One wondered whether Paulie Malignaggi was laying down an alibi when he complained bitterly before his fight with Juan Diaz that the deck–the ref, the judges, the small ring–were stacked against him. Nope; the streetwise Brooklyn boy knows human nature, and he was worried that a pro-Diaz group of judges wouldn't give him his fair due in the main event at the Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday night. He was right, they didn't, and shame on them. It was not the robbery of the century, as the Texan Diaz landed impactful power punches, especially early on. But for Texan Gale Van Hoy to turn in a card that read 118-110 for Diaz, well, that's hard to swallow. Malignaggi was in control in the last third of the fight, sticking, moving, and frustrating the less mobile Diaz with his dancing. California's Raul Caiz had it 115-113 for Diaz, a plausible card, while Oklahoman David Sutherland saw it 116-112, again within reason, I suppose. Paulie shook his head, as if to say, ‘I knew it, I told ya so,’ after he heard Michael Buffer say, “From Houston…” and called Diaz the unanimous decision winner.
After, Paulie spoke to Max Kellerman. “How'd you guys score it? 7-5 me, right? At least some people got the score right. I don't know why Houston is booing me, you guys are a great fight town. I have nothing against Houston man. This is a great fight town, you guys were a loud crowd. It ain't nothing against you guys, man, but I had to deal with a lot of politics, man. That was ridiculous. I knew I was going to have to deal with this. You got guys like Raul Caiz, guy is Golden Boys' girl friend. I said before, then he was. And he actually had the closest scorecard, man. I'm telling you, this state never gives a fair shake to anyone coming to this state to fight hometown fighters. It never happens!” He was incensed, and well within his bounds to be crazed, in my view.
“I thought I edged it out, I thought I outboxed him. But man, Juan is a great warrior, I expected that from Juan, I knew he was going to come to fight, I knew he was going to come to throw down, knew he was going to throw punches, the ring was small, I couldn’t always move because he was going to get to me, I had to break it up, between smothering him and moving. But Juan showed heart.”
Max asked him about a rematch. “You know I ain’t getting a rematch, this is boxing, boxing is full of s—, I used to love this sport, I cannot stand doing this, the only reason I do this is cuz it gives me a good payday. Boxing is full of s—.”
Let me take a stand and say: there needs to be a rematch, on neutral turf, on in NYC, with a 20 foot ring, where I do believe you will get impartial judging.
Malignaggi continued. He ranted that Diaz can call out the Mayweather/Marquez winner, and that he’d have to hope an offer to be an opponent in the favorite’s hometown gets thrown his way. He congratulated Houston for being a great fight town and Diaz for his effort. Bob Papa then said he did himself no favors with his rant; I disagree with Papa; let's see how he reacts after putting his butt on the line for twelve rounds, and then hears a 118-110 card after such a fight. My guess is he'd be just as furious as Paulie.
Diaz (age 25; from Houston; 137 ¾ at weigh in, 145 on fight night) last fought in February, when he was stopped (TKO9) by Juan Manuel Marquez.
Malignaggi (age 28; from Brooklyn, NY; 138 ¼ at weigh in, 149 on fight night) wasn’t happy coming in that two of the four officials were from Texas. The Magic Man drew beaucoup boos when his name was announced. He paid tribute to Arturo Gatti as he strolled to the ring to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and Houston fight fans backed off a bit.
In the first round, Paulie used his hand speed, and his snappy jab, to take the round. A cut suffered in camp on his left eye opened up just a bit, but it didn’t look too threatening. Diaz scored with left hooks, and then smacked Paulie three on the belt line. Paulie worked inside in the second, to his detriment. Diaz had a cut on his left eye, on the eyebrow, and it looked more severe than the New Yorkers.’ It may have been caused by a right uppercut. In round three, Paulie worked with both hands, always a good sign for him, with the copious problems he’s had with his right paw. Diaz’ left hook up top hit home, but didn’t look like it bothered Paulie all that much. But, after six rounds or so, would he still be so quick to shake off the effects? In the fourth, once again, a Diaz left hook impressed the heck out of the crowd. This reaction would not bode well for Paulie come card time…Paulie stumbled off a left hook at the 1:50 mark, but he was probably clowning. Decent enough to sway the judges in Diaz’ territory? Doubtful.
In the fifth, Diaz was scoring with the more telling blows and we wondered why Paulie didn’t use the same tactics that worked in the first. Ref Laurence Cole, the worst big fight ref in the business, gave Paulie a second warning for pushing Diaz back, and once again injected himself inappropriately into the flow. Not the first time, and surely not the last…The blood flowed, from a new cut, from a head-clash, and bothered Diaz; would Paulie target the slice with his right hand? In round six, Diaz went low, and Cole didn’t notice. Then he chided Paulie for pulling Diaz’ head down. Paulie jabbed like crazy as he circled left, and indeed, didn’t move to his right, and go after that bad cut. (HBO ran late, and the fight went beyond the allotted time frame, so the seventh round was seen only by folks watching live or those who DVR’d the show after BAD. HBO rarely goes over…) Harold Lederman had it even after six, but I have to think the Texas area judge would not agree.
In the seventh, Paulie moved more, as he needed to if he wanted to get the win, but then Diaz slowed him with rights over the top. Wouldn’t Paulie have liked a ring bigger than 18 feet around at that time? “I want some lead right hands,” Paulie’s trainer Sherif Younan said after the round. In the eighth, Paulie did the jab thing, and Diaz didn’t upset his rhythm early. He was slow afoot, and Paulie’s energy was ample. His trunks, though..they were falling down. Where was Cole when you actually needed him? “How does the ref not see that?” Bob Papa asked. We’re talking Laurence Cole, here!
In the ninth, Paulie’s trunks were hiked up, and he was still slippery. He moved right, repeatedly, but Diaz never really factored that in, and tweaked his plan. In the 10th, Paulie’s movement was still the story. The crowd was flat, and that should tell you somewhat what your scorecard should probably read by this juncture. Paulie yelled at the HBO crew at the 36 second mark, and his confidence level was sky high. Ronnie Shields again told Diaz to use feints; not sure that would be the first thing I’d tell Diaz, who was having difficulty being accurate against a defensive wiz. In the 11th, Paulie’s ring generalship had to even sway a pro Diaz judge early. He shoe-shined Diaz, nothing too heavy, but these were scoring blows nonetheless. Would Cole stick his snout in the affair? It was a pure Paulie round. In the 12th round, the crowd didn’t lift Diaz to kick off the round, surprisingly. The Magic Man’s spell was in effect, on Diaz and his rooters. Diaz hooks didn’t wow the crowd like before. He made Diaz miss buffoonishly, but Diaz had the edge in power shots overall. We’d hear the cards.
SPEEDBAG HBO will run the first Mayweather/Marquez 24/7 next Saturday at 10:15 Eastern. On Sept. 19, Mayweather and Marquez will get it on.
—Max Kellerman, in his wrapup, pointed out that the marketplace, and Paulie’s lack of fanbase, gave us the decision we saw. I see his point, but I can’t shrug it off with a dismissal shrugging it off to free market forces. Crap judging is crap judging, no matter what town you’re in and who’s the favorite. Van Hoy submitted a crap card, and those sort of cards do the sport no favors. Gale owes Paulie an apology, and his optician a visit. (Yes, Gale is a fella.)