Paul Malignaggi: All Magic, No Tricks

By Michael Gonzalez


Paul Malignaggi: All Magic, No Tricks

The “Magic Man” Paulie Malignaggi lifted Lovemore N’Dou’s IBF junior welterweight trinket this past Saturday after clearly winning a tough, physical bout.  Malignaggi nullified N’dou’s pressure and strength with nimble footwork and slippery upper body movement.  Most important was a quick and constant jab usually followed by speedy, accurate punches in combination.  The “Magic Man” was able to jab and circle while picking spots to exploit his speed.  Although a tough fight, it seemed Malignaggi saw everything that N’Dou was offering, and the punches he did take he was able to absorb while remaining composed. 

The punishing twelve round decision loss to Miguel Cotto last year prepared Malignaggi well for this fight and his career. In that fight he not only faced a beast in the form of Miguel Cotto, but also the brazen comments he had made of himself to anyone who would listen.  Add to that that the match took place in the Brooklynite’s backyard in a Cotto partisan Madison Square Garden as the main event of a pay per view card.  I looked forward to seeing Cotto demolish what I had filed in my memory as a Gotti brother look-alike who ran his mouth and couldn’t crack an egg – another brash boxer from Brooklyn who hadn’t been exposed. 

Malignaggi did not wilt against Cotto or the pressure he had created for himself, fighting bravely for the twelve hard rounds, even through a broken and bloody face.  He just didn’t have enough, though not due to lack of heart, to keep Cotto off of him.  In the post fight interview he humbly praised Miguel Cotto, proudly displaying his mutilated face with a, “I lost but I told you I was tough” aura about him. He proved to everyone, and himself, that he could compete with top shelf guys. The battle brought out a likeable version of Malignaggi.  He no longer talked about himself as a child trying to convince his parents that a monster was hiding in his closet, now the monster was clearly displayed, albeit a monster pecks away at an opponent while being chased for twelve rounds.  He talked the talk and walked the walk against Cotto in defeat and especially against N’Dou in victory.  Even came off as genuine and sincere in admitting in a post fight interview that even he was surprised he was able to drop N’Dou in the ninth.     

Though Malignaggi does headhunt a bit, reminding me of a Muhammad Ali quote from an A.J. Liebling essay, “Keep punching at a man’s head, and it mixes his mind.”  It should serve Malignaggi well as his speed and accuracy pose problems for his opponents, not his power.  He has now been calling out Ricky Hatton, who has a tough assignment this weekend against Jose Luis Castillo.  If he has trouble securing that fight, a bout with Zab Judah (if he can get back down to 140) at Madison Square Garden would be a good scrap between the two Brooklynites.