Malignaggi cuts it fine
Paulie Malignaggi survived both a scare and a haircut to edge out Lovemore N'dou.
Last Updated: 02/10/08 9:02am
Paulie Malignaggi survived both a scare and a haircut to edge a split decision over Lovemore N'dou.
The IBF world-welterweight champion looked anything but the man to beat Ricky Hatton as he struggled all night long, hampered by a bizarre haircut and a happy to emerge with the belt still around his waist.
The outcome was in doubt right up to the final three rounds and although he was never going to be cheered from the rafters by Manchester's fight fans, the 114-115 116-112 116-113 decision was roundly booed.
Malignaggi came into the ring with his hair braided and it looked more than a fashion disaster as it came loose and clearly affected his sight. Still, the booming right that N'dou landed shook him to the roots and announced the challenger's intentions.
The same straight shot rocked Malignaggi before the bell, the man who calls himself Magic, hardly casting a spell of dazzling speed and footwork. His jab might have been good and sharp, but the decision to stand and trade blows, was anything but an attempt to impress the Hatton fans.
Yet workrate and intent proved decisive and even if he wasn't at his very best, the champion plugged away and made sure the judges - and the baying Hatton fans - knew he was the boss.
Even so, the Hitman will be licking his lips when he sees how easy he was to hit. N'dou crashed yet another right home in the second, content to wait for his man and unload as soon as he was in range and not leave himself open to a swift counter.
Malignaggi finally settled in the third and fourth, pressing the issue and catching the challenger with a right of his own, but only after a looping overhead right had sent his braids spinning.
It was nothing to what came in the fifth, N'dou turning to the left and rocking him with a big hook which he did well to absorb. But the New Yorker is nothing if not confident and after tying his man up he returned to dancing away, forcing the pace, yet without really producing any telling shots.
Yet all the combinations were coming from him, one in the corner at the start of the sixth suggesting he had finally warmed to the task as the Manchester temperature dropped. He ruled the ring thereafter, landing a left-right combination that seemed to keep N'dou in check.
But still the single, overhead right, caught Malignaggi flush in the seventh and the fact that this time, he decided to stay in and trade blows - landing a decent left hook of his own - suggested he was aware more than anyone, he was not having it all his own way.
The eighth saw the action stopped for the inpractical and to put it bluntly, idiotic braids to be taped up, Buddy McGirt giving his man a grilling at the same time, while N'dou tried to whip up a crowd already looking towards Hatton's imminent arrival.
Another N'dou left hook sent the hair flailing again, yet still the challenger's reluctance to put his punches together worked against him. McGirt had seen enough though, and during the break the scissors came out and the hair came off and straight away Malignaggi stepped it up - a kind of Samson in reverse.
But the ninth still didn't produce any magic and N'dou landed the crisper shots, his jab more and more evident as the round wore on. He had sparred with Floyd Mayweather in the build-up to Undefeated, so Malignaggi was never going to shock him with speed and with just five KO's on his record, was hardly likely to floor him either.
All he could do was land several shots at a time and get out before N'dou came back, but there were signs that the jab was getting through as N'dou backed off at the midway point of the 10th. It was enough to take the round but not enough to save him for an ear-bashing from McGirt.
The penultimate round saw both men tire visibly. Malignaggi held on to N'dou and pushed him back, the challenger unable to find that big single shot that had served him so well in the first half. A strong finish might just have been enough to take the session, but even so, his lead will have been the slightest heading into the final round.
Those rights though, resurfaced in the 12th, not once but twice. But N'dou's strength had deserted him and he could not keep Malignaggi off as he lurched forward, still setting the pace, albeit a stumbling one.
He had spent all week talking the talk, but in truth, did not come close to walking the walk.