Fight fans, perhaps more than fans of any other sport, love a debate – even if there can never, ever be one definitive answer to the argument. And former world champ Paulie Malignaggi has surely started a debate with his stated opinion that, out of Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, Khan goes down as the better fighter.
Malignaggi – who is matching his ring accomplishments with the talent he is showing for commentary – spoke with Mail Online and the man who fought both Hatton and Khan (losing to both via 11th-round stoppage, the Hatton loss being a corner retirement decision) gave his arguments for ranking Khan above Hatton.
“On a skill basis, what I saw from both guys, Amir was a lot more difficult to deal with,” Paulie said. “You’ve also got to understand Amir came to America a lot sooner than Ricky did, so Amir racked up a couple of losses. Once you come to America you’re fighting top fighters; you’re going to have to fight constant monsters. There’ll never be a right or wrong answer because they’re never going to fight, but for me Amir was the best.”
Of course, Khan is still fighting, and already planning further big fights with the likes of Danny Garcia, Miguel Cotto and maybe Kell Brook. If Khan were to go on to win any of these fights, a revenge win over Garcia especially, his resume would climb even further. So maybe in an interest of fairness we must wait until Khan is retired before we start comparing him to a retired fighter, who can no longer add to his own legacy.
But at the same time, it’s tough to argue with Malignaggi. Hatton achieved plenty – his fan base was something extraordinary, this being Hatton’s own proudest achievement – but Khan has already achieved more. An Olympic silver medal winner at age 17, Khan has won world titles in one division (to the two weight classes Hatton conquered, if briefly) but he has met so many great names; beating plenty of them. Amongst those fighters Khan has beaten: Zab Judah, Andriy Kotelnik, Marco Antonio Barrera (faded, yes, but not shot), Malignaggi, Devon Alexander, Luis Collazo and, most impressively, Marcos Maidana.
Hatton beat an ageing (though still formidable) Kostya Tszyu, Malignaggi, Collazo (barely, by controversial decision) and a close-to-finished Jose Luis Castillo. Put together side by side, for the basis of this debate, the respective resumes of the two men are around 65-35 in Khan’s favour. In terms of losses, Khan has been beaten by Breidis Prescott (in what many have called a basic fluke on the part of the Colombian, one he would never have repeated if given the chance), Lamont Peterson (a hugely controversial loss for more than a couple of reasons), Garcia, and the much bigger Canelo Alvarez.
Hatton was stopped by Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao (a KO almost as devastating as the one Khan suffered on Saturday, perhaps even more so) and, at the very end of his career, Vyacheslav Senchenko. In truth, neither Hatton nor Khan suffered any defeats to be ashamed of (barring, arguably, Khan’s shock loss to Prescott; where both he and his team should have done their pre-fight homework) – both men simply went after the biggest and best and took their chances accordingly.
It makes for a great Dream Fight, with Hatton and Khan rumbling at 140-pounds, but whatever result you see there, Malignaggi has to be agreed with. Khan has to be rated as an overall better fighter than Hatton. Just.