Malignaggi promises weekend fireworks
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


New York, NY (Sports Network) - Ricky Hatton is what he is.

And unless Floyd Mayweather Sr.'s work with him in training camp was on the level of Creed-Balboa in Rocky III, he'll not veer too far from script in Las Vegas.

Which makes Paul Malignaggi the real X factor come Saturday night.

Aside from the same frilly trunks, tasseled shoes and presumably less-obtrusive dreadlocks this time around, it'll be the brash Brooklynite in the role of in-ring variable at the MGM Grand.

If, as some contend, he's simply a loudmouth with a flashy gimmick and little substance, expect Hatton to decisively walk away with his IBO 140-pound hardware intact.

But if he's something more than theatrics... well, the HBO broadcast just got a touch more interesting.

Needless to say, Malignaggi's got his own opinion.

"All I know is Saturday night, I am going to beat his ass," he said during Wednesday's final pre-fight press conference. "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face ... He'll use his plan until I punch him in his."


Paul Malignaggi will
sqaure off with Ricky
Hatton Saturday night.
Love the "Magic Man" or hate him, evidence exists for either viewpoint.

His emphasis on appearance and paltry stoppage rate -- five KOs in 25 wins -- is eerily reminiscent of Hector Camacho, the New York-based Puerto Rican who won three world titles but retreated to survival mode in losses to Julio Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya.

Conversely, Malignaggi displayed gumption to spare in his lone pro defeat, climbing off the canvas in round two and reportedly enduring both a fractured eye socket and a broken jaw in a 12-round decision loss to Miguel Cotto, while still winning four rounds on two cards and five on one.

"People don't give this kid credit for how tough he is," promoter Lou DiBella said. "He went 12 rounds with a big, strong guy in Cotto and he was still pretty competitive, even with a busted-up face. A lot of guys would have quit and come back another day, but he kept on going."

Another gritty testimonial came in May.

Making what turned out to be the final defense of his IBF title -- he relinquished the belt to fast-track the Hatton fight -- Malignaggi endured yet another in a series of painful hand injuries in round two of what ended as a split-decision verdict over challenger Lovemore N'Dou.

Subsequent X-rays revealed a break of the right middle metacarpal and set up his fourth surgical procedure on the hand, which had already sustained myriad fractures and tendon tears since he graduated from the amateur ranks with a KO of Thadeus Parker in July 2001.

Rest assured, though, that both the hand and voice are 100 percent for the weekend.

"At the end of the day, a punch is a punch," he said. "And even if I'm not knocking guys out, I must be hitting them sharply enough to keep them from walking right through me. I've earned their respect."

* * * * * *

One night earlier and three time zones east, the little men take center stage.

In the first title unification bout broadcast on Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" and staged on Canadian soil, the 122-pound belts held by Steve Molitor and Celestino Caballero will be up for grabs at Casino Rama, about 100 miles north of Toronto.

Nicknamed the "Canadian Kid," Molitor brings a pristine 28-0 record and the IBF title to the matchup, while Caballero -- who stands a Goliath-like 5- foot-11 -- is unbeaten in four years and intends to make the sixth successful defense of his WBA jewelry.

"Molitor is a great world champion, but he has to prove it," Caballero said. "Molitor has never fought a real man before. All these guys that he's fought -- 3K Battery, (Takalani) N'Dlovu, (Ricardo) Castillo, (Fernando) Beltran, are not in my league. I'm a real man."

Molitor, who traveled to Europe to win a vacant title from previously unbeaten Michael Hunter, has since made five successful defenses of his own, all at Casino Rama.

He made news earlier this year with a would-be defection to U.S.-based promoter Murad Muhammad, but has since mended fences with fellow Canadian Allan Tremblay and is heading into fight No. 2 under the guidance of new trainer Stephane Larouche.

"Steve is 100 percent ready and prepared, but that's normal for him. He's constantly ready," Larouche said. "With Steve on Friday night, you'll see the difference between a runner and a slick boxer.

"Caballero is strong, big, awkward and has a lot of tools, but Steve will be on both of Caballero's arms, showing him different angles with his slick style. It's going to be a great fight."

* * * * * *

This week's title-fight capsules:

Friday

IBF junior featherweight/WBA super bantamweight titles -- Rama, Ont. Steve Molitor (IBF champion) vs. Celestino Caballero (WBA champion) Molitor (28-0, 11 KO): Sixth title defense; 22-0 on Canadian soil Caballero (30-2, 21 KO): Sixth title defense; 11-0 since last loss in 2004 FitzHitz says: Molitor by decision

IBO strawweight title -- East London, South Africa Nkosinathi Joyi (champion, IBO No. 10) vs. Lorenzo Trejo (IBO No. 24) Joyi (18-0, 14 KO): Won six straight bouts by stoppage; third title defense Trejo (30-16-1, 17 KO): Winless in three world title shots; 4-3-1 in last eight bouts FitzHitz says: Joyi in 7

Saturday

IBO light welterweight title -- Las Vegas, Nev. Ricky Hatton (champion, No. 1 IBO) vs. Paul Malignaggi (No. 8 IBO) Hatton (44-1, 31 KO): Unbeaten in 32 fights -- 32-0, 26 KO -- at 140-pound limit Malignaggi (25-1, 5 KO): Former two-defense IBF belt-holder at 140 FitzHitz says: Malignaggi by decision

WBA light heavyweight title -- Rostock, Germany Hugo Hernan Garay (champion) vs. Juergen Braehmer (No. 1 challenger) Garay (31-3, 17 KO): First title defense; lost two previous title bouts in Germany Braehmer (31-1, 25 KO): Never fought outside of Germany; avenged lone career loss FitzHitz says: Braehmer by decision

Thursday

WBC strawweight title -- Phitsanulok, Thailand Oleydong Sithsamerchai (champion) vs. Pornsawan Kratingdaenggym (No. 1 challenger) Sithsamerchai (28-0, 12 KO): Second title defense; turned pro at age 17 Kratingdaenggym (21-1, 16 KO): Lost WBO title try in 2007; won all 20 fights in Thailand FitzHitz says: Kratingdaenggym by decision

Last week's record: 2-0

Overall picks record: 41-14

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides "In The Ring" commentary for Cold Hard Sports on MVN (coldhardsports.com), is a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.
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