(Gentleman, we’ve got the august Shoefly on the prognog piece this week, and yes, the contest is on. Call the round, call the cards, call it call it call it and win a Mas shirt of your choice. But remember… be specific, be very specific. -L)
There’s losing, there’s losing by knockout, and then there’s losing by beating. The type of grueling, pounding, and unmanning hurt they don’t tell you about when you first walk into the gym; the sort of hiding a proud kid who always got his way could never imagine. I’m thinking here of a fight like Calzhage/Lacy. A man enters the ring as a champion and exits a bruise on legs.
I generally think the modern obsession with a fighter being damaged and faded following a loss is unhelpful and inaccurate, but when a boxer receives the deep hurt it’s impossible not to look for signs of a changed man.
And that’s what Saturday’s Diaz/Malignaggi fight is really about; how much of Juan Diaz is left? Did the great Juan Manual Marquez knock something essential loose when he ripped two-dozen of the most lovely uppercuts you’re likely to see into the younger man? It was a terrific fight, one of those classic encounters that are so familiar across the course of boxing history; the young lion vs. the old champ, the reckless pressure fighter vs. the counterpunching genius.
Diaz did very well early, walking through some good work by Marquez and scoring with his volume punching, particularly the left hook. But they don’t make many like ‘Dynamita,â€ and as the fight progressed he started taking control. Diaz only knows one way to win, and he kept moving forward and eating clean punches until he couldn’t any longer. It was systematic, comprehensive, and frighteningly violent. Diaz is a tough kid, only 25 years old, but there’s something magical and fleeting that exists within the special prizefighters, and we need to find if he still has that spark.
Across from him stands Paulie Malignaggi, himself the recipient of one of the most notable beatings in recent years. Miguel Cotto busted Malignaggi to pieces in 2006, fracturing his jaw in a fight Paulie heroically managed to finish standing. Ricky Hatton stopped him in their fight last year, yet Paulie again showed he could take his share of hurt. But while I’ll be watching Diaz closely the difference with Malignaggi is he never had much to begin with. He has fast hands and good movement, but not the natural elusiveness of the elite slicksters. Probably the lightest punching fighter amongst the frequently televised, his fragile right hand has deteriorated over the years. He’s basically been left with a nice jab and enough style and moxie to get past the mediocrities.
While both fighters are young this is something of a deciding test for each. Malignaggi lost badly the only two times he faced class opponents, and his style is not really pleasing to anyone. If he loses another fight without offering much resistance I expect his time as a television fighter will be over. He was always more notable for his talking and persona than the quality of his boxing, but there comes a point where even the guys with personality have to deliver. For Diaz there is still hope, he has an attractive style and a nice personal story, but he has failed in his biggest tests as well. There was an expectation that he would become the next great lightweight, and now that Marquez is moving up this is his opportunity to show that he has recovered and is prepared to take his rightful place.
I think he will step up, at least for one night. If Juan Diaz still has his faculties intact he should run right through Malignaggi. There is nothing in Paulie’s arsenal that can slow him down and Diaz is not the type to be cowed by the clowning and play Malignaggi frustrates his lesser opponents with. I think the fight will last the duration, Diaz doesn’t have much power himself, but I expect him to exert control with his pressure. It’s the right fight for Diaz on his way back, the doubts should stay away when all you have to absorb is an accurate jab. I doubt Diaz will become what HBO was hoping of him, and he may have lost something that night against Marquez, but I think he’s got enough to soundly beat Malignaggi. Diaz UD Malignaggi , 118-110