Would Hatton Consider “A New York State of Mind”?

15.12.07 - By Christopher Roche: Back on June 16th Paul Malignaggi nearly blanked Lovemore N’Dou and picked up the International Boxing Federation junior welterweight title. In the post fight interview, Malignaggi predicted that Ricky Hatton would take out Jose Louis Castillo, and Malignaggi unequivocally stated that he wanted to fight Hatton next..

Seven days later, Hatton knocked out Castillo, but he baited Floyd Mayweather in the post fight interview. Legend has it that Mayweather saw this, turned to his manager and stated, “Make the F’ing Fight!” The rest was history, and Malignaggi was shutout of a huge opportunity.

Back when Hatton vs. Mayweather was still just a rumor, this writer mused that a Malignaggi vs. Hatton fight would be one of the best fights yet to be made, and given what transpired on December 8, my hunch is reaffirmed. While the Hatton vs. Mayweather event was exciting, the last two rounds caused the fight to appear like a mismatch, and even if Hatton went the distance, he would have been way behind on the cards.

Hatton’s bout with Mayweather proved that Hatton is a true junior welterweight, and his rightful place in boxing is at the top of that division, and he alluded to that in his post fight interview. Malignaggi holds a piece of the championship, and his name absolutely has to be mentioned on the short list of worthy contenders for Hatton’s de facto supremacy.

A Hatton vs. Malignaggi potential match-up has many of the classic aspects of Hatton vs. Mayweather, without the physical disadvantages that Hatton faced against Floyd. A Hatton vs. Malignaggi match has the same international flavor, and it features a slick and brash American boxer against a hard-charging British brawler.

Further, if fans thought the quotes were good from the press conferences between Mayweather and Hatton, Malignaggi and Hatton would be a viable encore. Malignaggi can talk with the best of them, and one needs only to look at the clips of his lead-up with Miguel Cotto for evidence of Malignaggi’s silver-tongued prowess. Hatton would arguably grow just as disgusted with Malignaggi’s antics as he did with Mayweather’s, and the public would have great pre-fight fodder and storylines.

As for the fight itself, the men would be evenly matched physically, and Malignaggi would of course have to answer Hatton’s pressure. Many fans, especially in the UK, might mistakenly think that Hatton would walk right through Malignaggi, but I would counter that by pointing out that Miguel Cotto did not walk through him. Malignaggi displayed a sturdy chin and steel heart in the Cotto fight, and he won several rounds and made the fight very competitive.

Since the Cotto fight, Malignaggi has aligned himself with Buddy McGirt, and he has matured greatly inside of the ring. Also, Malignaggi’s hands are healthier than ever, and he affirmed that by knocking down a hard-charging N’Dou in his last fight.

One aspect of a Malignaggi vs. Hatton bout that would be welcomed is that Malignaggi does not hold like Mayweather does. Malignaggi relies on footwork and speed as a defense. In the Mayweather bout, Hatton was constantly tied up in the early going, and the referee was on the television screen more than the fighters were. Hatton would not have that problem against Malignaggi, and he would have more opportunities to pressure Malignaggi and let his hands go. The fans would see more leather fly and thus more excitement.

While Hatton vs. Malignaggi is tops on my list, there are obstacles. For example, Malignaggi has a mandatory defense next month against Herman Ngoudjo, and he possibly has a rematch with N’Dou, because of a clause in their original contract. While nothing is a given in boxing, Malignaggi should have both of those fights in his rearview mirror by June of 2008, and he would be free for a late autumn battle with “The Hitman”.

If Hatton and Malignaggi get together sometime late next year, I selfishly vote that the fight takes place in Madison Square Garden. The event will be tremendous, and with the diminishing dollar, we would be happy to welcome the British fans back to America. Unlike Las Vegas, New York City offers America’s best restaurants, pub culture and shopping. Fifth Avenue will have plenty of Christmas bargains in store for you; just bring an extra piece of luggage to carry your souvenirs home.

Article posted on 16.12.2007

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