LAS VEGAS // Ricky Hatton re-enforced his reputation as the best light welterweight in the world, with a punishing TKO victory over Paul Malignaggi last night. The Briton dominated the fight from the second round before Malignaggi's trainer stepped into the ring 28 seconds into the 11th round to spare his fighter any further damage. Fighting in the same ring where he suffered his only loss against Floyd Mayweather Jr a year ago, Hatton stunned the American early and dominated him the rest of the way in a fight that was never in doubt.
Hatton had employed Mayweather's father, Floyd Sr, to help him with his defensive techniques for the fight, but didn't need much defence against the light-hitting Malignaggi, who could never find an answer to Hatton's all-out fighting style. Hatton had won nine out of the previous 10 rounds on all three ringside scorecards when the fight was finally stopped. Though Hatton never managed to put Malignaggi down, he hurt him several times during the fight. "I enjoyed it this time better than I did last time - that's for sure," Hatton said. "Nobody will beat me at junior welterweight - nobody."
Malignaggi never seemed the same after the second round when Hatton hit him with a right hand that buckled his legs and forced him to hold on to survive the last 30 seconds of the round. From then on it was all Hatton, much to the delight of several thousand British fans who cheered and sang their countryman's praises from the opening bell on. Malignaggi's face was bruised and his eyes puffy midway through the fight as Hatton's punches began showing their effect. By the eighth round, Hatton was chasing Malignaggi and taking wild swings at him, clearly unimpressed with the power of a fighter who had only five knockouts in his 26 professional fights.
Hatton, though, said it was harder than it looked. "I was getting frustrated during the fight because Paulie was a lot tougher fighter than you would think," Hatton said. At the end of the 10th round, trainer Buddy McGirt warned Malignaggi that he would stop the fight if he continued to take a beating, and it didn't take long for him to follow through on his promise. McGirt came into the ring and the fight was stopped, much to the displeasure of Malignaggi, who shoved his trainer away when he tried to embrace him. "I was worse off in the Miguel Cotto fight," Malignaggi said of his only previous loss. "They didn't stop it then, they shouldn't have stopped it now."
McGirt was unapologetic "My guy was hurting and I wanted him to live to fight another day," he said. "I would rather have him mad at me stopping the fight than let him get hurt and never fight again." Malignaggi had mocked Hatton's effort to bring in a new trainer to improve his defences, saying Hatton would revert to his old ways the moment he got hit in the mouth. But while Malignaggi didn't do much hitting, Hatton fought the same style he has always fought in improving his career record to 45-1. It didn't matter much as Malignaggi couldn't find a way to keep Hatton on the outside and win points with his jab.
"I just couldn't get to him," Malignaggi said. "I couldn't hit him." Ringside punching stats showed Hatton landing 99 of 377 power punches to just 25 of 133 for Malignaggi, a Brooklyn, New York native who lost for the second time in 27 fights. Hatton was a 1-2 favourite in his second fight back at junior welterweight after moving up to welterweight for his bout with Mayweather. The arena was far short of a sell-out for a fight that had little buzz despite matching two of the top five welterweights in the world. Hatton earned US$2.5 million (more than Dh9m) for his night's work, while Malignaggi was paid $1m, the biggest purse of his career.