Boxing

Ricky Hatton - Paul Malignaggi: Keys To Victory, Four To Explore, Fight Prediction

By Vivek Wallace: Tonight, fight fans will get a chance to watch as two of the best in the business at the 140lb jr. welterweight division square off. In his first trip back to the United States after his humbling loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr. nearly a year ago, Manchester's Ricky Hatton (44-1, 31KO's) will take on Paul Malignaggi (25-1, 5KO's) in a fight that could predict the future of both men..

Neither man has looked too well in recent matches, but tonight is an opportunity to take care of today and make a better tomorrow. With new and inspiring faces on the scene in the 140lb weight class, tonight's performance will undoubtedly help shape the landscape and give fight fans a glimpse into what that future may offer. In an effort to breakdown tonight's fight, we now analyze both men to see which has the greatest chance and which faces the longer odds when the first bell rings:

PAUL MALIGNAGGI (KEYS TO VICTORY)

For Paul, this fight basically comes down to pure execution. No one disputes the fact that Paul is the better pure boxer of the two, but how well he deals with the constant pressure of Hatton will effectively dictate the final outcome. The last time Malignaggi dealt with a fighter this aggressive it didn't end up too well as he would suffer his first and only defeat, which came at the hands Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto. Hatton is not Cotto, and certainly not as big in size, so Malignaggi will need to use this somewhat neutralized size effect to his advantage. Against a much bigger Cotto, Malignaggi was bullied, but against Hatton, Malignaggi's 5 inch reach advantage paired with slick boxing skills should help him. If Malignaggi uses his jab effectively to nullify the pressure of Hatton, he can set traps to take advantage of Hatton. As much as fight fans hate to see it, Malignaggi will need to create space early and often - saving himself from an onslaught - and pick his spots to land his shots. If Malignaggi can avoid letting Hatton rack up points by getting close and landing his combinations to the body, Malignaggi's superior boxing skills should propel him to victory. From start to finish, Malignaggi's success in this fight will all come down to how well he handles the pressure. We know he isn't a powerful fighter so standing in the pocket and mixing it up won't help his chances. Boxing with intelligence is his only chance at victory.

RICKY HATTON: (KEYS TO VICTORY)

For Hatton, there are many paths to victory but the one that will work the best for him is the same blueprint that he applied to the 44 other men who fell victim....Pressure. Hatton comes into this fight with a corner adjustment that could prove to be precisely what the doctor ordered, as Floyd Mayweather Sr. takes over the helm in place of former trainer Billy Graham. What Mayweather brings to Hatton's corner is a controlled and more skilled element to his aggression. Hatton will need to infuse his patented pressure style with his newly acquired ability to know when to assert that pressure and perhaps when to substitute it with a few jabs or trap shots. Hatton's ability to be more controlled can immensely help him for two reasons. For one, Hatton isn't known by anyone to be a pure boxer, so know one expects him to have the discipline to switch gears between aggressive pursuit and non-aggression, which if executed properly could foil an opponents gameplan immediately. Secondly, if Hatton boxes when the opportunity is there and asserts aggression when the time is right, it could immensely help him to stay fresh for the later portion of the fight rather than becoming winded and having to hug ever-so-frequently to get a blow. Hatton's powershots can make all the difference in this fight, so the true key to victory for him is to plot his way in, bang to the body frequently while setting up the headshots, and eventually wear down his far from rugged opponent. If Hatton follows this blueprint and doesn't allow himself to be outboxed from poor aggression without substance, it could be an easy night for him.

FOUR TO EXPLORE (THINGS FOR FANS TO LOOK FOR)

RICKY SHOWING TOO MUCH LOVE?: One of the major things to watch for in this fight is how much Ricky Hatton hugs and holds within the first few rounds. In the past, Hatton's conditioning (or lack thereof) was clearly visible in the way he frequently found opportunities to grapple and get a second of fresh air after going on an aggressive rampage that produced few results. If Hatton is caught holding too much early it would indicate that once again he'll have major issues down the stretch.

IS THE REF PICKING SIDES?: This deals specifically with the initial question, only here, we examine it from the referees angle. Some referees have been critical of Hatton's hugging, while others have simply turned their heads in the classic "what-are-you-talking-about-I-didn't-see-anything" demeanor. If Hatton is allowed to throw bombs and clinch when he's done every time not only will it make an ugly fight, but it could also spell a non-winning proposition for Malignaggi. How the ref handles this will be key.

TOO MUCH HEAT?: We saw what Lovemore N'Dou did with Malignaggi in their recent fight and it was no question that pressure can be a major issue. Well, N'Dou is no Hatton, and with Hatton that patented pressure may come ten-fold. How well Malignaggi adjust will be pivotal, and his ability to execute under that pressure will be equally important.

POWER-LESS?: Malignaggi's record (5 KO's in 26 fights) says all there is to say relative to his power. Trouble is for him, it'll take power - along with his boxing skills - to slow Hatton from coming in. The lack of power can be easily substituted with precise, well-timed shots that Hatton doesn't see coming because we all know the ones you don't see hurt the most. Can Malignaggi use that element of surprise with swift, well timed, and well placed shots to keep Hatton of balance? This will be a key thing to watch for.

RICKY HATTON/PAUL MALIGNAGGI: OFFICIAL PREDICTION

In the end, I expect the fight to be better than some are predicting because neither man will lay down and both will come to fight. The intriguing element to this fight is the fact that everyone sees Hatton for his power, but few have stopped to think about how Paul has dealt with power in the past. N'Dou gave him a run for his money, but neither N'Dou or Hatton are stronger than Cotto. Despite the physical damage that Paul suffered against Cotto, he fought until the end and actually outboxed the better boxer and the bigger man in spurts throughout that fight after being badly cut in the very first round. I think Malignaggi has more heart than many give him credit for, and the comments from Hatton's mouth early in the fight camp that even under Mayweather Sr. his style is "not gonna change" may ultimately be his undoing. Mayweather Sr. will be able to give him better corner advice than he's probably gotten in the last few years, but if Hatton won't make the adjustments I don't think it matters. I'm much more of a Hatton fan than I've been a Malignaggi supporter, but calling it down the middle, I think the presence of Malignaggi's jab and the reach deficiency and lack of Hatton's will make the ultimate difference tonight. Late round conditioning will be the 'hammer-to-nail' factor. As recent as yesterday I was on the fence with Hatton all the way, but after analyzing more fight footage, I can see Malignaggi outboxing Hatton to get the nod.

(MALIGNAGGI VIA CLOSE SPLIT DECISION)

(Got Questions or Feedback?: Contact ESB's Vivek Wallace at vivexemail@yahoo.com and954-292-7346, or show some love at www.myspace.com/anonymouslyinvolved)

Article posted on 21.11.2008



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