Malignaggi ready to become champ, Dirrell-Stevens talk it up!

By George Kimball


Malignaggi ready to become champ, Dirrell-Stevens talk it up!

A year after Miguel Cotto had put him in the hospital, Paulie Malignaggi was a spectator Saturday night to watch the WBA welterweight champion break down, and eventually stop, another Brooklyn fighter.

“Zab (Judah) was telling people before the Cotto fight ‘I ain’t no Paulie Malignaggi,’” said the Magic Man.

“Well, he was right. He wasn’t Paulie Malignaggi.”

Unlike Judah, Malignaggi went the distance with Cotto – though he paid a terrible price for his bravery.

Three years ago in Las Vegas, Lovemore N’dou also went 12 rounds with Cotto, which makes next Saturday night’s combatants members of a very small club: Since 2003 Cotto is 13-0 in fights scheduled for the championship distance. N’dou and Malignaggi were the only two opponents still around to hear the final bell.

But, warned N’dou, it could be a mistake to use their respective performances against Cotto in attempting to analyze Saturday night’s matchup at the Mohegan Sun.

“It has nothing to do with how will will fight one another,” said the 35 year-old IBF junior lightweight champion, a transplanted South African who has been domiciled in Australia for the past dozen years.

N’dou and Malignaggi, along with super-middleweights Andre Dirrell and Curtis Stevens, who will battle on the undercard, were at Gallagher’s to meet with the media Wednesday, three days before Saturday’s title fight in Uncasville, which will be nationally televised in two nations – domestically, by HBO, and in Australia, by SKY.

Lovemore arrived outfitted in a white suit topped off by a matching white Panama that made him look like an extra from “Fantasy Island.”

At an earlier press conference N’dou, who obviously hadn’t shared a dais with Malignaggi before, suggested that the challenger was ‘scared,’ “because he talks so much.”

Anyone familiar with Malignaggi could have disabused him of that notion. Paulie doesn’t shoot off his mouth because he’s scared. He shoots off his mouth because he’s Paulie Malignaggi.

“If you really believe that, then you must be the most scared guy who ever put on a pair of boxing gloves,” Malignaggi told Lovemore Wednesday, “because you talk even more than I do.”

N’dou has had 53 fights all over the globe, but it wasn’t until his last one that he won a world title, stopping Tunisian Naoufel Ben Rabah after 11 in Sydney. His resume includes eight losses, but, like Malignaggi, he has never been stopped, and Saturday’s matchup makes for an interesting contrast of styles.

“I expect he’ll be aggressive and try to rough me up and make me lose my focus,” said Malignaggi, “but then it seems like everybody I fight tries to do that.”

Malignaggi has watched tapes of N’dou’s win over Ben Rabath, as well as his earlier losses to Sharmba Mitchell and Judah.

”The one I really wanted to see was his fight against Junior Witter, but I wasn’t able to chase down the DVD,” said Paulie. “There’s no one I’ve fought who really resembles him, but I guess Ramiro Cano comes closest.

“Cano was a southpaw, unlike N’dou – although N’dou will switch up,” said Malignaggi. “He tried to pressure me, cut off the ring, and he stalked me the whole fight. I won the decision easy enough, but it wasn’t pretty, and this one might not be, either. I expect something similar from N’dou.”

Malignaggi, who has stopped just five of his 23 pro opponents, can’t break an egg, but when he warns that N’dou “has never faced anyone with my speed,” he’s not just blowing smoke. (Mitchell probably came closest, and he gave Lovemore fits.)  Speed can be a great equalizer in fights like this one, particularly when one of the contestants is 35, and you have to like Paulie’s chances.

But the safest bet in the house is that this one goes twelve.


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