By Matt Richardson
Paulie Malignaggi is the first to admit he didn’t think he would be getting another title shot. Not after fighting so poorly in defense of his old junior welterweight belt against Lovemore N’Dou in 2008. Not after losing it when he was dominated and stopped by Ricky Hatton later that year. And certainly not after controversially losing a close encounter with former titleholder Juan Diaz last summer. But yet there he was on Wednesday morning at Madison Square Garden, spouting off at the podium for his final press conference prior to his second title shot this weekend against WBA belt holder Amir Khan. The fight will be televised live from the theater at the Garden on HBO on Saturday night.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Malignaggi (27-3, 5 KO’s) said. “This is a big, big redemption for me. None of you thought I’d be back here.”
Without taking too much blame for himself (although he does take some), Malignaggi has argued that his poor 2008 campaign was due to bad chemistry in the corner with former trainer Buddy McGirt. “I can’t keep reiterating the fact that I had a trainer training me against the grain,” he said. He has since changed trainers and gone 2-1 since, although many would argue he won the first fight with Diaz last August.
Khan, though, making his U.S. debut, appeared unfazed by Malignaggi’s penchant for trash talk or for his explanation of his poor performances.
“I’m happy to fight someone like that (Malignaggi) to shut him up,” Khan (22-1, 16 KO’s) said. “I’m looking forward to it. I want to send a statement in the 140-pound division. Paulie needs shutting up.”
“It’s a business, guys,” Khan said. “It’s a shame I have to hurt someone. But come Saturday night I am going to hurt someone, just don’t hold it against me.”
Malignaggi repeated the old “be careful what you wish for” cliché regarding Khan’s intention of fighting the big names at junior welterweight. But Malignaggi should be careful too. He has lobbied for his second title shot almost as soon as the bell sounded to end his fight with Hatton. He’s earned the chance. Khan’s earned the chance to showcase his skills against the best his division has to offer. It should be interesting to see who comes out on top.
In the co-featured fight, another junior welterweight contender, Victor Ortiz, will continue to try to distance himself from his loss last summer to Marcos Maidana, when he takes on former lightweight title holder Nate Campbell.
In a back and forth battle with Maidana last June, Ortiz decided to quit in the sixth round instead of fighting on. He was roundly criticized after the fight for his decision in the ring and his post-fight comments directly afterwards.
A clear win over Campbell, however, would help alleviate much of the bad press Ortiz has encountered since his quit job against Maidana.
“It’ll speak for itself come Saturday night,” said Ortiz (26-2-1, 21 KO’s). “I’m ready as I’m sure Nate is and I just want to get home with a great victory.”
“I’m not going to make any idle threats,” said the usually loquacious Campbell (33-5-1, 25 KO’s) at his chance at the podium. “What you do is what you do. As for me? I’m going to do what I have to do and that’s win.”
At age 38 and with many tough fights under his belt, Campbell has a rough night in front of him. He hasn’t fought since giving an uninspired effort against Tim Bradley in a fight which turned into a No-Contest after Campbell got cut and he hasn’t won a fight in a year and half.
If the 23-year old Ortiz is catching Campbell at the right time, and it looks like he is, Ortiz could come out with his third consecutive win since the Maidana debacle. A win could also position him to fight the winner or loser of the main event.