Paulie Malignaggi is back on the map. After losing badly to Amir Khan in his last fight at junior welterweight in 2010, Malignaggi spent the next year or so adjusting to the welterweight division, his wins not catching anyone's eye, before going to Ukraine on Sunday and beating the hell out of Vyacheslav Senchenko to win the WBA title. I admit I absolutely did not expect the fight to go that way, and didn't expect to be writing this stuff in the rankings update. But here we are. What's expected never matters as much as what happens.
Malignaggi (31-4, 7 KO) is in at No. 9, taking the place formerly held by Senchenko. This is still a very, very top-heavy division, and being completely honest, as impressed as I was with Paulie on Sunday, I'd still put him in the third tier here. It's a division that breaks down like this, in my view:
Tier 1: Mayweather, Pacquiao
Tier 2: Ortiz, Berto
Tier 3: Brook (close to tier two, arguably there), M. Jones, Zaveck, Alexander, Malignaggi, C. Jones
And that's just the top ten -- there's a couple of guys (Selcuk Aydin, Jo Jo Dan, Jessie Vargas) just outside that I put no lower than Carson Jones, really.
Maybe it sounds like I'm trying to diminish what Malignaggi did, but I'm not. That third tier is still pretty damn good, but there's a definite class system at welterweight. Soon enough, Timothy Bradley (win or lose against Manny) will join the group, and Robert Guerrero could be coming in if he beats Aydin on July 28, which most expect he will.
There are very good fights for Paulie at the weight that he can make next. A fight with Devon Alexander on August 18 seems a natural fit, but there is potential hang-up: Malignaggi is not going to take his belt to St. Louis to fight him. Alexander has been on the kind end of some questionable judging in his hometown against Andriy Kotelnik and Lucas Matthysse, and while Malignaggi went on the road to win the belt, he had no choice there.
He's the guy with the belt now -- he's got some say, and he's no dummy. Unless Golden Boy overpaid him very handsomely to risk the belt in STL, I can't see him doing it.
A lot of folks have mentioned Paulie possibly fighting fellow Brooklynite Zab Judah at the new state of the art Barclays facility later this year. Golden Boy has a deal with the venue and there's no doubt that they're both from Brooklyn, but let's be real here: Yes, they have their fans, but I'm not sure they have enough of them to sell enough tickets at a place like Barclays. For basketball, that place is designed to seat a little over 18,000 people. Judah's last fight in Brooklyn was in an old hangar, and Malignaggi has never been, like, a huge draw. He's popular, but there's a difference between being popular and having a dedicated fanbase and being able to put 10,000+ asses in the seats. Few fighters in the States can do it, quite frankly.
Also, Judah is fighting at 140, where he has a mandatory shot at, in theory, the Peterson vs Khan II winner. If it's Khan he won't get that fight, since Khan likely will be moving up himself, but Peterson could happen. There's also the issue of Main Events and their NBC Sports series -- would they want to have Zab fighting off that network? My instinct is to say there's no doubt Kathy Duva would let Judah -- who like Malignaggi recently became relevant again in the eyes of many with his own one-sided ass-kicking win (Brooklyn's definitely back in the boxing biz this year) -- make the bigger money in the bigger fight, but you never know until you know with boxing.
It's a fight I'd personally love to see, too. I think it's a good matchup, I think it's a fun matchup, and I'd expect no less than a good fight and some good neighborhood trash talk with those two. I just think it's worth considering there are a lot more potential reasons it won't be happening than reasons it will. And frankly, it's not just this matchup that concerns me with the Barclays venue in boxing -- frankly, I'm expecting the New York version of Staples Center with the arena, where Golden Boy keeps trying to make a boxing venue out of a place that is simply too big and doesn't fit what the sport actually is at this point in time. Staples has never been a boxing venue, no matter how badly Oscar and his statue want it to be, and I worry Barclays won't be one, either.
NY is a better fight town than LA in general these days, but it's pretty much run of the mill in terms of people actually paying money to go see fights there. I don't think there's any question that yesterday's fight towns -- New York, Philly, LA, even Chicago to a lesser degree -- have been minimized by the presence of Vegas, by the casinos elsewhere in the country, by the unfortunate emergence of Texas as a major fight hub (Texas should be a great fight hub, but that commission of theirs ruins it for some terrific fans). And that won't change overnight. It will take a serious effort. Maybe it can again be the fight city, but it will take a continued effort and years of gradual change, not just throwing a fight there and going "They're from Brooklyn!"
Oh, yeah: There's a new No. 1 at light heavyweight, and with it a new world champion. "Bad" Chad Dawson is up to No. 1 following his win over Bernard Hopkins, and Bernard slips to No. 3. Gabriel Campillo is between them at No. 2, and frankly I believe he's the best light heavyweight in the sport at this moment. But I can't make a convincing enough argument to put a guy who lost his last fight -- whether a robbery or not, and I feel it clearly was -- at No. 1 over Dawson.
Hopkins is still a clear No. 3, probably No. 2 for most. Who would you rank over him? I chose Campillo because I think Campillo's better. That's my opinion, and I think Bernard would have a terrible time with Campillo if they fought. But there's no way I'm ranking Pascal (4) or Cloud (5) over Hopkins until something changes. Hopkins has proven twice, in my view, he's Pascal's superior, and Cloud is closer to Nathan Cleverly and Beibut Shumenov than he is to Hopkins.
Let's do tiers again here, because I think this division breaks down more interestingly than 147:
Tier 1: Dawson, Campillo, Hopkins
Tier 2: Pascal, Cloud
Tier 3: Cleverly, Shumenov
Tier 4: Murat, Diaconu, Erdei, or any of the next five guys who could be here
Cloud is just between 2/3, but even with the robbery win over Campillo, well, Campillo's really good, and then there's the fact that his win over Glen Johnson was legit, as was his win over Clinton Woods, and frankly his win over Yusaf Mack might be better than anything on Cleverly's sheet. Shumenov's best win is a robbery over Campillo, too, and he's sort of disappeared after a big early push.
Thomas Oosthuizen comes back at No. 10, his third stint at the spot, but this time he's probably staying a while. He's replacing Brian Magee, of whom I'm a bigger fan than perhaps anyone on the planet. Right now, Oosthuizen is on the rise and fighting well, including his ShoBox win over a motivated Marcus Johnson, while Magee is basically placeholding.
Ranked Fighters in Action This Week
Obviously, it's a big week.
Heavyweight: No. 9 Alexander Dimitrenko (32-1, 21) vs No. 10 Kubrat Pulev (15-0, 7)
Cruiserweight: No. 1 Marco Huck (34-2, 25) vs No. 7 Ola Afolabi (19-2-3, 8)
Super Middleweight: No. 7 Robert Stieglitz (41-2, 23) vs Nader Hamdan (43-9-1, 18)
Middleweight: No. 7 Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (26-0, 17) vs Max Bursak (24-0-1, 10)
Junior Middleweight: No. 1 Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30) vs No. 1 welterweight Floyd Mayweather Jr (42-0, 26)
Junior Middleweight: No. 2 Canelo Alvarez (39-0-1, 29) vs Shane Mosley (46-7-1, 39)
Featherweight: No. 3 Chris John (46-0-2, 22) vs Shoji Kimura (24-4-2, 9)
Featherweight: No. 5 Daniel Ponce De Leon (42-4, 35) vs Eduardo Lazcano (24-2, 11)
Junior Flyweight: No. 3 Kompayak Porpramook (44-3, 30) vs Jonathan Taconing (13-1-1, 10)