12-1 says we will see Hatton-Malignaggi

May 20, 2008 7:00 PM

Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz | The question before the class this week is which 140-pound champ is worth laying 12-1 money on, Ricky Hatton or Paulie Malignaggi?

That is, if anyone is wealthy enough has to lay 12-1 odds for a lark.

Personally, my choice would be Hatton, even though Malignaggi, on the same Versus (TV) card from Manchester, England, has already routed his challenger, 36-year-old Lovemore N’dou.

The 140-pound division (junior welterweight, or super lightweight if you prefer) just witnessed a major upset with Timothy Bradley toppling 6-1 or 7-1 favorite Junior Witter. But I suspect Juan Lazcano, the Hispanic Causing Panic, will not be able to duplicate Bradley’s feat in traveling to England to upset a hometown hero.

In Hatton, the Sacramento-based Mexican is facing a lot bigger challenge than Bradley did.

Witter was reputed to be at least the second-best 140-pounder behind Hatton, who has been the "linear" division ruler since dethroning Kostya Tszyu three years ago. Witter’s claim was that his fellow Englishman, Hatton, was ducking him. But against the comparatively neophyte Bradley, Witter reinforced Hatton’s claim that "Junior is just a boil on my arse."

In a word, he was dreadful.

Lazcano has significant advantages over Hatton in both height (5-foot-9 to 5-6 ½) and reach (72 inches to 65), but perhaps his most significant edge in this fight that will set a boxing record for greatest crowd in Britain (55,000 at the City of Manchester Stadium) is historic.

Hatton, 43-1 with 31 knockouts, but is coming off his first loss, a battering by Floyd Mayweather Jr. last Dec. 8. "Some fighters," he said, "get knocked out and are never the same." He said that was why he took camp so seriously.

However, his camp was interrupted by a chest virus that caused him to shut down for a few days. He says that it happened "weeks ago, not in the last few days," and thus should not be any worry. I’m not worried.

I’m not betting on him.

But I’m certainly not taking the buy-back rate of 7-1 or so on Lazcano, who has a 32-4-1 record with 27 KO’s, but has not done well when stepping up. Lazcano took a long vacation after his last fight, 15 months ago, when he was outpointed by then titlist Vivian Harris, who subsequently was routed in seven rounds by Witter.

Lazcano beats the Ben Tackies and Courtney Burtons, but when trying someone like Jose Luis Castillo usually fails. He’s 33 now (Hatton is 29) and if you go back far enough on his past performances you will see many victories over former champions like Stevie Johnston, Jesse James Leija (actually, I thought Leija was robbed in that one), John John Molina and even Wilfred Vasquez.

Lazcano is not chopped liver, but I don’t think he’s anything like foie gras, either. He should be competitive for a while, but I expect Hatton – spurred on by his loud fans – to wear him down.

The semifinal is an infomercial for what is expected, if chalk holds up, to be a Hatton-Malignaggi showdown in the fall. Malignaggi, the Magic Man from Brooklyn who has only five knockouts on his 24-1 record, has already dominated N’dou.

Less than a year ago, he beat his mandatory challenger, a South African native who lives in Australia, by official scores of 120-106 (twice) and 118-108. Why the IBF would order a rematch is beyond belief!

N’dou is 36 now, but here is why I think Hatton is probably a safer bet than Malignaggi. Paulie can’t punch which means N’dou, who has never been stopped, will be around for all 12 rounds, barring cuts.

Back in his day, N’dou was a dangerous fighter. He went the distance in competitive fights in 2005 and 2006 with Witter and, more importantly, Miguel Cotto – the only man to have beaten Malignaggi.

Frankly, that loss to Cotto was perhaps Malignaggi’s finest performance. He too went the distance, absorbing a battering but still fighting back with wounded paws, against one of boxing’s best.

I don’t see any upsets next Saturday, but I still thank Versus for televising the doubleheader – and not because I want to hear drunken Mancurians sing "Walking in a Hatton Wonderland."