Paulie Malignaggi, the mouth that roared in protest over a controversial loss to Juan Diaz, this time let his fists do his talking and what they said in the rematch was, I got it right again and this time the judges did, too.
Using his superior hand and foot speed and working behind an active jab, Malignaggi (24-3) kept the fight in the center of the ring and never let Diaz (35-3) -- normally a high-volume, all-action inside puncher -- get his game going. The only time Diaz seemed to get into the fight was when Malignaggi elected to stand flat-footed and exchange blows, which he said afterwards he did for the judges. "Juan was not doing anything in the early rounds so I didn't give ground because the judges don't like boxers who give ground," said Malignaggi, who won a unanimous decision, 116-111 on all three cards.
Diaz, who has been a pressure fighter throughout most of his career, never got inside, landing just 35 body blows over 12 rounds. Partly that was the result of Malignaggi out-jabbing Diaz 480-308, but a lot of the blame seemed to lie on a lack of aggression and activity on the Houston fighter's part. From the opening round to the closing one, Diaz just seemed befuddled by Malignaggi's slippery movement in the ring and his speedy hands, and never got into any kind of rhythm.
The fight was a vindication for Malignaggi of his August fight with Diaz in the Texan's hometown of Houston in which he lost a controversial unanimous decision which many felt could have gone the other way. "I gotta say I told you so," said the hyperkinetic Malignaggi to HBO's Max Kellerman after his victory. "To my critics who said I was done, I'm back!"
Malignaggi was credited with a highly-questionable knockdown in the 10th round, when replays showed he landed an illegal punch to the back of the head which pushed Diaz off balance and caused his glove to touch the ground. But the 10-8 round didn't matter because Malignaggi would have won anyway. The victory thrust the 29-year-old Malignaggi back into the top rung of the loaded junior welterweight division. His star had fallen last year when he suffered a dominating 11th round TKO loss to Ricky Hatton. In the aftermath Malignaggi blamed the defeat on the coaching of his trainer Buddy McGirt, who prefers his boxers to stand in the pocket. Malignaggi said that took away his best asset, his speed, and with a new trainer who emphasizes speed in Sherif Younan, the "Magic Man" seems to have gotten back his mojo. In the flush of victory, Malignaggi called out Juan Manuel Marquez and indicated he would love to have a rematch with Hatton. Diaz has now lost 3 of his last 5 fights and the college graduate may soon decide to follow his plans to go to law school.
In the co-feature, Victor Ortiz (25-3-1), who was heavily criticized in his last fight for seemingly quitting in his 6th round TKO loss to Marcos Rene Maidana, got back on the winning track with a TKO of 33-year-old Antonio Diaz (45-6-1). Diaz, who was never in the fight, suffered a very bad cut over his left eye in the sixth round and his corner threw in the towel after the round. It was a fight in which the 22-year-old Ortiz was never tested, so while victorious, he did nothing to erase the label that he is a quitter. That is something Ortiz will have to accomplish down the road when he faces adversity again as he did against Maidana, when he was knocked down twice.
Earlier in the day in Switzerland, heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko (39-2) had an easy time winning a unanimous decision over Kevin Johnson (22-1-1), who seemed more interested in taunting and slipping punches than throwing any. It was another pitiful performance by an American contender.