WBA welterweight titleholder Paulie Malignaggi believes that hard-hitting ex-beltholder Kendall Holt should rise into the 147-pound weight class in the wake of Friday’s eighth-round stoppage loss to IBF junior welterweight beltholder Lamont Peterson.
That’s what Malignaggi (32-4, 7 knockouts) did after his last loss, which came by 11th-round knockout as a junior welterweight against Amir Khan in a failed bid to earn the WBA’s 140-pound belt in May of 2010.
Malignaggi rose to welterweight, where he is stronger, hits harder, and is more energized, he says. His five-bout winning streak at 147 pounds incluces a ninth-round knockout of Vyacheslav Senchenko for his current belt in April of last year.
Like Holt, of Paterson, N.J., who built an early lead against Peterson before being dropped in the fourth and sixth rounds, Malignaggi partially blamed extreme weight loss for his setback against Khan.
“I think that Kendall should try his luck at welterweight,” said Malignaggi, 32, “and I don’t think he should listen to anybody except himself. I think that he’s young enough and that the early part of that fight shows that he’s got a lot of skill left in the tank. Nobody’s going to believe in him anyway.”
“I know that when I lost to Amir Khan, nobody believed in me. The only thing that you’ve got to do is convince yourself, and nobody else that you’re young enough. What I told myself after Khan is that I’m going to move up in weight, and I’m going to have extra energy by not having to lose so much weight and I believed that it was going to help me. And here I am, five fights later, I’m the welterweight world champion and I was proven to be right even though nobody took my word for it.”
The 31-year-old Holt (28-6, 16 KOs) admitted having been as much as eight pounds over 140 two days prior to weighing in , and by as many as 22 pounds at the start of training camp for his clash with Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KOs).
Holt said that, at least in part, the weight-drain affected him in the fight.
“I went out there, I was feeling good, I was establishing the jab. I was doing the things that I wanted to do in the first half of the fight. But things didn’t pan out quite the way that I wanted them to. I had a lot of trouble making this weight. A lot of people were asking me if I was going to move up, or if I was going to stay at this weight. I have been wanting to move up in weight for the longest time,” said Holt.
“But it just seemed like the opportunities at junior welterweight just kept presenting themselves and presenting themselves, and you can’t say no to a world championship fight. I had a great training camp, I was feeling good, even until the time of the stoppage. My mind was clear, I was focused, I could see everything that was going on. My body just wasn’t responding. My body and my mind just weren’t on the same page. My body wanted to do one thing, and my mind said do something else.”
A well-traveled fighter, Holt’s stamina issues had been a problem in the past, when he was knocked out by Thomas Davis, Ricardo Torres and Kaizer Mabuza in June of 2004, September of 2007, and, February of 2010, respectively.
“Even if I had won the belt, I had done interviews earlier in camp saying that, win or lose, this should be my last fight at 140,” said Holt.
“I had said that a few years ago, but, like I said, the opportunities just kept presenting themselves. With the knowledge I had gained over the last few years about gaining weight and re-hydrating properly, I thought that I still could do it.”
Malignaggi faced a similar thought process after falling to Khan. But after rising to welterweight, Malignaggi reeled off three straight decision victories over Michael Lozada, Jose Miguel Cotto and Orlando Lora.
Then came the his trip to Ukraine, where he faced the larger, stronger and previously unbeaten Senchenko.
Malignaggi believes Holt should give the welterweight division a shot.
“I think that Kendall is young enough to where if he doesn’t kill himself losing weight so much, that he can use all of the God-given talent and God-given ability that he has,” said Malignaggi.
“So he can move up in weight, take a couple of fights under the radar at welterweight. Just some small fights and some smaller paydays, and not so much for the money, but to test out the waters, and then he can move on to the more dangerous territory. I believe that it’s possible, because I’m living proof of that.”
Like Malignaggi, Holt had endured despite what has, at times, been a revolving door of trainers, including former titleholders Roy Jones Jr. and Buddy McGirt. During his July 2008 rematch with Torres, who entered their return bout with a mark of 32-1 that included 29 knockouts, Holt rose from two knockdowns and scored one of his own during a 61-second bout.
Holt wound up winning by stoppage victory over Torres to avenge his earlier setback and earn the WBO’s 140-pound belt.
Holt was out of the ring for an 11-month span after falling to Mabuza, but rebounded from that loss with a first-round stoppage of Lenin Arroyo in January of 2011.
Holt’s two, route-going losses were to current WBO welterweight beltholder Tim Bradley and current RING, WBA and WBC 140-pound champion Danny Garcia, who owns a fourth-round knockout victory over Khan from July of last year.
Holt twice dropped Bradley to the canvas before losing his WBO 140-pound title by unanimous decision in April of 2009. Since then, however, Holt has since gone 3-2 with three stoppage victories.
Before facing Peterson, however, Holt had insisted that he had discovered some consistency in experienced trainer, Jesse Reid, whom he believed will help him end Peterson’s run of 3-0-1 with two knockouts since falling by unanimous decision to Bradley as a junior welterweight in December of 2009.
After the loss, however, Holt’s sentiment was much different.
“I was prepared for Lamont to throw the body shots. I put in a lot of work. But I don’t know what’s going to happen at this point,” said Holt.
“I’ve been boxing for a long time, and there are some other things that I want to do in my life. I don’t want to make a decision right now, because that decision would be with a lot of emotion. I want to give it a few days before I decide whether or not to move up or to contemplate retiring.”
Photos by Juan Marshall
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]