It was almost hair today, gone tomorrow as visiting New Yorker Paulie Malignaggi came within just a couple points of blowing a huge payday against Ricky Hatton at the UK’s City of Manchester Stadium on Saturday.

Follicle clichés nearly became major upset headlines as Malignaggi turned in a sub-par, close head-shave performance against determined Lovemore N’dou in a mandatory rematch for Malignaggi’s IBF Junior Welterweight title. The two first clashed in June of 2007.

“It was definitely tougher this time,” admitted a chagrined Malignaggi with quite an understatement.

The sloppy slugging affair was the featured undercard appetizer for Hatton’s “Homecoming” battle with Juan Lazcano. There was much published speculation that the card would likely be Hatton’s final UK appearance, with a meeting with Malignaggi tentatively scheduled for New York in the fall.

Malignaggi barely held on to Hatton’s former title, which N’dou had earlier picked up after Hatton initially decided on a soon re-modified move into the 147 division a year or so before going back up to meet Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Many observers felt N’dou did enough to win. Though Malignaggi was booed heartily coming into the packed football stadium as the probable villain in Hatton’s next adventure, much of the vocal disapproval as scores were announced only had to do with what transpired inside the ring strands.

Dreadlock strands of Malignaggi’s ill advised hair extensions almost proved to be Malignaggi’s undoing.

Malignaggi entered in a Mexican style, sequined “lucha libre” mask and seemed to be playing the perfect foil to set up his role as Hatton’s next antagonist, before a crowd that proved Las Vegas isn’t the only place where it looks like much of the audience waits until the featured bout to show up.

The place looked half empty as the sun set on a 50s degree evening. It nearly became sundown for Malignaggi’s hope for the fall spectacular. Malignaggi may still get his wish to meet Hatton, but his fistic stock definitely fell.

Malignaggi planned to steal the show and said he wanted to make a loud statement to Hatton’s fans. He found himself in dire straights instead.

Under the theory that Malignaggi’s boxing style and body type would provide Hatton with solid prep work for a Mayweather rematch, it was considered Hatton-Malignaggi was almost a lock to occur. Entirely different locks came into pugilistic play.

Now, Malignaggi’s relatively poor showing, not to mention a reinjured right hand, might have put flies in the liniment.

Malignaggi’s hair tie became undone almost immediately. It seemed likely his planned winter nest egg would be undone next as the horrible hair blocked his vision.

After multiple failed attempts at coiffure control, Malignaggi got a makeshift haircut after the eighth almost absurd round.

As no longer cocky Malignaggi’s desperately hacked-off fake-fur littered the canvas, it became a big buck question whether or not he’d be able to cut his losses as N’dou almost turned the tagging tide his way.

Twisted Samson analogies almost applied as N’dou continued to slam in big right hands. Malignaggi’s usually well composed promoter Lou Dibella had a very worried look on his face.

Malignaggi barely held on to an early lead by coming back to life down the stretch. As the fight wound down, Malignaggi’s side of the ringposts looked like a cheap corner barbershop. It was a laughably rare, possibly first such scene for the sport.

The split decision verdict could have gone either way. Scoring: Phil Edwards 115-114 N’dou, Dave Parris 116-112 and Victor Loughlin 116-113 Malignaggi. Whatever the problem, and N’dou had much to do with it, it was a close call for the American.

“I’m not making any excuses, he gave me a very tough fight,” acknowledged a red faced Malignaggi. “But I broke my right hand in the sixth round. I’ve broken it before and it feels like a fracture. It’s hard to fight a strong, pressure fighter like N’dou with one arm.”

“The hair was a disaster, I couldn’t see punches coming. This was definitely a first time, last time situation.”