose lone loss in 18 fights was a knockout that came in the 8th round of a 10-round bout in which he was leading on all three scorecards.

Dirrell turned the fight into a dance contest, occasionally sticking Stevens, who was five inches smaller, then running and sliding around the ring, to the distaste of the crowd, which booed his antics roundly and frequently.

Stevens, who did not show any ability to cut off the ring and did not fire many combos, and in the end landed fewer punches than Dirrell, who won by default a unanimous decision, 98-92, and 97-93 twice. In winning the total yawner, Dirrell improved to 12-0, while Stevens slipped to 17-2.

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