For the second straight night, the boxer in a boxer/brawler match-up laid a brick as Ricky Hatton was just good old Ricky Hatton and therefore had an easy time with a version of Paulie Malignaggi who had a completely, thoroughly awful evening. It was one of the worst big fight performances I’ve seen in a long, long time.
Hatton remains the real junior welterweight (140 lbs.) champ after beating the clear #2 man in the division, who looked happy just to be there and was only pissed off from a pride standpoint when his corner threw in the towel. Hatton’s win sets up any number of potential super-fights, and if you’re interested in the health of boxing overall (as I am) you have to be happy about the prospect of one of the sport’s premier superstars matching up after this with the likes of Manny Pacquiao.
And I’m on a serious prediction losing streak as a result of Hatton’s win — for the first time in a while, I went with the underdog, and even then I biffed it. Friday night it was sharp-boxing Steve Molitor laying an egg against fellow junior featherweight (122 lbs.) titlist and brawling-oriented Celestino Caballero, and I called that one wrong, too; I’ve blown, like, five of seven or something.
Reports of a slicker-than-before Hatton were greatly exaggerated, as I saw no discernible improvement in technique as a result of Floyd Mayweather, Sr.’s addition to his corner. Hatton landed more jabs against Malignaggi than he did against Mayweather’s son last year, but I think the total number was in the vicinity of 25, which is nothing to be impressed about. Malignaggi said afterward that Hatton’s head movement was better than expected. Again, didn’t see that. Hatton said he was a little more patient, which maybe was the case. However, reports of Hatton’s weight problems appeared to be overstated, as Hatton fought his busy, bouncy, high-energy fight with no signs of lethargy.
It was Malignaggi who was remarkable. And by remarkable I mean “remarkably bad.” Truly, this was an awful performance. It might be that I’m overreacting based on my previous defense of Malignaggi, but the version of Malignaggi I have defended in the past was a tough-minded, fast, slick, stand-and-trade fighter who previously had dug deep to pull out wins when he had to even when he wasn’t at his best. This Malignaggi? Didn’t recognize him. He did hardly anything, and everything he did, he did badly. Why was he leaning down so low, creating chances for Hatton to hit him flush? Why was HE the one who kept clinching, when fighting in clinches is among Hatton’s most redeeming qualities? Why didn’t he throw his jab more often, considering how often Hatton’s face was there to be hit? Why didn’t he throw any combinations whatsoever? Honestly, this was a miserable, miserable showing, and the Malignaggi I saw Saturday night would have been given problems by the worst club fighter in America. He fought stupidly, period.
Hatton, to his credit, took advantage of it all. Some might have given the 1st round to Malignaggi, and I really only gave him the 6th because I wondered whether I should have given him the first. Other than that, Hatton pounded the inert, disinterested-seeming Malignaggi at will. He hurt Malignaggi several times, too. Between the 10th and 11th rounds, Malignaggi trainer Buddy McGirt threatened to stop the fight. In the 11th round, Malignaggi did jack shit. So McGirt stopped the fight. And Malignaggi behaved as though and stated that his pride was wounded by this. I could care less. If he had fought with any conviction at any point — any, single point — prior to the stoppage, maybe I would sympathize with him.
But he’s apparently seven figures richer, according to the HBO commentating team, as a result of having fought Hatton, and maybe that’s consolation enough. Maybe it’s also why he lacked any outward sign of hunger. Hatton still appears to have his. And now he’ll be up for yet another seven figure fight in 2009. Malignaggi may have given this fight to him, but Hatton did what he was supposed to, so he lives to fight another day as one of the sport’s elite as a result.
Next for the winner: Hatton said he’d be down to fight the winner of Oscar De La Hoya-Pacquiao. I think Hatton-Pacquiao at 140 is a very good bout that makes a lot of money for everyone involved, and so I support it. Hatton said he’d be willing to move up in weight again, but unless De La Hoya looks terrible in a win at 147, I’d say, stay put, Ricky. Hatton long ago established, and has established it repeatedly, that he’s not a full-blown welterweight. I doubt anything changes that. At 140, though, Hatton is a formidable force.
Next for the loser: Would it be too harsh to suggest retirement? Hatton was complimentary about how Malignaggi would give any 140-pounder a rough time, but for three straight fights now, Malignaggi has appeared uninspired. Malignaggi has a ton of money now. If he doesn’t care to put on a quality performance, why should he keep going? I don’t care to see anything he does until he demonstrates, for several consecutive bouts, the attitude that he displayed in his tough stand against Miguel Cotto or his incredibly skilled defeat of Lovemore N’Dou.