Tale of Two Pauls

By Christopher Roche: Malignaggi falls short in his dream match. Williams looks to eventually land his. Paul Malignaggi landed his dream fight last weekend against Ricky Hatton, but after the first round, the “Magic Man” ran out of tricks and suffered the most one-sided loss of his career. Malignaggi, who only lost one other time, bounced back nicely from his gutsy defeat against Miguel Cotto, and he eventually earned the IBF Belt at 140 lbs..

Paul WilliamsAlong the way to winning the belt, Malignaggi had an incredible streak of winning about thirty straight rounds, after the Cotto fight. Malignaggi dominated Edner Cherry and Lovemore N’dou, and he was cruising in his first title defense against Herman Ngoudjo.

Then, in the middle of the Ngoudjo fight, Malignaggi “got buzzed”, as he put it, and the seventh round almost turned into disaster. Malignaggi recovered from the shots, but he barely held on to win a close decision.

In his next title defense, Malignaggi was set to have a showcase in Manchester, England, in a rematch with N’dou. Malignaggi’s showcase turned into a nightmare, as poorly planned hair extensions clouded his vision. After an in fight haircut, Malignaggi started to look a little better, but he was far from dominant.

In the end, Malignaggi eked out a close split-decision, and the champion told the audience that he broke his hand. Another hand surgery followed, but Malignaggi still did enough to retain his shot at Hatton.

Despite a promising start against the “Hitman”, the Hatton bout quickly turned sour for the brash Brooklynite. After a solid first round, Malignaggi was buzzed in the second, and it became apparent he had no answer for Hatton’s pressure. Malignaggi seemed flat-footed, and his right hand was nonexistent. He fought as if his hand was broken again, and he was content to hold Hatton during every exchange. When Buddy McGirt asked the Nevada officials to stop the fight, even the most ardent Paulie fan could not argue.

When an athlete suffers a traumatic injury, he sometimes never regains his magic. How many times have we seen an NFL running back injure a knee and never hit the hole the same way again? How many times have we seen dominant power pitchers hurt their arm and despite successful surgery or rehab, they are never be able to rear back and blow away hitters again?

Malignaggi has had four serious surgeries on his right hand. I do not think it is a coincidence that last Saturday night, he appeared tentative and stiff. He grabbed and held, and he threw his right hand sparingly. His performance did not match his talent, and his sluggishness did not reflect his energetic personality or his huge heart.

Hatton, for his part, deserves tons of credit, because his performance was excellent, but I think that a perfectly healthy Malignaggi would have been competitive and won several rounds.

Williams Makes a statement

Paul Williams took to the ring this weekend in a less than dreamy match-up against Verno Phillips. Williams has his eye on much bigger named fighters, but he is having a tough time landing the big fish. Phillips hoped to catch Williams daydreaming, but it was not to be. Williams dominated Phillips, despite suffering a nasty cut from a headbutt.

Williams’ career is on the upswing, and it was obvious from HBO’s coverage, that they are trying to make him the next big American boxing star. I have been singing Williams’ praises for a number of years now, and I was very impressed when I interviewed him. He is a kind, young, man, and he is one of the most genuine athletes I have ever spoken with. He is a dangerous fighter, and he should be appearing on the top five P4P lists soon.

Malignaggi, on the other hand, is going to have to fight his way back into the graces of the boxing public, but with an injured hand, it is going to be tough to put together a four or five fight streak. I have also interviewed Malignaggi, twice in fact, and he is as every bit as genuine as Paul Williams.

Malignaggi is a student of the game, and he is a gracious showman. If he does not make it back to the top, I look for him to make a niche for himself as a commentator or trainer, the same way that his current trainer Buddy McGirt has.

Article posted on 29.11.2008

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