Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008 | 3 a.m.
There wasn’t much left for Paulie Malignaggi to say Saturday night at the MGM Grand, so instead, the New York-based fighter offered a fitting gift to the British boxer, who only minutes earlier became the first man to stop Malignaggi in 27 fights.
“Obviously I couldn’t give this to him before the fight because I didn’t want to get too friendly, but I got a couple of things here for Ricky (Hatton) and his guys,” said Malignaggi, who presented Hatton with four Blue Moon beers in honor of Hatton’s theme song titled “Blue Moon.”
“This started as a six pack but it changed hands in my entourage, and I’m still trying to find the culprits who drank the other two,” said Malignaggi, who exchanged a laugh and quick hug with Hatton after handing him the specialty beer he picked up while training in the Pocono Mountains.
Hatton — who wondered all week what it would be like to return “to the scene of the crime,” his label for the MGM, the site of his only career setback to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last December — had little to fear besides the beer in his return trip to Las Vegas.
The finely tuned Hatton (45-1), who credited his noticeable quickness and sharply tuned skills to his work with new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr., dismantled Malignaggi (25-2) from the opening bell to the roaring delight of the pro-Hatton crowd of 9,053, which offered continuous chants for the champ.
After taking considerable punishment in the late rounds, Malignaggi’s trainer, Buddy McGirt, threw in the towel 28 seconds into the 11th round of the junior welterweight title fight.
“My guy was hurting, and I wanted him to live to fight another day,” McGirt said. “I didn't want to see him get seriously injured. It only takes one shot. I'd rather him be mad at me for stopping the fight rather than getting hurt and never fighting again.”
A dejected Malignaggi initially rejected his corner’s decision, pushing away from McGirt in the ring.
“Ricky’s a terrific fighter but this goes as a knockout on my record, but it shouldn’t be. I was worse off in the Miguel Cotto fight (his only other loss) and they didn’t stop it. Why should they stop it now?” said Malignaggi, who earned a career-best $1 million payday from the event that drew slightly better than a $3.2 million gate.
Later, during the post-fight news conference, Malignaggi backed off his comments, albeit only slightly.
“I wish I could have done better for my fans. I’m disappointed. I think I’m better than getting stopped, but I’m not going to harp on it,” he said.
Hatton, who earned $2.5 million for his work Saturday, said defeating Malignaggi was more difficult than it looked.
“The best way to try to describe Paulie Malignaggi is to think about when you’re in the buff and you’re trying to catch the soap,” Hatton joked.
“I was getting frustrated in the fight because Paulie is a lot tougher fighter than you would think. I think I hurt him too early on, but slowly but surely Floyd got me back to the new me.”
As has been the case since Hatton began training with Mayweather Sr. during the past two months, the legendary ring technician has offered tough love, in addition to his praise for the Ring Magazine and IBO champ.
“He’s a real smart guy and he wants to learn. If he sticks with me and does what I tell him, you’re not going to believe he’s the same guy you saw against my son,” Mayweather Sr. said.
“He’s already way past where I thought he’d be and I think with the way he works and how much he wants it, he has a good chance to get a lot better than what you saw tonight.”
The “Hitman,” who envisions a showdown with the winner of next month’s Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao fight, welcomes the opportunity to train with Mayweather Sr. longer than the seven weeks he did for this fight.
“I was in a new camp with Floyd and I showed a lot of my new stuff in this fight. I think another training camp with Floyd Mayweather Sr. and I'll get even better,” Hatton said. “If I've got two years left then I want big fights.
If De La Hoya wins, Hatton would have to move back up to welterweight, which he said he wouldn’t do again because of the Mayweather loss.
“If I have, I don’t know, only a couple of years left at this game, what sort of a champion would I be if I turned my back on fighting someone like Oscar or Manny Pacquiao?” Hatton said.
While the talk of future fights will continue well into the next few weeks, as could the British fans’ “Walking in a Hatton Wonderland” party inside the casino on the Las Vegas Strip, a happy Hatton enthusiastically shared his excitement after slaying his own Sin City demons.
“I enjoyed this fight a lot more than the last time I was here, that’s for sure,” Hatton told his spirited fans.
“I’ll be back in Vegas in two weeks if anyone wants to buy me a Guinness.”
Andy Samuelson is a sports writer/editor for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.