Monday, March 21, 2011
Paulie Malignaggi to face Jose Cotto
By Dan Rafael
Former junior welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi has lost to one member of the Cotto family and will now try to even the score when he faces another.
Malignaggi, now fighting as a welterweight, will fight Puerto Rico's Jose Cotto in a scheduled 10-rounder on April 9 (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the televised undercard of the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana main event.
"I think it's a good opportunity. It's a logical next step up in level of opponent for me at welterweight," Malignaggi told ESPN.com on Monday night. "It's a great opportunity to be showcased on a card like this. It'll give me some good TV exposure. I'm very happy with the progress I'm making and this is the next step to get back up the ladder. It's a good fight for me. Las Vegas, MGM Grand, HBO PPV. I'm excited. How could I not be?"
In 2006, almost a year to the day before Malignaggi won a junior welterweight belt, he challenged Miguel Cotto, a 140-pound titleholder at the time, and lost a unanimous decision. Cotto doled out a beating to Malignaggi, breaking his orbital bone, but was unable to stop him.
Now Malignaggi will be facing his older brother.
The 33-year-old Jose Miguel Cotto (32-2-1, 24 KOs) was stopped in the ninth round by Saul Alvarez, whom he had badly hurt with a left hook in the first round, on the Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley undercard at the MGM Grand last May. Cotto returned to stop Christopher Henry in the fourth round in November.
"Cotto is an action fighter. He comes to fight, he comes forward," Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said. "This is a big opportunity for him to be in Las Vegas and on pay-per-view again against Paulie Malignaggi. He feels it is a very winnable fight and he is convinced he will win. For Malignaggi, he's been a champion at 140 pounds. Now he wants to make a name for himself at 147."
Malignaggi, 30, a New Yorker now living in Los Angeles, said revenge on the Cotto family is not really on his mind.
"I really don't think about that too much, but I guess when you do think about it, that factors into it," Malignaggi said. "I fought Miguel Cotto, now I'm fighting Jose Miguel Cotto. They're brothers, but I fought the better Cotto back in 2006. But having fought a Cotto, I know you have to come prepared. Jose Miguel Cotto may not have the resume of his brother, but he's a good fighter. Both of his losses (to Alvarez and a lightweight title bout to Juan Diaz in 2006) came to name fighters. Both of our records have losses that have come only to name fighters. He's always solid, always gives his best. But he's a guy, if I am going to make my way back up the boxing ladder, he's a guy I'm supposed to beat. He's a guy I should beat pretty handily. I shouldn't have a competitive fight with Jose Miguel Cotto in my eyes."
After Malignaggi (28-4, 6 KOs) was stopped by junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan in the 11th round last May, he signed with Golden Boy and moved up to welterweight, where he knocked out Michael Lozada in the sixth round on Dec. 18 on the Jean Pascal-Bernard Hopkins undercard in Quebec City.
"Following his loss to Khan, Paulie wanted to move up to welterweight. He felt it was time to see what he can do at 147 pounds," Schaefer said. "He's a very talented fighter. He's a very good boxer, but not known as a knockout puncher. But to move up to 147 and the first guy he fights, he not only wins, he knocks him out. I have to say I was pretty impressed. It was a great first impression at 147 and first impressions count. I was impressed with that performance. So here he goes again at 147 against Cotto, a fighter who [Alvarez] had a little bit of trouble with."
Malignaggi-Cotto was added to the card to take the place of the middleweight fight that had been scheduled between Winky Wright and Matthew Macklin. That fight was canceled when Wright recently withdrew because of a hand injury. Golden Boy moved Macklin to Khan's undercard on April 16 and matched him with Khoren Gevor.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.