Not right away, of course. Ricky Hatton will still face Juan Lazcano in Manchester on May 24, with Paulie Malignaggi defending his piece of the 140-pound crown against the man he destroyed to get it, Lovemore N'dou, in one of boxing's worst rematches in some time -- don't blame Paulie, it's a contractual thing.
After that, though, the two will get it on later this year, most likely again in NYC, and I'd guess at Madison Square Garden.
From a press release:
"Ricky and I have a lot in common. Both our fathers were soccer players - his in England and mine in Italy - and we've both paid our dues and earned the respect of the fans and other fighters. The only marks on our records came against two great fighters, Mayweather and Cotto. What makes it so exciting is the big difference in our fighting styles. Ricky is rough and tough; an all-action fighter who takes advantage of everything he can to get the win. You're never going to see a Hatton fight that doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat. Most of my fights have been boxing matches. The excitement was dictated by how aggressive the other guy wanted to be. If they brought it, they got it back times 10. I know I'm at the top of my game right now and that's what it takes to have a chance against a great champion like Ricky Hatton."
"Everyone was blown away when they heard Ricky was going to fight at City of Manchester Stadium," Paulie continued. "It's going to be crazy over there! They've had a lot of quality fighters in Great Britain - Joe Calzaghe, David Haye, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank. They also had Lennox Lewis, but nothing like what Ricky means to them. Vegas was crazy last December and I know we can bring that atmosphere back when we go at it in the Fall. This won't be a Friendly, more like a World Cup match, wherever we fight.
"My goal has always been to make the biggest and best fights, just like my great friend, Floyd Mayweather, has told me to do. A match-up between me and Ricky will be a Super Fight, one talked about for as long as there is boxing. No other fight at 140 matters. And before the fight, well, everyone knows that I talk a lot of smack, so Ricky's not going to get any breaks there, either. Like with Floyd, me and Ricky can save seeing if we're cool until once we've earned each other's respect at the only place it counts - in the ring. There is no one, I repeat, no one I want to fight more than the No. 1 guy in the division - Ricky Hatton. Forget the money, forget the titles, this is about being the best. I know that if I get in the ring with Ricky Hatton, I'll show him and everyone else what I'm made of, that I am the best 140-pound fighter in the world.
"I want to thank Ricky, his father, Ray, his lawyer, Gareth, who I met in Vegas, my team and everyone at Golden Boy and DBE for working so hard on this. I know I'm not always the easiest guy to deal with because I get so emotional over stupid stuff and open my mouth. I want to hype things up and get my chance to prove to everyone that I can walk the walk with the best. I'm ready to sign on the dotted line and prove to the Hattons and everyone else that Paulie Malignaggi is ready and up for the task of making this the biggest and best promotion that it can be. The best versus the best! If Ricky Hatton can beat me, then he can close the book on the 140-pound division. But no one's beating the `Magic Man' ever again. Me and Ricky are both professionals and know we can't get ahead of ourselves. We both know that if we don't win in May, our fight can never happen. Let everyone know that Paulie Malignaggi will do his part to make this happen and I'm counting on Ricky to do the same."
To sum it up, never say Paulie Malignaggi won't change his public tune to sell a fight. Prior to this announcement, Malignaggi has never been overly respectful of Hatton in comments, always saying he thought Junior Witter was the true best at 140. I'm sure he still thinks that (a lot of people do, after all), but he knows this is a much bigger fight for him. Were he to beat Hatton, he'd be recognized by most as the best in the division.
It's a matchup I really like, one that should be very entertaining. Good on Hatton for taking a fight against a slick boxer like Malignaggi, and good on Paulie for, as always, being willing to put his money where his mouth is.