Paulie Malignaggi had his skeptics going into today's fight with defending WBA welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko, and I make no bones about the fact that I was a big one. I didn't think Malignaggi had a career-best win in him at 31, with the injuries, the tough fights, the hard losses in his past. I just didn't think he had it in him to beat a solid, competent welterweight.
I have rarely been so wrong, and that's not me trying to sound good; like, "Oh, I'm usually so right." Nope -- it's just that Paulie Malignaggi proved me and anyone else who didn't think he had the speed or the legs to get it done at this level again very, very, very wrong indeed.
Malignaggi completely overmatched Senchenko today in Donetsk in front of a rather surprisingly sparse crowd at the quite spacious and quite empty Donbass Arena, tearing up the Ukrainian's face and beating him handily in the jab contest, winning seven of eight rounds on the Bad Left Hook scorecard before referee Steve Smoger stopped the fight in the ninth due to the fact that Malignaggi had so badly cut up and otherwise maimed the left side of Senchenko's face that the now former titleholder couldn't see anything coming at him.
Paulie Malignaggi won a world title in his second weight class today. Paulie Malignaggi is your new WBA welterweight titlist. And Paulie Malignaggi did it by stoppage, too.
Malignaggi (31-4, 7 KO) truly outclassed Senchenko (32-1, 21 KO), handing the favored home fighter his first loss and frankly, such a bad loss that at 35, it wouldn't be surprising to see Senchenko out of the ring for a long, long time.
This was a lesson in boxing class. Malignaggi was simply better than Senchenko. Without power, he slashed his way to a stoppage win and had Senchenko defeated mentally and physically by the time Smoger pulled the plug -- and as you all know, Smoger is not a referee quick to pull a plug.
I did say in the preview, in my very mild defense of my erroneous, wrong-headed prediction, that if Malignaggi won it would be a great story I'd be happy to tell. But this is actually better than I expected, because I was so convinced he would lose that I didn't consider one other big factor: Paulie Malignaggi has rescued the WBA title, which was being held hostage by a mediocre fighter in lousy title fights backed by his promoters, and has thus injected a bit of new life into the welterweight division, simply because he makes it possible for that title to be properly defended again. He's never ducked anyone or hidden away. He's going to fight contenders.
That's win-win, in my estimation.
Most likely could be an August 18 fight with Devon Alexander, who is ranked seventh by the WBA and has a Showtime date set. Both are Golden Boy fighters and have had some media beef before. It's a fight that has been discussed. With Paulie now attractive as a titlist again, coming off of a strong win, that could easily happen.
He could also take a first gimme defense, though frankly I wouldn't expect Golden Boy to look for that. The Alexander fight sounds too perfect for this situation to pass up.
I was genuinely impressed by what we saw from Malignaggi today. He looked like a refreshed fighter in there. Senchenko disappointed to be sure, and looked terrible, but it was Malignaggi that made him look that way. Senchenko has rolled over lesser fighters.
For Senchenko and Union Boxing, this is a big loss. Someone else mentioned this in the live thread, and I said it on Twitter, too, but those guys paid $1 million purse bid for this fight, no one showed up in Donetsk for the fight, and their top fighter just got the shit beaten out of him and made to look like a complete inferior in front of his home audience. I'm not trying to dog Senchenko when I say that, it's just the reality of what happened today. The wool was removed from the peoples' eyes when it comes to him.