For Juan Diaz and Paul Malignaggi, Saturday's 12-rounder represents a visit to "Last Chance Saloon." The winner will remain among the elite while the loser likely slides into oblivion—and perhaps retirement.
The root of each man's problems and the potential stylistic solution can be found in the numbers:
The Problem: Dwindling Defense
In 11 fights tracked before his recent slide, Diaz landed 43 percent of his 50 power shots per round while absorbing just 22 percent of his foes' 53—a plus 21 rating. Against Campbell and Marquez, Diaz's power connect percentage was 33 to his rivals' 43 percent—a minus 10. The late rounds were even worse for Diaz as fatigue and discouragement set in. In the final four rounds Campbell landed 46 percent of his power shots (137 of 298) to Diaz's 24 percent (42 of 174)—a minus 22. In the last three rounds Marquez landed 56 percent (62 of 111) to Diaz's 30 percent (39 of 131), a ghastly minus 26 rating.
Malignaggi's numbers aren't much better. In nine fights tracked before his last three bouts, Malignaggi landed 34 percent of his total punches to his foes' 27—a plus seven—and he was in plus territory in power shots as he connected at a 37.3 percent rate to his foes' 32.5. When one excluded the Cotto bout, those numbers surged to a plus 11.1 overall (36.1 to 25) and a plus 9.8 (39.3 to 29.5).
Against Lovemore N'Dou (the rematch), Herman Ngoudjo and Ricky Hatton, Malignaggi still landed at a higher rate overall (30 percent to 27) but his defensive numbers in terms of power punches slipped into negative territory. He threw 20 per round and landed 28.8 percent while his rivals attempted 33 and landed at 29 percent. Because he's easier to hit, he's easier to hurt. Though Malignaggi easily decisioned Chris Fernandez in his most recent outing, the one round he lost came after he was badly stunned.
The Solution: Skill Kills
Against brawler Michael Katsidis Diaz boxed effectively without sacrificing his output too much. Averaging nearly 67 punches per round (a shade above the divisional average of 63.7), Diaz piled up advantages of 296-149 overall, 110-39 in jabs and 186-110 in power shots while piling up percentage gaps of 20 (37-17), 20 (32-12) and 21 (41-20) respectively. Stick-and-move tactics might not work against the pure-boxer Malignaggi, but smart aggression will.
To win Malignaggi must duplicate his performance in the first N'Dou fight. He picked apart the aggressor with superb jabbing (193 of 486, 40 percent) and judicious power punching (159 of 317, 50 percent) while averaging 67 punches per round. The big question: Can "The Magic Man" recapture that magic?
Without the power to make Diaz respect him, and the fight being in Diaz's back yard, "The Baby Bull" will bulldoze Malignaggi from first bell to last. A wide decision is the most likely result, but Diaz's numbers game could garner him a late-round TKO.
Posted 12:00 AM | Aug 17, 2009
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