With Juan Manuel Marquez apparently not interested in fighting Amir Khan on May 15 because he and trainer Nacho Beristain felt he was being treated as a "stepping stone," Paulie Malignaggi has come back into the picture immediately as the most desired option to face the WBA junior welterweight titlist.
There are a lot of catches, though. As was the case when this fight initially came up a while back, Malignaggi and promoter Lou DiBella are adamant that a deal has to be "fair," and that Malignaggi not be treated like a B-side to Khan, who will be making just his second appearance on HBO, and the first that anyone might watch. You may recall Khan's HBO debut came against a completely disinterested Steffy Bull a couple of years ago on the hideous Calzaghe-Manfredo show that nobody watched. His only other appearance on American TV was his March 2009 independent PPV fight with Marco Antonio Barrera, which again nobody watched.
Malignaggi, meanwhile, has a solid name, has HBO backing coming off of career-renewing fights with Juan Diaz, and can draw in New York. That's another thing: DiBella and Malignaggi do not want the fight to be in Las Vegas, which Khan-Marquez would have been. And they're right to not want that, too. It won't draw anybody.
It's a tricky situation, but it's workable for sure. Khan and Golden Boy know their true position here as the incoming hopeful star. Yes, he has a title, but Malignaggi is still more established in America. Khan would still get to keep all of the British TV money, and he'd still make plenty of dough. Malignaggi is also, in theory, a perfect opponent for Khan, or at least as perfect as they get. With Khan's chin being the consistent worry, having him fight a guy with no punch would be the best thing.
With Khan turning into more of a tactician than the aggressive young fighter he was before, Khan-Malignaggi doesn't promise much by way of blood or guts. It could, however, be an incredibly interesting chess match between a couple of guys with fast hands and good boxing skills. My instinct is to say that the veteran Malignaggi has more savvy than Khan, but Khan has Freddie Roach, too. It could be a very good fight.
If Malignaggi does land this fight as it seems to me he should, that would leave Andre Berto open again. DiBella had been trying to finalize a welterweight title fight between Berto and Malignaggi for April 10 in New York, and Rick Reeno says that two potential opponents for Berto on that date (if he keeps the date) would be Carlos Quintana (who has said he's staying at 154) and Kendall Holt (a former 140-pound titlist). If you ask me -- and I note that nobody has -- Berto's camp should do everything they can to get Zab Judah in there. It would make it perfectly reasonable to keep the fight in NYC, and Zab's about as good a welterweight opponent as they're going to find. That or a Luis Collazo rematch, which isn't happening.