Head to head: Khan-Malignaggi
AMIR KHAN vs. PAULIE MALIGNAGGI
When: Saturday, May 15
Where: WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York City
TV: HBO, 9:45 pm. ET (live) / PT (delayed)
Weight: Junior welterweight (140 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Khan’s junior welterweight title
Also on the card: Victor Ortiz vs. Nate Campbell, 12 rounds, junior welterweights; Daniel Jacobs vs. Juan Astorga, 10 rounds, middleweights; Breidis Prescott vs. Jason Davis, eight rounds, junior welterweights.
Height / Reach: 5-10 (178cm) / 71 (180cm)
Hometown: Bolton, England
Nickname: King Khan
Turned pro: 2005
Record: 22-1 (16 knockouts)
Trainer: Freddie Roach
The Ring rating: No. 3 junior welterweight
Titles: WBA junior welterweight (2009-current)
Biggest victories: Marco Antonio Barrera, March 14, 2009, TD 5; Andreas Kotelnik, July 18, 2009, UD 12 (wins title).
Loss: Breidis Prescott, Sept. 6, 2008, KO 1.
Height: 5-8¾ (174cm) / 70 (178)
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Nickname: Magic Man
Turned pro: 2001
Record: 27-3 (5 knockouts)
Trainer: Sherif Younan
The Ring rating: No. 5 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 title); Herman Ngoudjo, Jan 5, 2008, UD 12; N’dou, May 24, 2008, SD 12; Juan Diaz, Dec. 12, 2009, UD 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.
Skills: Khan and Malignaggi are boxers by nature. Sure, both guys have fiery tempers at times and neither are afraid to mix it up, but they are at their best when they stick the fundamentals of the Sweet Science and use their speed and reflexes to outbox their foes. Khan works from a classic, stand-up stance using in-and-out movement to set up super fast one-two combinations. Malignaggi does that well, too, but his style is a looser, more professional version of Khan’s. Malignaggi has more head and upper-body movement. His jab is more educated, his footwork is more varied and effective, and he has a better inside game.
Power: Well, this category isn’t very hard to figure. Malignaggi only has five knockouts to his credit. However, it should be noted that chronic hand problems early in his career and the stiff quality of his opposition later on are factors in that low stat. Malignaggi can punch a little bit. However, Khan is a darn good puncher, and the young man’s phenomenal speed only enhances that “pop.”
Speed and athletic ability: Khan and Malignaggi are among the fastest junior welterweights in the sport. Both possess excellent reflexes and hand-eye coordination. However, the 23-year-old Brit’s speed — of hand, foot and reflexes — is just a notch or two above Malignaggi’s. Khan also posses more raw physical strength and is more explosive in the manner in which he executes his offense.
Defense: Both boxers use their feet and fast reflexes to avoid punches. Khan does a better job of keeping his hands up and blocking shots with his gloves, but his upper body is rigid and he’s there to be hit as a result of his stiff, straight-up fighting posture. Malignaggi has the head- and upper-body flexibility to get under, turn with and lean away from punches that are aimed at his head. Malignaggi also does a decent job of blocking punches.
Experience: Malignaggi doesn’t just have more fights and pro rounds under his belt, he’s faced more solid fighters than Khan. Malignaggi has fought more titleholders (four to Khan’s three) and more elite (or former elite) fighters (Cotto, Hatton and Diaz), while Khan has only faced one elite name (Barrera).
Chin: Khan’s been floored four times (vs. Willie Limond, Michael Gomez, and twice against Prescott) and he didn’t get up after the second knockdown vs. Prescott. Malignaggi has been down once, in the second round vs. Cotto, and he got up and lasted the 12-round distance with the hard-punching Puerto Rican beltholder. His fight with Hatton was stopped in the 11th round when his corner threw in the towel. Maliganggi was woefully behind on the scorecards but he wasn’t seriously hurt or wobbled at the time.
Conditioning: Both boxers condition themselves to stick-and-move for 12 rounds. Khan, however, has shown the ability (vs. Kotelnik) to throw an incredibly high volume of punches with constant movement for 36 minutes. Khan also has one of the best conditioning coaches in the business (Alex Ariza) working with him.
Wear and tear: Malignaggi is the veteran in this contest and he’s been in more grueling fights, most notably his losses to Cotto and Hatton. His lack of power has forced him to go more rounds, which eventually begins to take a toll on a fighters legs.
Corner: Brooklyn’s Sherif Younan is a talented trainer who has done an amazing job with Malignaggi in a short period of time, basically helping to revitalize the former titleholder’s career in just three fights. However, in Khan’s corner is Freddie Roach, the four-time Trainer of the Year, according to the Boxing Writers Association of America. ‘Nuff said.
Outcome: Looking to make a statement in his U.S. debut, Khan will start fast and aggressive, launching power shots behind a rapid-fire jab. Khan will set the WaMu Theater crowd on fire by stunning and dropping Malignaggi with a sneaky lead left hook sometime in the early rounds, but the New York veteran will beat the count and grab and hold in order to survive the rocky moment. Malignaggi will begin to acclimate to Khan’s speed in the middle rounds and slow the pace of the bout down by landing accurate counter punches. A well-placed right uppercut will cause Khan’s legs to buckle, earning the more experienced fighter a measure of respect from the rising star and giving the audience another thrill. However, Khan’s busier workrate and concentrated body attack will take the steam out of Malignaggi’s legs and punches down the stretch of the fight, forcing the vet to hold and grapple just to survive the late rounds.
Prediction: Khan by unanimous decision
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this feature.