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Hatton, Malignaggi pass tough tests in Manchester

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BAD LEFT HOOK UNOFFICIAL SCORECARD
 Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Total
 Ricky Hatton 10 10 9 9 10 10 10 9 10 9 10 10 116
 Juan Lazcano 9 9 10 10 9 9 9 10 9 10 9 9 112
BAD LEFT HOOK UNOFFICIAL SCORECARD
 Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Total
 Paulie Malignaggi 9 9 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 10 10 10 115
 Lovemore N'dou 10 10 9 9 9 9 10 10 10 9 9 9 113

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via d.yimg.com

Ricky Hatton and Paulie Malignaggi both survived tougher-than-expected fights in Manchester today (tonight in the UK), meaning their cards are open to dance with one another later this year. There may be just one problem.

In the sixth round of his rematch with Lovemore N'dou, Malignaggi hurt his right hand, which has been injured a bajillion times over his young career, and the fear is that it might be broken again. Malignaggi doesn't throw a lot of right hands because of how fragile it is, but he basically had to fight much of his bout today one-handed, which crippled his offensive options. We'll talk more about the Malignaggi fight in a moment, but for now let's focus on Hatton's homecoming and comeback.

The official scores for the 12-round fight had Hatton easily winning, 120-110, 118-110 and 120-108. These scores stunk. Versus commentators Nick Charles and Wally Matthews -- both of whom I usually quite like -- had it 118-110 for Hatton, too. I just don't think Hatton won 10 of those 12 rounds at all. My score was 116-112, which is an 8-4 advantage, and a clear win. Yes, Ricky absolutely won the fight. But there were two rounds he DEFINITELY lost, and I don't care where they put the ring. Lazcano had him seriously hurt on two occasions where Hatton had to hang on for dear life. Ricky was rocked plenty and ate a lot of shots coming in against a slow, rusty Lazcano, who fought his heart out and did all he could. As is the story of his career, though, Juan Lazcano just was not good enough for this level of fighter.

But 120-108, or even the 120-110 card? Give me a break. Ricky Hatton did lose rounds in this fight. To say he didn't is to be freaking blind.

As for how Hatton looked on the whole, I thought he looked like a guy whose style and, probably, out-of-ring habits are definitely catching up with him. He's not an old man, but he's fought so high-energy for so long, and also has had to crash diet down to 140 pounds so many times that his body is going to betray him. Hopefully he never fights Mayweather again, because it'll be even uglier. As it is, the way he's going, Hatton's boxing career doesn't end all smiles. It will end when he gets his head knocked off by someone. Lazcano doesn't have fast hands and isn't a big puncher anymore. Furthermore, Juan looked soft coming in and despite fighting hard, did tire somewhere in the middle. If Lazcano is hurting Hatton, Ricky's going to have some problems.

One other thing I want to mention is the God awful referee for the fight. He was a puzzle, occasionally letting them fight inside and get dirty about it, and other times breaking them up very quickly. The difference? He broke when Ricky instructed him to break them up. Look, Hatton would've won the fight either way, but this was favoritism.

It also didn't help that in the first round he stopped action to brush lint off of Hatton's glove, or that in the tenth round, with Hatton hurt and reeling, he stopped it, took his sweet time doing so, and then had Hatton go to his corner to get his shoelace tied. I understand that the shoelace has to be tied, but the referee did not exactly take control of the situation without disrupting the fight to the best of his ability.

Nick and Wally were also somewhat critical of Hatton's performance, while saying he certainly won the fight. I don't get this. I don't know why people expect anything sensational out of Ricky Hatton. He is the ultimate overachieving fighter, a short little guy with barely any reach that is aging for his weight class and for his style of fighting. He's always been the type of fighter that gets more out of his natural ability and limitations than he should. And that's why people love him. He's not a great athlete by pure athlete standards. He's just a tough-nosed guy that does his job, and he does it very well.

And he did his job again. Lazcano gave Ricky a good workout, and I still greatly admire Hatton for taking a tough pro as his comeback opponent. He could've fought anyone in Manchester and done 50,000. He took a fighter who presented some risk. This wasn't a Cotto-Gomez or Oscar-Forbes mismatch on paper, though Hatton was deservingly the overwhelming favorite. And like Cotto and Oscar, he made good on it. Perhaps not as easily as de la Hoya or as sensationally as Cotto, but he's 44-1 now and on his way to another big fight.

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via d.yimg.com

The main undercard bout was absolutely more competitive than anyone expected. Last year, Paulie Malignaggi shut out, knocked down, and dethroned Lovemore N'dou as IBF 140-pound titleholder. Today, Paulie had a lot of trouble from the outset, and had to settle for a disappointing split decision victory (116-112, 116-113, 114-115). I had Paulie winning close, 115-113, but there's a lot to be talked about.

If today's Paulie Malignaggi -- hand injury or not -- fought today's Ricky Hatton, Hatton would have won easy. It was Lazcano's sudden power shots that bothered Hatton, and Paulie has no power. He wasn't moving the way he does and did get hurt, but his right hand is mostly for show anyway. He didn't use the jab that wins his fights for him -- he used it some, early, and then forgot about it.

This is the second straight fight that Paulie Malignaggi has just not looked like the slick-moving defensive counter puncher that makes him an exciting fighter to watch even though he can't punch. Herman Ngoudjo gave him all he could handle (many, myself included, thought Ngoudjo won that fight) in January, and now Lovemore N'dou, a completely non-special fighter in any way, gave him the same.

Is the weight getting to him? Is it just that he can't punch, and opponents are figuring out that you can walk through his shots to get at him? Is it that they've figured out he's VERY easily discouraged and wears his emotions on his sleeve? Malignaggi is no iceman. If the fighter is getting to him, it shows very blatantly.

But he did win, and he does retain his title, and the Hatton-Malignaggi fight (which probably doesn't look so attractive right now) can still happen, and it should. Honestly I'd love to see Hatton fight Ricardo Torres if Torres beats Kendall Holt this summer, but Paulie's the bigger draw and is handled by much better businessmen. And I do think with both at their best, Ricky and Paulie will put on a hell of a good fight and style contrast.

It is also very much worth noting that the above photo shows Malignaggi with an awkward looking haircut, which would be nothing new from Paulie, but this one isn't even remotely stylish. Great reason for that: the moron came in wearing gigantic hair extensions that he had pulled back into a ponytail. In the first round, it broke loose and Malignaggi was fighting with hair in his face, constantly trying to get it away. They reinforced his stupid hair with tape, but eventually it kept slipping out again. At one point they stopped the fight to TAPE HIS HAIR. And then eventually they just cut it off. After the fight, Paulie said, "Never again. That was definitely an 'F and L' -- first and last." It was a ridiculous decision and I'm stunned that it got by Buddy McGirt.

I think we should also really give some love to the Versus Network for picking this card up, and to Golden Boy for working that deal out after HBO and Showtime passed on the fights. It was great to have boxing on a Saturday afternoon, and important fights, too. I'm not saying these were huge fights or anything, but it was a great presentation and hopefully we'll see more stuff like this from Versus in the near future. With Versus maybe getting into the game seriously, and Don King's wonderful webcasts of fights we'd never get to see in the States otherwise, boxing promotion is actually working for the fans a little bit lately. Still work to be done, but hats off.