NEW YORK --- According to my friend Roy Blount, Jr., the musician Jerry Jeff Walker, back in his drinking days, had a predilection for getting himself into mismatches so hopeless they would have embarrassed a Golden Boy matchmaker. The upshot of one such episode outside a Texas roadhouse one night was that Jerry Jeff got himself stomped silly by several members of a motorcycle gang, who beat him to a bloody pulp and then stuffed him in a dumpster for good measure.
The victors were headed back into the saloon when they heard Jerry Jeff calling after them from amidst the garbage, “You guys ain’t half as tough as rodeo cowboys!
Listening to Paulie Malignaggi’s version of what had just transpired in the ring at the Madison Square Garden Theatre Saturday night called that to mind. In as lefthanded a compliment as you’re apt to hear coming from a righthanded boxer, Malignaggi said of Amir Khan “he knows how to win rounds, man.
With Union Jacks and Pakistani ensigns scattered through the building, the Bolton wunderkind made an triumphant American debut in successfully defending his WBA junior welterweight title. Khan not only won each of the ten rounds completed before referee Steve Smoger could no longer bear to watch, he won every minute of every round.
That he dominated by utilizing dazzling hand speed, superior quickness, and an almost magically elusive defense against a man whose entire career has relied on his advantages in precisely those skills made it all the more impressive.
“I won it with my speed and with my jab, said Khan, who credited trainer Freddie Roach with the improvement he evinced with the latter weapon. “I think with my speed I can beat any fighter.
Of course, for most of his life Paulie Malignaggi thought the same thing. “It was like being in against a clone of myself when I was younger, said Malignaggi, who can be forgiven for fantasizing in this instance. Not in his wildest dreams could Paulie at the top of his game have matched the quickness Khan put on display Saturday night.
If there’s one relic from his earlier career Malignaggi could have used, it was former trainer Buddy McGirt. It’s not that Buddy could have taught him any new tricks to use against Khan, but, wise and compassionate man that he is, McGirt would almost certainly have thrown in the towel and stopped the one-sided mismatch a good five or six rounds earlier.
Malignaggi’s eye was already beginning to swell before the first round was over, and by the middle rounds his entire face had turned into a grotesque caricature. According to CompuBox’s calculations, Khan landed slightly more than two punches for every one he took in return; in the jab department his advantage was even more pronounced, as he outlanded the challenger 151 to 57. Khan, in fact, landed more jabs than Malignaggi did total punches -- and anyone who sat through it would tell you that the surprise is that Paulie landed that many.
From the sixth round on it had become a pointless exercise. God knows what Malignaggi’s current trainer Sharif Younan was thinking when he kept sending him out for more of the same. That Khan’s hands were going to get sore if he hit Malignaggi a hundred more times in the head?
Of course anyone who tried to stop this one would have faced a battle from Malignaggi himself. If his courageous performance in a losing cause against Miguel Cotto won him legions of admirers, this one was equally gritty, if wrong-headed.
After the eighth, ninth, and tenth rounds Smoger had invited the ringside physicians to Malignaggi’s corner. The last visit had produced what appeared to be a spirited discussion between the fighter and Dr. Osric King, the NYSAC’s chief physician, and Paulie somehow talking his way into another round. At this point Smoger had come to recognize that since he wasn’t going to get any help from the doctors or from Malignaggi’s corner he was going to have to do it himself. Midway through the eleventh, Khan slammed Malignaggi with a left hook that drove him across the ring and against the ropes, and when the champion landed another blinding flurry of unanswered punches, the referee collared Malignaggi and waved the fight to a halt at 1:25 of the round.
Despite the bad blood that had bubbled up as recently as Friday, when a gang of punks wearing t-shirts identifying them as members of “Khan’s Army overran the weigh-in, Malignaggi was quick to salute the winner (whom he pronounced “much tougher than Ricky Hatton) and Khan expressed grudging admiration for Malignaggis resolve as well.
