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Head to head: Diaz-Malignaggi II

10
Dec

JUAN DIAZ vs. PAULIE MALIGNAGGI

When: Saturday, Dec. 12

Where: UIC Pavilion, Chicago, Ill.

TV: HBO, 10:15 pm. ET (live)/ PT (delayed)



Weight: Junior welterweight (140 pounds)

Title(s) at stake: None

Also on the card: Victor Ortiz vs. Antonio Diaz, 10 rounds, junior welterweights; Erislandy Lara vs. Luciano Perez, 10 rounds, junior middleweights.

DIAZ

The essentials

Age: 26

Height / Reach: 5-6 / 67

Hometown: Houston

Turned pro: 2000

Record: 35-2 (17 knockouts)

Trainer: Ronnie Shields

Fight-by-fight: http://www.boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=029486&cat=boxer

The Ring rating: No. 5 junior welterweight

Titles: WBA lightweight (2004-08, lost it to Nate Campbell); WBO lightweight (2007-08, lost it to Campbell); IBF lightweight (2007-08, lost it to Campbell).

Biggest victories: Lakva Sim, July 17, 2004, UD 12 (wins WBA lightweight title); Acelino Freitas, April 28, 2007, RTD 8; Julio Diaz, Oct. 13, 2007, TKO 9 (adds WBO and IBF lightweight titles); Michael Katsidis, Sept. 6, 2008, SD 12; Paul Malignaggi, Aug. 22, 2009, UD 12.

Losses: Nate Campbell, March 8, 2008, SD 12 (lost WBA, WBO and IBF lightweight titles); Juan Manuel Marquez, Feb. 28, 2009, TKO 9 (for vacant WBA and WBO lightweight titles).

MALIGNAGGI

The essentials

Age: 29

Height: 5-8¾

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Turned pro: 2001

Record: 26-3 (5 knockouts)

Trainer: Serif Younan

Fight-by-fight: http://www.boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=052984&cat=boxer

The Ring rating: No. 6 junior welterweight

Titles: IBF junior welterweight (2007-08, vacated)

Biggest victories: Edner Cherry, Feb. 17, 2007, UD 12; Lovemore N’dou, June 16, 2007, UD 12 (wins IBF junior welterweight title); Herman Ngoudjo, Jan 5, 2008, UD 12; N’dou, May 24, 2008, SD 12.

Losses: Miguel Cotto, June 10, 2006, UD 12 (for WBO junior welterweight title); Ricky Hatton, Nov. 22, 2008, TKO 11; Juan Diaz, Aug. 22, 2009, UD 12.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Skills: Malignaggi is known as a boxer but he has underrated toughness, a penchant for grappling and he sometimes smothers his punches when in close. Diaz is often called a relentless brawler, which is only half true. He does display non-stop aggression but he delivers it with underrated skill and technique. Both fighters are solid boxers who work everything off good jabs but often rely on their grit and determination as much as their skills. Diaz has better upper-body technique (he delivers his punches with more leverage and keeps his gloves up); Malignaggi has better footwork and lateral movement. Diaz blocks punches better; Malignaggi turns away from punches better. Neither fighter turns his hook or right cross over, but both have nice, well-timed straight rights.
Edge: Even

Power: Neither fighter possesses knockout power, but Malignaggi basically brings amateur-level pop to the world-class pro ranks. The Brooklyn native has not scored a stoppage since a sixth-round TKO of Kevin Watts win 2003. Diaz hasn’t scored any cold knockouts of world-class fighters but his hands are heavy and busy enough to have forced titleholders Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz to quit on their stools. Diaz also repeatedly stunned Juan Manuel Marquez in their slugfest in February.
Edge: Diaz

Speed and athletic ability: The two are surprisingly close in speed and athletic ability despite Diaz’s squat, pudgy appearance. Diaz has underrated quickness and probably delivers combinations faster than Malignaggi does. However, the former junior welterweight titleholder likely throws faster straight single punches, such as the jab and right hand. Malignaggi is the more fluid athlete when he elects to get on his toes and utilize the ring. He’s at his best when operating from a distance, which gives him a chance to take advantage of his excellent hand-eye (and foot-eye) coordination and allows him to get into a rhythm. When Malignaggi is in the zone, he has everything but punching power.
Edge: Malignaggi

