After years of watching Paulie Malignaggi come up through the ranks in the junior welterweight division, New York boxing fans had formulated their own opinions about the smart talking Italian, who likes to move around guys, pick them apart, and prefers not to get hit much. Many fight reporters gave him the benefit of the doubt coming into his challenge for Miguel Cotto's WBO junior welterweight title, saying he had a shot if he stuck to a game plan and kept a cool head. Still, many questioned his jaw and most opinions were that he would not last twelve rounds with the stronger, bigger, and more experienced Cotto.
Malignaggi proved them wrong last night in Madison Square Garden in a very emotional and gallant performance, fighting his heart out against Cotto, but coming up short by scores of 115-112 and 116-111 (twice). Despite an early cut and a swollen cheek and bloody nose, Malignaggi frustrated Cotto at times and even had him into trouble in round nine. But overall, Malignaggi had a long, hard night. He made an entrance to vicious booing from the pro-Cotto crowd, bled from the eye ue to an accidental butt in round one, suffered a flash knockdown in round two, and then the facial injuries somewhere in the middle of the fight, the once-doubted Malignaggi proved beyond doubt he was a warrior who came to win, nit just survive. Malignaggi fought the remainder of the fight with true heart. By round ten the Cotto crowd started to sway, rallying more behind the hurt Malignaggi to “stay in there.”
Malignaggi had come out uncharacteristically quiet and anxious, which affected his usually relaxed and comfortable performance. Round one was even and round eight, nine, and ten showed a temporarily more relaxed Malignaggi, which was all he needed to win those rounds. If he had fought the entire fight with the same confidence, he would have out pointed Cotto, and has all the boxing ability to do so. But for once in his career, maybe the negative press got to him and enticed him to fight more of Cotto’s fight, emotional and closer to Cotto than he should have been.
All and all it was a great fight. Cotto is a truly gifted and talented fighter, and proved the perfect test for a fighter that needed to be tested.
“With Cotto we always expect the knockout and thought it would come in round two but it didn’t. A lot of credit to Malignaggi for fighting a great and courageous fight,”said promoter Bob Arum after the fight. “I was surprised and respect him,” said Miguel Cotto. “But his magic wasn’t good enough tonight.” Malignaggi's effort was not enough to win the fight, but he proved himself to be a world-class boxer.