With the (likely empty) talk of Paulie Malignaggi replacing Floyd Mayweather Jr. as Manny Pacquiao's March 13 opponent at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas combined with the fact that news is slow, I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about the Pacquiao-Malignaggi matchup.
I've dismissed it in brief this week, but that's mostly because it's not a viable replacement for Pacquiao-Mayweather. Nothing is. Nothing can come close to replacing a fight that could have broken records on PPV and at the gate in Nevada.
But does Malignaggi really have a prayer?
He thinks he does, of course. He said in an interview this week that he neither likes nor respects Pacquiao, and that he thinks he presents a style challenger that Manny will have serious problems with.
He does have a point. As good as Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and Juan Manuel Marquez are, none of them fight like Malignaggi, or even can. Malignaggi is powerless, but he can fight going backwards, has a nice jab, and has speed that beats out all three of those guys, let alone the walking corpse of Oscar de la Hoya, mediocre David Diaz or a shot, money-grabbing Marco Antonio Barrera.
It's also easy to point out that Cotto and Hatton both demolished Malignaggi, Cotto beating him viciously and Hatton dominating to the point that Buddy McGirt threw in the towel in round 11, which led to Malignaggi and McGirt parting ways.
Paulie is always at one disadvantage, no matter who he's fighting. If he's not on his game, and he happens to fall behind on the scorecards, what does he do then? His pop is non-existent. His wobbling of Juan Diaz on December 12 was so unexpected it seemed to shock Malignaggi himself. So if Pacquiao got a lead on him, at what point does the fight become completely futile? He's not going to knock Pacquiao out with anything less than a sledgehammer.
It's really hard for me to figure a way that Malignaggi is a real danger in this fight. Yes, he could win some rounds against Manny. I would have had Cotto up 3-1 after four rounds against Manny, but Manny scored those knockdowns in rounds three and four that turned the tide of the fight drastically.
Basically, Malignaggi would have to fight at his highest-ever level, and by a lot. Juan Diaz is a good fighter, and Paulie looked his best ever in those fights. But Manny Pacquiao is not Juan Diaz. Ironically, Paulie criticizes Pacquiao's recent wins as being over flat-footed guys that do nothing but come forward, when he's gotten back on the map with two fights against Diaz, and his last fight before that was the Hatton loss.
Paulie can talk all day about Pacquiao's opposition not being up to snuff, but who has Malignaggi been fighting that is anywhere near Pacquiao's level, that can do half of what Manny does in the ring? Edner Cherry? Lovemore N'dou? If Paulie presents something new for Manny, that goes ten-fold vice versa. Paulie hasn't faced a quick, powerful southpaw who comes from those angles ever, let alone in recent fights.
I like Paulie as a boxer, and it's been great to see him turn his career around in 2009 after being counted out a year ago. He's a legit contender at 140 pounds again, his new trainer seems to have done wonders for his approach in the ring, and he's even gotten some of his trademark swagger back. But against Manny Pacquiao? I just can't see it being competitive.