Cotto vs Malignaggi: Paulie Has A Shot!

10.06.06 - By Travis Marks: When it was first announced that Paulie “The Magic Man” Malignaggi was challenging undefeated Miguel Angel Cotto (26-0 22 KO’s) for the WBO version of the light welterweight championship on June 10th at the world famous Madison Square Garden, there was widespread speculation that Paulie was being “cashed out.” Many in the boxing public felt that because of the chronic problems with Malignaggi’s right hand, his promoter Lou DiBella was rushing him into a fight with a monster before he was ready. There was fear he might retire prematurely so why not give him the opportunity to fight for a world title..

Initially no one gave Malignaggi a chance in this promotion that is being billed “Westside Story” but something has happened since the announcement of the fight. Malignaggi’s chances of winning no longer look like a long shot instead there is a legitimate case that can be made for why he not only can win the fight but why he can dominate. But how did this happen?

After all Malignaggi has not fought the level that Miguel Cotto has. Although he is undefeated at 21-0 he only has 5 knockouts and that will scare no one much less a strong fighter like Cotto. Malignaggi never really had to reach down deep with the bright lights on him. In fact Paulie is best known for being a trash talker and a showboat. But all that can change with a win against Cotto. This trash talker can instantly be transformed into a prophet; a visionary who’s able to see things that most can not.

When former 140 pound phenom, Francisco “Panchito” Bojado was deemed the “next big thing” in boxing Malignaggi gained headlines by publicly bashing him claiming he was not the real deal and was overrated. Many felt it was jealousy on Paulie’s part because Bojado was fighting on HBO while he lingered off and on TV under the radar. There was talk about how great a match up would between Cotto and Bojado in the future. A few years later Malignaggi has been vindicated and it is he who is on the big stage against Cotto and Bojado is out of boxing.

While the opportunity of a lifetime is finally here for Malignaggi, he must realize that Cotto is no easy night. Cotto is one of the true gems of boxing today. He is a young bull in that he is strong at 140 pounds; his vaunted left hook to the body is one of the most feared in the sport. He is undefeated and battle tested. He has fought young prospects and former world champions as well. He has performed on an extremely high level.

However, Cotto has shown some vulnerability in his last few fights. Eyebrows were raised recently about his chin although he has only been knocked down officially one time. The knockdown came against former undefeated power puncher Ricardo Torres in their life or death battle in September of 2005. The champion showed his heart and courage as he overcame very shaky moments on his way to stopping Torres by KO in the seventh round.

Cotto also looked to be out on his feet against former WBO light welterweight champion Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley in their February 2005 bout. Cotto showed championship heart and weathered the storm en route to a disputed fifth round stoppage. Corley who had been in against the pound for pound dynamo “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather and the world class hard punching Zab Judah had never been knocked out before.

Malignaggi believes that Cotto has many weaknesses that can be exploited. Paulie concedes that Cotto has tremendous punching power but believes the champion does not possess the technical proficiency to mount an offensive attack against his superior movement. Malignaggi also believes that now that his right hand has healed that he can hurt Cotto and actually knock him out. While that sounds laughable consider the fact that Malignaggi has been hurting his sparring partners in preparation for this bout; many of whom fight in higher weight classes.

It is quite obvious that Malignaggi is confident going into this bout. It is the same confidence that current WBO and IBF super middleweight Joe Calzaghe showed before his domination of former undefeated powerhouse Jeff Lacy. While Calzaghe’s confidence was quiet and Malignaggi’s is overt they both have a dismissive tone when speaking about their opponents’ offensive prowess. Boxers always feel that they can tame punchers. A strong jab can beat a powerful puncher.

Movement is also a real key in this bout. If Malignaggi can give angles to Cotto where the champion is unable to set on his punches this Malignaggi chances of winning will increase. But he must be able to maintain his focus and stick to that type of game plan for the whole fight.

The opening rounds of this bout will tell the story as to what this fight will be about. If Cotto is able to get to Malignaggi’s body this will be a Cotto victory inside of 7 rounds. However if Malignaggi is able to stay away and show that he can take whatever lands then he can embarrass Cotto or even have a performance like the aforementioned Calzaghe.

Both men have to be performing at a high level to win the fight. They both possess the tools that can offset their respective opponents attack. This bout is a “can’t miss” for any boxing enthusiast. Whenever there is a match up win a boxer and a puncher the results can go either way. We’re in for a treat.

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Tickets for the "West Side Story" boxing card are on sale now and can be purchased at all TicketMaster outlets and TicketMaster phone (212) 307-7171, and / Prices begin at $300, $200, $100, and $50.

"West Side Story" can be seen on pay-per-view for the price of $39.95. The card begins at 9:00 pm eastern/6:00 pm pacific.

Article posted on 10.06.2006

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