The scorecards of all three judges – Steve Weisfeld, Glenn Feldman, and Terry O’Connor -- read 100-90 after ten, as did ours. It was the second successful defense of the title he won from Andreas Kotelnik last July for Khan, who is now 23-1. Malignaggi is now 27-4.
We can hardly wait to see how the boys from Fleet Street play this one back in London. A couple of days earlier one British paper had sniffed about the fact that Khan-Malignaggi was taking place in the Theatre instead of the Garden’s main arena, where it really belonged, and even told its readers that the smaller venue was being used only because the big room was booked for a prior event.
Of course there was nobody playing in the main arena save a few rats Saturday night, and the fight drew 4,412 in the 5,800-seat Theatre. How many of those were representatives of Khan’s boisterous Army remains unlearned, but there were a lot fewer of them when the fight ended than had been there when it began. Garden security personnel had a busy night of it, as brush-fire skirmishes broke out in the crowd throughout the evening, and while many of them were a good deal more competitive than the main event, most of them ended with a another handful of Brits being frog-marched out of the building.
Like Khan-Malignaggi, the Victor Ortiz-Nate Campbell co-feature appeared a good deal more intriguing on paper than it turned out to be. In a bout every bit as one-sided as the title fight that followed it, the 23 year-old Ortiz routed former lightweight champion Nate Campbell over ten rounds.
Two years ago Campbell rose to a career-best performance when he upset Juan Diaz to win three of the four recognized 135-pound titles, but it has been more or less downhill since then. A scheduled defense against Joan Guzman fell apart at the scale when the challenger failed to make weight. Then in his next outing Campbell not only lost his titles when he came in overweight, but barely squeaked by Ali Funeka in the non-title bout. In his last outing he had lost all three rounds to Timothy Bradley in a fight halted by what proved to be a head-butt, and the result was changed to no decision.
At least in theory, then, Campbell hadn’t lost in more than four years, but he looked every one of his 38 years against the younger and quicker Ortiz, who led him around the ring by the nose throughout the evening. Not only was Campbell unable to cut off the ring against Ortiz, who peppered him with jabs and right hooks even in retreat, but on those occasions when Ortiz chose to stand and fight, the old-timer was no match for him in the slugging department, either.
Campbell said a hip injury incurred in the third round had hampered his performance, but he was already well down the road to defeat even then. Ortiz was credited with a knockdown in the first -- although he appeared to have pushed Campbell, he did land a glancing right hook. Campbell hit the deck in lockstep with the bell ending the round, and was surprised to see referee giving him a count.
Ortiz, in winning his third straight since last summer’s surprise loss to Marcos Maidana, improved to 27-2-1, while Campbell, in what may have been his last important fight, dropped to 33-6-1. Judges Don Trella and Julie Lederman gave Ortiz all ten rounds in returning 100-89 verdicts, while Tom Schreck (as did The Sweet Science) scored it 99-90.
Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez wasn’t taking many chances when he dredged up Juan Astorga as the opponent for unbeaten Brooklyn middleweight Daniel Jacobs. In a performance that might have been worthy of a suspension at the Theatre back in January Astorga (14-5-1) fell over and was counted out the first time John Duddy breathed on him. Not only did Astorga collect a paycheck that night, but earned himself another one for serving as a prop for Jacobs on this card. To make it even more ridiculous, after both the NABA and the NABF sanctioned it as a “title fight. Astorga rewarded their largesse by coming in four and a half pounds over the limit, and did nothing to diminish the disgrace over the three minutes and 51 seconds he lasted in the ring.
The extra heft didn’t help him against Jacobs, who floored him four times on the way to a second-round TKO.
Astorga took a knee in response to a right dig to the body and went down from another right with 30 seconds left in the first, but managed to stay away and survived the first stanza.
