There are some fights where my inadequacies seem especially clear. Take Brooklyn.
I spent the early part of my adult life trying to get out of there, but I must admit I still have some fond memories. On occasion, I have gone against my better judgment to root for someone who has also successfully managed the exodus.
Excuse me, then, for Shannon Briggs.
Paul Malignaggi is another case. Unlike Briggs, he can not punch. Unlike Briggs, he will still try even if he can’t breathe, both hands are broken and the opponent is King Kong.
Unlike Briggs, though, he is not a 5/2 underdog, but a 5/2 favorite June 16 when he will challenge Lovemore N’Dou for one of those plastic titles the alphabets use to extort money from fighters.
Yes, that Lovemore N’Dou.
Yes, Paulie will have the home-court edge because Connecticut can easily be reached from Bensonhurst. Yes, he is facing a 35-year-old champion, who will have major problems with Malignaggi’s tremendous quickness.
Yes, he is personable and would be a nice standard-bearer for American boxing. Even though he went to rival New Utrecht High (I’m a Lafayette man, just like Sandy Koufax, Larry Merchant and Vic Damone), I find myself usually rooting for him. But, if I had to bet this fight (and I don’t) I’d probably go for the take-back price of just over 2/1 on the South African-born Australian resident.
This will be Paulie’s second try at a 140-pound title. He surprised many, myself included, by going toe to toe with Miguel Cotto a year ago instead of using his superior speed, especially of foot, to box the Puerto Rican slugger. He did not come close to winning but, despite being decked in the second round, showed true grit hanging in there while being outgunned.
Afterwards, there was more hand surgery and he needed eight months off. Poor Paulie has had more hand jobs than the senior class at Ridgemont High. It may be why he has only five knockouts among his 21 victories, mostly against riff and raff. His most noteable victories were over Edner Cherry, a registered lightweight, and Donald Camarena.
Yes, that Donald Camarena. But even if he could punch, he’d have to box his way to victory against a solid pro, who went 12 closer rounds with Cotto and in 54 contests has never been stopped.
He is not defined by the fighters he beat. For example Naoufel Ben Rabah (yes, that Naoufel Ben Rabah), the Tunisian-born Australian he won his plastic belt against in February. N’Dou should be recognized for his losses against top-quality junior welterweights in three previous title shots.
He dropped a close decision to Junior Witter, another master boxer. He was competitive against Cotto and against the 2004 version of Sharmba Mitchell. The Black Panther can hit and catch. Well, the kind of catching that means taking an opponent’s best punches. The question is can he catch Malignaggi.
That’s the fight in a nutshell. Paulie needs to stay away, darting in to land his impressive combinations (impressive to the eye if not the chin) and get back out. If that happens, he might have in N’Dou the perfect foil upon which to crash upon the 140-pound stage the eyes of boxing will be on the following weekend when its ruler, Ricky Hatton, takes on former 135-pound king Jose Luis Castillo.
I think that’s likely to happen, or maybe it is what I want to happen.
If the odds were reversed, I’d be glad to back my Bensonhurst buddy. As it is, he’ll have to settle for a big hand, or two, but no money where my heart is. I have too much respect for the old pro, who could cut off the ring on Witter and Mitchell and stand up to Cotto.
NOTES: Shannon Briggs should not be allowed to trick me into believing he is nothing more than a con man. He certainly should not be welcome ever again in a major fight. Same goes for Luis Rivera, the New York judge who scored the one-sided bout only 115-113 for Sultan Ibragimov. I gave Briggs only the first round.
”¡ Please, we Americans can still proudly claim a heavyweight champion. Even if Oleg Maskaev was born in the former Soviet Union, he is a citizen of the United States. This is a land of immigrants, last time I looked.