Hopkins-Malignatti bet
worth a watch and play

Jun 6, 2006 6:40 AM

Ready for some split-screen action? This Saturday should have already been marked in red on your calendar because of the competing pay-per-view shows featuring some of the loudest fighters in the world.

It could also be a red-letter day for parlays.

This, in fact, might be a parlay where you don’t have to wait for one race to be finished before the next starts. If the prefight buildup — holding media conference calls at the same time — is any barometer, the two main events will start at the same time about 110 miles apart.

Down on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, in what could be the yakkity-yak contest of all time, Bernard Hopkins bids farewell by challenging Antonio Tarver for the light-heavyweight championship.

At Madison Square Garden, local loudmouth Paul Malignaggi challenges Miguel Cotto — scheduled hero of the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York the next day — for one of those junior welterweight titles.

It’s going to be tough, sitting in Las Vegas, trying to watch both at the same time, but it’ll be a lot easier than the poor folk who have to be at one or the other of the fine shows


For our purposes, the Tarver-Hopkins bout is key. I know Hopkins is 41. Most guys in his situation just cash in on their reputations and liable to take the money and sit. I don’t think the longtime middleweight king can do that, especially with Tarver vulnerable.

I like the fact that Hopkins hired Mackie Shilstone to make his body stronger for Tarver. Shilstone is the guru, who made Ozzie Smith a stronger hitter and turned Michael Spinks’ skin and bones into championship heavyweight caliber. On the other hand, Tarver was on a long sabbatical, playing opposite Sylvester Stallone in the latest Rocky movie. Word has it that he bulked himself up into a heavyweight with second and third trips on the buffet line.

I like the fact that Hopkins has also hired John David Jackson, whom he once knocked out, to help train him. John David, taking a break from training Sugar Shane Mosley, has often sparred with Tarver. Before B-Hop hired him, he told me what moves would work against the southpaw.

Tarver is no spring chicken, either. He is 37 and looking it. I thought his second fight with Glencoffe Johnson showed considerable decline from the first, even though he got the decision that time and not the first. I thought he looked almost shot in his rubber match with the faded Roy Jones Jr. Emanuel Steward, commentating on HBO, kept saying Tarver looked ready to go. I agree.

I was the first kid on my block to bet Tarver. I had him in his first two fights with Jones. I just think he’s more at the end than Hopkins, who at the very least fought two close bouts with the talented youngster Jermain Taylor (pick”˜em against Winky Wright on June 17). The odds dictate Hopkins is a good play. Tarver is -325, Bernard is +250 (which is what I cashed when he beat Felix Trinidad Jr.).


I think Malignaggi, at +350 could be a major player. He hasn’t faced anyone near Cotto’s class.But the nonstop talker from Brooklyn (the crowd figures to be evenly divided) is a nonstop slapper and mover in the ring. For a while, this is going to look like a mismatch and it will be Cotto doing most of the missing.

Malignaggi, if he has trained his body as thoroughly as his mouth, could be up to the 12 rounds of nonstop action. He will of course be hit. Cotto is a terrific puncher, a great fighter and smart boxer. If Malignaggi can absorb one or two without taking three or four, he might be worth a portion of the Hopkins winnings.

Chances are Cotto will eventually catch up to him and Malignaggi just doesn’t have enough to fight with the bigger man. It certainly will be more fun watching this fight than the slower-than-slow old men in Atlantic City.

As for me, I’m going to watch both so I can double my pleasure, if not my wallet.