Paulie Malignaggi (left) agonizes over defeat as Ricky Hatton celebrates his 11th-round technical knockout Saturday night in Las Vegas. Photo / Chris Cozzone
LAS VEGAS — The new Ricky Hatton certainly looked a lot like the old “Hitman” Saturday. With a little more head movement, a little more spring in his legs, Hatton flushed away the doubters that had been building over the last few years with an 11th-round knockout of Paulie Malignaggi to retain THE RING junior welterweight championship at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Malignaggi’s corner stopped the fight 28 seconds into the 11th round, signaling to referee Kenny Bayless that “The Magic Man” had taken enough punishment. It was probably the best Hatton had looked since demolishing Kostya Tszyu in 2005.
Hatton (44-1, with 32 knockouts) was ahead 99-91 on all three judge’s scorecards when the fight ended, with Malignaggi winning only one round on each of the judges’ cards. Glenn Trowbridge gave him the fifth, Jerry Roth the fourth and Duane Ford the first. That was it; it was all Hatton the rest of the fight.
“I felt good, real good,” said Hatton, who became the first to stop Malignaggi. “I felt so good that once I connected with a punch in the second round, I felt he could go at any time. I think there was one time, I was getting ready to throw a punch and I saw some old guy in the fifth row getting ready to duck. He thought I'd send him into the seats.
“Every time I hit Malignaggi with something, it was like he was ready to go. I sat down on all my shots, and it was as if he was always falling backwards each time I connected.”
What’s next for Hatton?
There is talk of him facing the winner of the Dec. 6 welterweight showdown between Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao. If De La Hoya wins, the fight would be harder to make because Hatton wants to remain at 140. If Pacquiao wins, Hatton would welcome a meeting at that weight.
Hatton indicated that only one thing is certain: staying with new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr.
“He brought things out of me I didn’t know I had,” Hatton said. Then he stopped and did a quick tap dance. “Look,” Hatton said, “I can dance. When is the last time anyone ever saw me dance or move my head like that? Floyd made a lot of difference in how I fought and how I looked. I never felt tired. I kept pushing and pressuring, but I never felt like I put my foot completely down on the gas.”
Malignaggi (25-2, with five KOs) was outwardly disappointed that he wasn’t allowed to go the full 12 rounds but his handlers felt they had no choice.
“I had to stop it, he was taking too much abuse, and Paulie didn’t have a puncher’s chance,” said Malignaggi’s trainer, Buddy McGirt, who was told by Lou DiBella, the fighter’s promoter, to throw in the towel.
“I just couldn’t see him take any more punishment,” a teary-eyed DiBella said in the ring. “It was getting to be too much. It was 1,000-percent the right move to make.”
Hatton did what Hatton usually does, coming forward, pressuring and smothering Malignaggi in the corners and against the ropes. Malignaggi simply couldn’t keep him away.
Hatton had big rounds in the second, fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth; while Malignaggi made Hatton stumble slightly with a straight right early in the eighth, enough to make Hatton acknowledge with a knowing nod. Later in the round, Hatton buckled Malignaggi’s knees with a left hook to the jaw.
Hatton seemed to have taken a crash course in the Joe Calzaghe school of punching at times, with clubbing right hands that looked like slaps. But those rights were mixed in with concussive left hooks to the jaw and effective body punching.
Malignaggi also made Hatton miss often, and when Hatton did close in, it was Malignaggi who initiated the clinching.
Midway through the second round, Hatton staggered Malignaggi with a right cross to the jaw. Malignaggi’s legs suddenly turned to Jello and he hung for dear life the rest of the round.
“Ricky’s going to get better,” Mayweather said. “He looked really good tonight, and I was pleased, but he will get better. Believe me when I tell you that. We’ve only been together for seven weeks, wait and see when I get him for a whole training camp. If you think you’ve seen him look good tonight, watch what he does in his next fight.”
Both fighters came out cut after the first round, Malignaggi above the left eye and Hatton below his left eye. But Malignaggi might have gotten the better of the round, using his quickness and hand speed to score with volume.
“The first round scared me a little,” Hatton said. “Paulie hit me with a jab, and I felt my (left) eye swell and thought to myself, ‘this is a nice way to start things.’ But hey, it worked out well. Now I just have to hope some things work in my favor. If Oscar wins, the way he’s supposed to, we’ll see what happens. All I know is that right now, I feel great, I felt like I could have gone 15 rounds tonight. I’ll take January off, and we’ll see what happens with the holidays.”
The main under card attraction, between middleweights James Kirland and Brian vera, was an exciting, back-and-forth brawl that stirred the crowd.
Kirkland (24-0, 21 KOs) knocked down Vera (16-2, 10 KOs) twice in the second round, opening up a nasty cut on Vera’s right ear, and the Texan punished Vera to the body with straight lefts to the body in the fifth.
But Vera showed some resilience, fighting back in the fourth, and opened a cut under Kirkland’s left eye with a head butt two rounds later. But Kirkland kept coming forward and scoring with body punches near the end of the sixth.
Kirkland, a southpaw, dropped Vera a third time in the eighth with a left to the body and short right to the back of the right ear. Then, when Kirkland had Vera cornered, referee Vic Drakulich had seen enough, calling a halt at 1:45 of the eighth round.
“I feel good,” Kirkland said afterward. “I just got this head butt, but he was doing it the whole time. … I hope to do bigger and better things with Golden Boy (Promotions) in the near future.”
In a junior featherweight bout, Heriberto Ruiz (40-7-2, 24 KOs) upset Rey Bautista (26-2, 19 KOs), winning an eight-round decision.
Middleweight Matthew Hatton (35-4-1, 13 KOs), Ricky’s younger brother, scored a workman-like 10-round decision over veteran Ben Tackie (29-11-1, 17 KOs), who lost his fifth straight and should be thinking about retirement.
Also, junior featherweight Adrian Gonzalez (1-0) beat Joe Pacheco (0-4-5) in a four-round bout; welterweight Sirimongkol Singwancha (60-2, 34 KOs) won an eight-round majority decision over Rogelio Castneda (24-15-3, 8 KOs); welterweight Danny Garcia (9-0, seven KOs) remained undefeated with a six-round decision over Adan Hernandez (14-5, five KOs); lightweight Adrien Broner (4-0, three KOs) outpointed Terrance Jett (4-12-2, two KOs) over six rounds; and lightweight Hylon Williams (6-0, one KO) won a four-round decision over Ramon Flores (2-4, one KO).