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Making Hatton 'heavy' favorite over Paulie justified

Nov 18, 2008 5:00 PM

Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

About 10 days before the first bell, the usual rumors were swirling around Ricky (Fat) Hatton. He was way overweight, wouldn’t be able to get down to 140 on time and his bout with slick Paulie Malignaggi scheduled for next Saturday would have to be postponed.

The English icon, the son of publicans who grew up aspiring to the boxing title of the best pint-for-pint, immediately scotched (okay, maybe Guinessed) the rumors by saying he was already down to 147 and there would be no problems with weight, thank you.

It’s no wonder Hatton is one of my favorite fighters, like Rudy Robles, a clever middleweight from Cleveland a quarter-century ago, who even would hoist a Yoo-Hoo in the dressing room before a fight, the better to wash down a chili dog. So the man likes to eat and drink – he’s still lost only one fight in his career.

And that was to Floyd Mayweather Jr., the still-retired pound-for-pound king, and that was at 147. His other start at 147, Hatton won a welterweight title but looked sluggish in outpointing Luis Collazo. As long as he can make 140, he’s still the best junior welterweight around which is why I have a strong lean toward him. However, the brave Malignaggi hails from my old Brooklyn neighborhood and is one of the nicer boxers around.

Unless Hatton truly has had problems with weight – and he’s had them a lot – I don’t believe that the -250 or so odds on him are out of whack. Truth be told, I’d rather watch Malignaggi any time than the burly Hatton, whose style is lunge, grab and rassle, whereas my landsman is cuter than a Republican vice-presidential candidate.

At 30, I don’t think Hatton’s long struggles with making weight should be catching up with him, yet. It seems more likely that, if there are to be physical problems in the Las Vegas (and HBO) ring, they will belong to Malignaggi, whose oft-injured right hand has yet to come to grips with any power.

Malignaggi busted the hand in his only loss (against 25 victories, but only by five by stoppage), which was a gutsy route-going performance at 140 to Miguel Cotto. He will be 28 next Sunday and knows that any fight, with his bad paws, could be his last.

Malignaggi has a significant reach advantage of five inches, but the shorter Hatton has shown surprisingly quick feet in his ability to cut distance and get atop his opponent. It won’t be pretty, but as long as he has the energy – there’s that weight rumor, again – he should be able to dominate the better boxer.

In his only start since being stopped by Mayweather last December, Hatton did a professional job in virtually shutting out Juan Lazcano, who is no dog. On that same May card in Manchester, England, Malignaggi struggled a bit the second time around with Lovemore N’Dou, though he deserved better than a split decision.

Even if Hatton is in prime condition, Malignaggi is in with a chance. He’s that good a technician. But even with generous buyback rates of 2-1 or more, I must side with Hatton on this one. Still, it should be close enough to warrant a view, especially since one of the many exciting young junior middleweight prospects, James Kirkland, is in the semifinal.

The night before, on Showtime from Rama, Ontario, the Canadian Kid, undefeated Steve Molitor, faces Celestino Caballero of Panama in a junior featherweight unification bout. I suspect Molitor would be a slight favorite.

I suspect Caballero will be the superior boxer here. At 5-foot-11, he is very tall for a 122-pounder and has been successful against far better opponents than Molitor has faced. But, I had Dewey in ’48.