Malignaggi earns less-than-scintillating decision over Ngoudjo

Paulie Malignaggi was pushed to his limits in the first defense of his title. Tom Casino/Showtime

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Paulie Malignaggi successfully
defended his IBF junior welterweight title Saturday night,
unanimously outpointing Canada's Herman Ngoudjo at Bally's Atlantic
City Hotel Casino.

The Brooklyn fighter received scores of 117-111 from judge Al
Bennett, 116-113 from Kenny Chevalier and 115-113 from Steve

"It wasn't one of my better performances, but I felt I won the
fight," Malignaggi said. "At the end of the day, I have the heart
of a lion and if you don't knock me out, I'm going to stay here."

But it wasn't easy.

Malignaggi (24-1, 5 KOs) and Ngoudjo (16-2, 9 KOs) treated a
sellout crowd at Bally's ballroom to an exciting fight, with the
outcome in doubt until Malignaggi appeared to take control in the
later rounds.

Ngoudjo, a native of Cameroon, came forward at every opportunity
in the first half of the fight. Malignaggi tried to establish his
jab early, but Ngoudjo's aggressiveness and effective
counter-punching frequently had Malignaggi retreating with his
tattooed back pressed against the ropes.

"I actually thought he would be more aggressive," Malignaggi
said. "But he wasn't and I tried to be and wound up running into
some punches."

Ngoudjo, ignoring the chants of "Paulie! Paulie!" from the
fans, opened the seventh round with a right hand that sent sweat
and gobs of gel flying from Malignaggi's blond-streaked hair. He
rocked him again with a left and a right and eventually widened a
cut in the corner of Malignaggi's left eyelid.

"He was a worthy challenger and a good fighter," Malignaggi
said. "He buzzed me a little bit in the seventh."

Malignaggi regained command early in the second half of the
bout. His jabs became sharper and his ring movement allowed him to
dictate the pace.

Ngoudjo appeared to be tiring in the last three rounds, but
refused to wilt. The IBF's No. 1 challenger showed why he was
considered Malignaggi's top challenger. He responded to his
corner's pleas and the cheers from his tiny band of fans by
steadfastly throwing punches even when his arms began to tighten.

"I thought I won the fight, but Paulie is the champion and I
appreciated [the opportunity]," Ngoudjo said. "I thought I
controlled most of the fight, but having three U.S. judges may have
hurt me."