Defense: Both are surprisingly close in defensive prowess despite Diaz’s ultra-aggressive style. Although Diaz is a volume puncher who risks committing to his opponent’s body, he keeps his hands up and his feet are not stationary when he gets in close. Diaz can circle his opponent as he attacks on the inside and this ability keeps all but the most seasoned vets from zeroing in on him. Although Malignaggi is a reflexive boxer by nature, he has a few flaws that open him up for right hands: he keeps his left hand low (and usually jabs from his hip) and he backs straight out with his hands down and his head up. However, when he’s able to establish his jab (and distance), Malignaggi is very good at turning and twisting away from incoming punches even as he backs away or circles his opponent. He also hides his chin well when he’s in close (usually while tying his opponent up).
Edge: Malignaggi

Experience: Diaz doesn’t just have eight more pro bouts, he’s faced the far better competition, especially over the past 2¾ years, during which he’s fought (in succession) Freitas, Diaz, Campbell, Katsidis and Marquez.
Edge: Diaz

Chin: Both fighters are coming off high-profile stoppages but those losses were to elite veterans. Both fighters have proven the ability to take hard punches from strong fighters. Diaz took the shots of Lakva Sim, Freitas and Katsidis. Malignaggi absorbed the punches of Cotto, Ndou and Ngoudjo.
Edge: Even

Conditioning: Don’t judge Diaz by the spare tire he has around his waist; just look at his incredible work rate against top-rated opponents in bouts that go into the late rounds. That should tell you all you need to know about his conditioning.
Edge: Diaz

Wear and tear: Diaz edges Malignaggi in experience because he’s faced more top-level fighters and his losses to those veterans were particularly punishing. Diaz probably absorbed more damage in his losses to Campbell and Marquez than Malignaggi did in his losses to Cotto and Hatton.
Edge: Malignaggi

Corner: Diaz has consistency and superior experience in his corner. Ronnie Shields has been Diaz’s head trainer for years, missing only one of the fighter’s last 20 fights. Shields, a former 140-pound contender and title challenger, has worked with the likes of Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Mike Tyson and the late Vernon Forrest and Arturo Gatti. Malignaggi traded in Buddy McGirt (who replaced the Brooklynite’s longtime coach Billy Giles after the Cotto fight) for Serif Younan, a budding young coach who trains out of the Coney Island Boxing Club, shortly after his loss to Hatton. Malignaggi is the first world-class pro fighter Younan has served as the head trainer.
Edge: Diaz

Outcome: Diaz expected Malignaggi to stand his ground a little more than he did in their first fight and was surprised by the New Yorker’s effective stick-and-move strategy. Malignaggi had only recently returned to his old mobile style of boxing after a few years of more aggressive fighting under Buddy McGirt’s guidance. He should be even sharper now that he’s had more time with his new trainer and will probably beat Diaz to the jab and zero in with clean right hands in the early rounds. However, Diaz knows what to expect this time around and will make the necessary adjustments — namely more head movement (instead of trying to block everything with his gloves), doing a better job at working the boxer’s body and cutting the ring off. These tactics along with his usual pressure will begin to effect Malignaggi in the middle rounds, causing the 29-year-old vet to do more holding and grappling on the inside than punching. However, being the naturally bigger man, Malignaggi will find that he’s able to outmuscle Diaz in close and slow down the relentless Texan in the late rounds. Diaz will try to get Malignaggi on the ropes and work him over with body-head combinations but will only be partially successful as the faster fighter will counter with clean single shots. Both fighters will be exhausted going into the championship rounds and thus unable to adequately protect themselves, which should make for numerous crowd pleasing exchanges before the final bell. The two will once again fight to a razor thin decision that can go either way.

Prediction: Split-draw, one judge will score the fight 115-113 for Diaz, one will score it 115-113 for Malignaggi, and the third will have it even, 114-114.

Michael Rosenthal contributed to this report