Feature Story

Khan, Malignaggi ready for fight

Marty Rosengarten/www.RingsidePhotos.com

By Matt Richardson

As the energy in the proposed super middleweight “Super Six” tournament continues to dwindle due to postponements and pull-outs, boxing fans who like the idea of a series of fights in a particular weight division can now begin to look further down the scale. Over the next few months, the attention will likely shift to what has become arguably the best and most exciting division in the sport: the 140-pound, junior welterweight class. While not as regimented as the tournament at 168 (this isn’t a tournament at all), the fights on tap promise to be significant and exciting. Two of these matches were announced on Tuesday morning at Madison Square Garden, in New York City, the site of an HBO-televised double-header on May 15.

Photos: Marty Rosengarten/www.RingsidePhotos.com

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In the main event, WBA junior welterweight belt-holder Amir Khan will make his stateside debut when he boxes the New York-based Paulie Malignaggi. In the co-feature, junior welterweight contender Victor Ortiz will continue to try to distance himself from an upset loss to Marcos Maidana last summer when he tackles former lightweight title-holder Nate Campbell. Both fights involve top-12 junior welterweights, both fights are fun and both fights promise to have serious repercussions for the weight class. “If Paulie can beat Amir Khan, he’ll become the superstar he always wanted to be,” said Lou DiBella, Malignaggi’s promoter.

Malignaggi (27-3, 5 KO’s) didn’t disagree with his promoters assessment. “I become the elite guy at 140 pounds,” he said. “These guys are all young and they’re looking for notoriety… they have the talent. But with me winning the title on May 15, I become the cash cow at junior welterweight.” Khan (22-1, 16 KO’s) didn’t seem to expect any hiccups, however, proclaiming “I’ll have my name in the history books.” “For my U.S. debut boxing at Madison Square Garden, it’s been my dream,” he said. “Everyone wants to fight here, where Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and everyone fought.” It was the brash Malignaggi, however, who claimed home court advantage.

“It’s actually a pleasure to fight in New York and give my fans something to cheer about,” he said. “The chance to fight for a world championship at home? In New York? I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Apparently, the local dynamic Malignaggi brings to the ring cannot be understated. DiBella and Golden Boy Promotions’ Richard Schaefer (Khan’s promoter) say pre-sales for the fight have gone “extremely well.” And, based on early estimates, DiBella said the fight could break the record for a fight previously held at the Theater in the Garden. The record gate revenue is currently held by the January 2002 welterweight title clash between Shane Mosley and the late Vernon Forrest.

The boxing fans, the promoters said, are naturally reacting to compelling match-ups. “This is a boxing fan’s fight,” said HBO’s Kery Davis. “It’s wonderful time for this division and a wonderful time for the sport.”

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