Magic Men Will Use Different Tricks for the Same Illusion

10.06.06 - By: Troy Ondrizek: Paul Malignaggi and Antonio Tarver both feel that “Magic Man” is the moniker that best suits their skills. Well both men are going to need a little magic in order to be victorious come Saturday night. Malignaggi is getting his first shot at a world title against the devastating puncher and WBO Light Welterweight champion Miguel Cotto. In the other over-priced PPV, stands Antonio Tarver the current Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight champion is putting his title on the line against “The Executioner” that is trying to cheat father time, Bernard Hopkins.. Malignaggi and Tarver are playing opposite roles this weekend, with one being the challenger, and the other trying to defend his title. Plus Tarver and Malignaggi are the polar opposite fighters in regards to style, it will be Paul trying to avoid the crippling body shots of Cotto, and trying to out-savvy the champion and box his way to victory; meanwhile, Tarver will be the one trying to land the big shots to stop the slicker fighter in Hopkins from snuffing out Antonio’s reign on top. The one thing for me that both Malignaggi and Tarver have in common besides their lofty nick names is the fact that I believe both men will be victorious Saturday night, and both men will utilize two totally different skill sets to achieve the same illusion, champion.

Now that Malignaggi is the challenger, we’ll break down his path to holding a trinket first. Not much has ever been spoken of Malignaggi until he appeared on ESPN back in February and completely and utterly dominated Donald Camarena that night. Thing is though, Camarena isn’t exactly on par with neither Cotto nor Cotto’s opposition. In fact none of Malignaggi’s victories have been over anyone considered better than a prospect or journeyman. Miguel on the other hand has made some quality fighters surrender or he didn’t offer them such mercy and Cotto just rendered them unconscious. Not only has Cotto been such a heartless aggressor who feels no remorse when he denies opponent after opponent the luxury of the judges telling them they have loss, but Cotto has been labeled by many as the man who can stop Floyd Mayweather Jr. That is a lofty assumption indeed, and I am still teetering on either side of that argument. I think Cotto has a better chance against Mayweather than he does against Malignaggi. Let me tell you why before you jump to conclusions and no I don’t think that Malignaggi is better than Mayweather nor could Malignaggi even hold Mayweather’s jock strap. I feel that Malignaggi is a total style challenge for Cotto. Paulie is a fast fighter who uses his blazing speed and spectacular footwork to get in and out of his opponents and once he hits his opponent, Malignaggi moves out of countering position before the other fighter can fire back. It is these skills that more than adequately make up for Malignaggi’s feeble punching power. Another asset for Malignaggi is his ability to frustrate and humiliate his opponents and defeat them mentally before he does it physically. Now I don’t feel that Cotto is buying into the pre-fight trash-talking that Malignaggi has been spewing, but Malignaggi’s bravado and difficult speed will frustrate Cotto once in the ring. Cotto, if given the opportunity would wail away at Malignaggi, but I just don’t see Paul slowing down enough to have the formidable punching, but lacking in speed Cotto, be able to catch up and stop him. Now for the Mayweather statement earlier, Floyd is a fighter, Malignaggi isn’t; Pretty boy is willing and able to stand and trade with opponents at times during his bouts, and isn’t going to run from anybody. It is that point and only that reason that I see Cotto having a chance against Mayweather, but as for Malignaggi, I see the Magic Man turning into the running man against Cotto and using his speed and pot shots to unimpressively take Cotto’s belt away from him.

Tarver is trying to make a name for himself by taking out old, past their prime greats. Tarver put Roy Jones Jr. on the fast track to the land of dementia and Bernard Hopkins is looking to save some face after his controversial and absolutely boring losses to Jermain Taylor. Hopkins has always been able to hang in with the powerful men of the middleweight division because in part Hopkins was apart of their fraternity. However, fifteen pounds of muscle is a difficult obstacle to overcome. There is no doubt that Hopkins is the better boxer and is an unrivaled ring general that should give Tarver fits. Just like Malignaggi will use his boxing skills to overcome Cotto’s power, Tarver will utilize his devastating straight left and its inherent power to neutralize Hopkins pugilistic superiority. Hopkins will control the pace early and Tarver will look to counter the aging and slowing Hopkins, but Tarver will not find success early. Tarver will eventually catch Bernard on the ropes and will due some damage, and will catch up with Hopkins late and in the championship rounds when Hopkins likes to turn the pressure on his opponents, but this time it will result in a KO loss for Hopkins. For as talented as Hopkins is, and as old as Tarver is as well, Tarver is just naturally bigger and stronger. Tarver will hopefully look to give someone like Zsolt Erdei or Thomasz Adamek a crack at him after his victory over Hopkins, but this fight will not be a defining moment for either Hopkins or Tarver.

Now Tarver and Malignaggi are two brash and arrogant, I mean confident fighters. As much as people dislike men like them, the sport needs fighters with personalities like Antonio and Paul. The sport needs them just as much as it needs the humble respectful fighters like Lamon Brewster and B.J. Flores. On Saturday night the self-promotion and pompousness of Malignaggi and Tarver will be actuated by their distinctly different but effective approach to their victories. I say the “Magic Men” will deliver two performances reminiscent of you local high-school nerd who wanted to be a magician, but the effects on their careers will be magical.

Article posted on 10.06.2006

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