Paulie Malignaggi, who holds the WBA welterweight title after beating Vyacheslav Senchenko earlier this year, says that the Ukrainian won't be easy for Ricky Hatton on November 24, when Hatton returns to the ring after a three-year layoff.
Malignaggi also told The Boxing Lab that he thinks Hatton is obviously trying to set up a WBA title fight next year, hoping to beat Senchenko to show Malignaggi he's ready. He also thinks Hatton sees Malignaggi as a soft champion, after beating Malignaggi in 2008:
"It's not a coincidence that he decides to come back when the guy he beat wins a championship and then he picks the guy I dominated for his fight which shows you his lack of ring IQ. Let me tell you, Senchenko isn't an easy fight for him. I don't want to say he is stupid but it is stupidity on his part to think because I dominated Senchenko it is going to be an easy fight for him."
Malignaggi is, in fact, the last fighter Hatton has beaten to date, but it was at 140 pounds, and it was four years ago. One of the most notable and frequent topics of Hatton's comeback has been an eventual rematch with Malignaggi for the WBA title, and Paulie is more likely than not just trying to keep that conversation going; he does want the fight, without question, and it's one of the biggest paydays he could get. It's also a chance for revenge, and something he truly believes he could win.
Hatton responded briefly, and didn't make any fuss of it:
"I hadn't even announced I was coming back. All I did was lose a few pounds and he said he'd like a rematch. Believe it or not, Paulie is one of boxing's nice guys. But be careful my old foe - you might get what you wish for, champ."
Assuming Hatton wins on November 24 (far from a guarantee), I don't think there's any doubt that a Malignaggi rematch is the first big target, and the expectation is we'll see it sooner rather than later. I don't even think it matters if Hatton wins without looking good or were to get a "robbery" win against Senchenko; if that happened, they might go into the Malignaggi fight immediately instead of getting Ricky a second tune-up or whatever.