Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Principals: Ricky Hatton (44-1, 31 KOs) vs. Paulie Malignaggi (25-1, 5 KOs)
Stakes: IBO and Ring Magazine junior welterweight championship, 12 scheduled rounds
Time/site: Today at the MGM Grand Garden Arena; doors open at 3 p.m.; first bout, 3:15 p.m.; TV broadcast starts at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $150 to $1,000, mgmgrand.com
TV: HBO (Cox cable channel 200)
Referee: Kenny Bayless
Judges: Jerry Roth, Duane Ford, Glenn Trowbridge
Co-feature: James Kirkland (23-0, 20 KOs) vs. Brian Vera (16-1, 10 KOs), 10 rounds, middleweights
Undercard: Matthew Hatton (34-4-1, 13 KOs) vs. Ben Tackie (29-10-1, 17 KOs), 10 rounds, welterweights; Rey Bautista (26-1, 19 KOs) vs. Heriberto Ruiz (39-7-2, 23 KOs), 10 rounds, junior featherweights; Sirimongkol Singwancha (59-2, 34 KOs) vs. Rogelio Castaneda (24-14-3, 8 KOs), 8 rounds, welterweights; Danny Oscar Garcia (8-0, 7 KOs) vs. Adan Hernandez (14-5, 5 KOs), 6 rounds, junior welterweights; Hylon Williams (5-0, 1 KO) vs. Ramon Flores (2-3, 1 KO), 6 rounds, lightweights; Adrien Broner (3-0, 3 KOs) vs. Terrance Jett (4-11-2, 2 KOs), 6 rounds, lightweights; Adrian Gonzalez (pro debut) vs. TBA, 4 rounds, junior featherweights
Betting line: Hatton minus 260 (subject to change)
1. Top two
Although only a minor championship belt and Ring Magazine’s title are stake, tonight’s fight matches the two men widely acknowledged as the best 140-pounders in boxing. Ricky Hatton hooked up with a new trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., in an effort to improve on several recent performances in the ring that Hatton called lackluster. Hatton has been fine-tuning his technical boxing skills to complement his vaunted aggression. “I’ve been working on new things,” Hatton said. “If you don’t work on new things in the gym, you’re not going to do them in the fight. You’re going to see the best Ricky Hatton, and I need to be, because I’m fighting my nearest rival in the division.”
2. Ruiz redux?
More than once in the buildup to the fight, Paulie Malignaggi invoked the name of heavyweight John Ruiz in making a comparison to Hatton’s style. Whether it’s fair or not, that’s meant as an insult, shorthand for a boxer who clinches, grabs and holds his way through a fight. Malignaggi welcomed the news that Hatton is working on new techniques. “That means Ricky left his wrestling tights at home,” Malignaggi said. “You don’t need to bring the steel cage for a steel cage match with suplexes and piledrivers. We’re actually going to be boxing. That’s what I’m anticipating.”
3. Clash of styles
Malignaggi, 27, of Brooklyn, N.Y., has lost only once, to Miguel Cotto in 2006 at Madison Square Garden. He has won four in a row since, including a decision against Lovemore N’dou in an IBF world title fight in May in Hatton’s hometown of Manchester, England. Hatton beat Juan Lazcano on the same card. Malignaggi has only five knockouts in his pro career, though his promoter Lou DiBella warned against giving that number too much weight. “People get caught up in looking at his knockout percentage and fail to realize what a pure fighter he is, what a beautiful boxer he is,” DiBella said. “He’s tremendously skilled and it’s the worst possible style for Ricky.”
4. ‘Like the wind’
It’s not so much Malignaggi’s lack of power that makes Hatton a decided favorite, according to Mayweather Sr. “It’s his lack of everything,” Mayweather said. “I can’t say nothing great about him. You know what Paulie Malignaggi has? He can run. If you’re fighting, I’d call that a weakness ... What if he hits Ricky? It’s not like a knot’s going to swell up on his head. He ain’t no threat. It’s like the wind flying past.”
5. Pivotal fight
Hatton, 30, has never lost at junior welterweight, with his lone defeat coming to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a 147-pound fight in December at the MGM Grand. Even so, a victory against Malignaggi is essential for Hatton not only to please the thousands of British boxing fans who travel with him, but also to cement his position as a world-class fighter in the division. “Ricky has a lot on the line in this fight,” Malignaggi said. “I’m gonna beat him Saturday night. Wherever he goes after that is his option, his prerogative ... He better be ready to prove his boxing ability. I’m very sharp. I’m very fast. The combinations are working. If he’s not slick, he’s going to be in trouble.”