- Michael Woods, Boxing
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Last night, Paul Malignaggi went into the city, and soaked in the ambience that surrounds you when you win a world title, as he did Sunday in the Ukraine, against WBA welterweight champion Vyachesalv Senchenko. Well wishers bought him shots, and glasses were raised in his honor. But if you know the kid, you know full well he won't go into a Charlie Sheen slide, overcelebrate, show up as super middleweight in a month. It will be back to business pretty quick for the 31 year old Brooklyn-bred hitter, who will headline the boxing opening at the Barclays Center on Oct. 20. NYFightBlog wanted to know: against who?
"Devon Alexander, Kell Brook, Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales, you can fill in the blanks," he told me. "Devon makes sense, because we've had a rivalry. I know I'd be better against Khan than I was in 2010, at 147. I know the effort I had to make to make 140. We can do it again. A Cotto rematch in New York, with all the Puerto Ricans here...I'm throwing out possibilities, but a lot can change in six months." Me, I like Morales, the Mexican legend. He's 35, on the downside for certain, but can still make anyone sweat. He couldn't make 140 against Danny Garcia in his last fight, a UD12 loss in March, so maybe 147 beckons. Paulie would have to outbox him for 12 rounds, not get caught while being stalked. Good style matchup, no?
But yeah, a lot can change in six months. Paulie (31-4 with 7 KOs) is still in relish mode, enjoying the fact that he was written off by so many. Knowing that he's fought for most of his career with sawdust hands, he probably deserves more credit for even staying in the game, let alone winning another world title, than he's received. "Yeah, critics looking to take credit away from me, put a damper on the win...Most people don't win one world title. Years from now, when I'm in a cemetery, you can't take that away from me."
And props must be given for his ring acumen. Manager Anthony Catanzaro, days later, was still gleeful at the victory. "We are ecstatic with the win," he said. "It was an absolute masterpiece performance. Paulie's character, internal fortitude and skills were spot on."
Fortitude is a good word. Malignaggi was throwing right hand bombs, targeting Senchenko's puffy left eye, knowing that his hand could snap. In fact, he scouted the 32-0 champ before, and figured with his lack of head and body movement, he'd be able to land a right hand lead. That was the "trick" he said he had up his sleeve before the bout. But he knew a stoppage was preferred, because Senchenko was at home; in fact, that tactic truly paid off Buffet big, because the French judge had the Ukrainian ahead after eight rounds. As for having "pillow fists," it is likely that his lack of KOs helps him, making foes think they won't be bothered by anything he throws. "I would have had these kinds of stoppages when I fought at 140, especially early on in my career, if my hands weren't so destroyed. The no KOs look bad on paper, but I've always been able to beat people into submission. Do I have zero pop? I don't care that people say I can't punch. When I hit him in the face, I know he doesn't like it. I punch anyone they will not like it."