Paulie Malignaggi has undergone multiple surgeries on his right hand and realizes he might be fighting on borrowed time. A victory over Ricky Hatton would be the biggest of his career, but could also be his last. Hatton is in a must-win situation. A loss could jeopardize his chances for a fight with Oscar De La Hoya. Are the sands of time running out for both of them?
Ask Malignaggi who his toughest opponent has been and his answer wouldn't be Miguel Cotto; nor would it be Hatton, no matter what happens in the ring in Las Vegas on Nov. 22. Nobody has caused more problems for Malignaggi than his own troublesome right hand. It has knocked him out of action and into a surgeon's operating room so many times he feels like he's fighting a never ending rematch against his own fist.
"Sometimes when I think about all the injuries I've had to my hand it starts to feel like it almost becomes not worth it," Malignaggi said. "Is it worth it to go into the ring a half-ass fighter with one hand? When my hand is broken I feel like I'm cheating the fans and myself."
Malignaggi (25-1, 5 KOs) last broke the hand on May 24 in a victory over Lovemore N'dou. Four days later he was under the knife for the tenth time. The 27-year-old Malignaggi has been told by surgeons that the chronic injuries he has suffered will likely lead to arthritis sometime in the future. The prospect of that has led Malignaggi to think seriously about premature retirement.
"If things go wrong with my hand against Hatton, this could obviously be my last fight," Malignaggi said. "I'm not sure how much longer I have left, but while I'm here I am going to make the most of it."
Hatton faces a different challenge. While he is only three years older than Malignaggi, he has a lot of miles on his tires. He has fought 45 times in 11 years, winning all except one -- a knockout defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year, which earned him over $10 million. At this stage of his career, that kind of payday is all he's interested in, and De La Hoya could provide it. The Golden Boy has said that if Hatton gets by Malignaggi, he would like to fight the Brit next year in London's Wembley Arena, a venue that holds close to 100,000 fans.
If Hatton loses, it's hard to see De La Hoya stirring up interest in a mega-fight against a boxer who has lost two of his last three bouts. Beyond De La Hoya the landscape looks bleak. There are currently no prospects for big money fights in Hatton's 140-pound division, and a move up to welterweight again appears unlikely. The 5'-7 1/2 Hatton has admitted that in his two fights at 147 pounds, he was not performing in his best weight class. Unless Hatton can lure Manny Pacquiao into the ring in 2009, the chances for another high profile bout are not good.
Although Hatton will go into this fight the favorite, Malignaggi has nothing but disdain for the Brit's style of fighting - which includes a lot of holding -- and predicts he will easily defeat him. "The guy holds because he doesn't know how to fight," Malignaggi said. "If he had had his whole career in the U.S., where he can't get away with holding as much, he would have been nothing but a club fighter. I'll tell you now; I am going to whip his ass."
Malignaggi says he is more concerned about Hatton being allowed by the referee to hold than he is about getting hit by him. "He's a nice guy and has a good family, but I just don't like the way he fights," Malignaggi said. "If you miss a punch against him, he extends his hands and grabs you. They call it working inside. That's bullshit. It's not fighting, it's wrestling. If Ricky wants to wrestle I'll come to the fight wearing tights and we can do like they do in the WWE."
And it would probably fill the seats. Hatton is the most popular fighter in England, drawing huge crowds when he fights, a fact which perplexes Malignaggi. "I don't know why he is so popular in England. When he fights it is a free-for-all, like rugby, with all the rabbit punches, holding and hitting while holding. In Las Vegas they have a good commission, and I hope they do the right thing and make it a fair fight and let the best guy win. If he gets away with holding, I have a plan. If he tries to make it a free-for-all, then it will be a free-for-all for both of us," Malignaggi said.
The Brit has promised that fans will see a new and improved Ricky Hatton, one who uses his jab more and boxes rather than grapples. That's because after his last fight - a lackluster victory over Juan Lazcano in May - Hatton fired his long-time trainer, Billy Graham, and hired Floyd Mayweather Sr. on September 5. "I don't know what Floyd is going to do for him," Malignaggi said. "Maybe add a little defense, make him box more. But you need talent to work with the things Floyd teaches, and Ricky doesn't have the talent or ability to take it in and absorb it. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. They're making a mistake if they think Paulie Malignaggi is a guinea pig for an experiment with a new trainer."
Should Malignaggi back up his words and win, Hatton told the BBC in an interview last month that he will probably quit. "I can understand why people say maybe time has caught up with me," Hatton told the BBC. "Maybe I'm showing signs of wear and tear, but I don't know that." Asked if he would retire if he lost, he said: "I probably would, yeah."
Still in his prime, Malignaggi has no plans for retiring -- unless his right hand makes the decision for him. In training camp for this fight, Malignaggi said he was confident the hand would hold up. "It's fine. I've been hitting hard. Everybody's going to find out how good my hand is, especially Ricky Hatton," Malignaggi said.
Sometimes when I think about all the injuries I've had to my hand it starts to feel like it almost becomes not worth it," Malignaggi said. "Is it worth it to go into the ring a half-ass fighter with one hand? When my hand is broken I feel like I'm cheating the fans and myself.
Posted 12:00 AM | Nov 18, 2008
HBO WCB - Nov. 22, 2008
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