Jacobs (now 20-0) opened the second by putting Astorga down with a left to the body. The Mexican appeared to be mulling over his options, and nearly stayed down, and almost as soon as he regained his feet seemed to think better of it. He was already on his way down before Jacobs even landed the left that led referee Steve Willis to stop it at 51 seconds of the second.
Since Jacobs was safely within the middleweight limit, he retained his NABO belt and added the NABF version. It is probably a safe bet that New York has seen the last of Juan Astorga for awhile.
In a deft bit of gamesmanship, co-promoter Lou DiBella brought in Colombian Breidis Prescottt, the author of a 54-second first-round kayo that represented the lone loss on Khan’s record. The best that can be said of Prescott’s opponent Jason Davis (11-7-1) is that he lasted six minutes longer than Khan did. A hard right to the body caused Davis to take a knee in the third, and no sooner had action resumed than the process repeated itself, this time leading referee Benjy Esteves to stop it at 1:11. Although it was announced that Davis had retired with a hip injury, he appeared to be clutching his lower left rib cage. Prescott moved to 22-2 with the win.
Two of DiBella’s undefeated Broadway Boxing staples, heavyweight Tor Hamer and middleweight Denis Douglin also saw action. Hamer (11-1) dropped a split decision to former UNC-Charlotte basketball player Kelvin Price (7-0), while Douglin (9-0) floored Ugandan journeyman Joshua Onyango (13-19-1) twice in the second round on the way to a second-round TKO. Sparkle Lee’s intervention came at 1:10 of the round.
The clash between the two unbeaten heavyweights acquired a potential touch of controversy in the second round when Hamer, who had just unloaded a two-punch combination near a neutral corner, appeared to slip on a beer logo painted on the mat and fell heavily against the ropes. Esteves ruled it a knockdown. (The mat was shipped in from California by Golden Boy; earlier in the evening Prescott had slipped on the same spot and fallen into the ropes, but no knockdown was recorded in that instance.)
“My feet did slip on the mat, but then (Price) landed a punch as I was falling sideways, shrugged Hamer. “If I’d been scoring I might have called it a knockdown, too.
The referee’s interpretation was in the end immaterial, since it would have affected none of the scorecards: Ron McNair and Waleska Roldan both scored it 58-55 for Price, while Matt Ruggero had it 57-56 Hamer. The TSS card agreed with Ruggero’s.
Jamie Kavanaugh, a Freddie Roach-trained junior welter from Dublin, made an impressive professional debut, though he wasn’t in with much. Late in the first round he put his Georgia opponent William Ware down with a left to the body and a right to the head. A hard left to the body caused Ware (1-3) to go tumbling again in the second, and there should have been a third knockdown before it ended. A glancing right sent Ware to one knee, but after a moment’s hesitation, Lee allowed action to continue before, in what was apparently a make-up call, the referee moved in to stop it at 1:39 of the second.
• * *
• Madison Square Garden Theatre
• New York City
• May 15, 2010
• JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHTS: Amir Khan, 139 ½, Bolton, England TKO’d Paulie Malignaggi,139, Brooklyn, N.Y. (11) (Retains WBA title)
• Victor Ortiz,140, Garden City, Kansas dec. Nate Campbell, 139, Jacksonville, Fla. (10)
• Jamie Kavanagh, 139 ½, Dublin, Ireland TKO’d William Ware, 141, Augusta, Ga. (2)
• HEAVYWEIGHTS: Kelvin Price,243, New Iberia, La. dec. Tor Hamer,230, New York (6)
• MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Daniel Jacobs, 160, Brooklyn, N.Y. TKO’d Juan Astorga, 164 ½, Chihuahua, Mexico (2) (Retains NABO title; wins vacant NABF title)
• Denis Douglin, 156, Morganville, N.J. TKO’d Joshua Onyango, 157, Nairobi, Kenya (2)
• WELTERWEIGHTS: Breidis Prescott, 140 ½, Baranquilla, Colombia TKO’d Jason Davis, 144 ½, Vancouver, Wash. (3)