Paulie "The Magic Man" Malignaggi will be defending his IBF World Title for the first time against the #1 ranked Herman "Black Panther" Ngoudjo in Atlantic City tomorrow night. Call me crazy, but I believe he's the best Junior Welterweight right now. In a division that houses Hatton, Witter, Castillo, D. Hopkins, Torres, Holt, Harris, Lazcano, Urango, and Rees, that's saying something. This is probably not a fight many have been waiting to see, but true boxing fans should recognize the skills Malignaggi possesses and respect him for them.
Paulie hasn't been in the game that long (which is what impresses me), having started boxing in his late teens, but he is one of the best pure boxers I've had a chance to see fight. This short list includes Willy Pep, Pernell Whitaker, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Benny Leonard, and Ivan Calderon. A pure boxer needs to have superior hand speed, great footwork, an outstanding jab, combination and/or counter-punching skills, be highly accurate, and have a better-than-average defense. Paulie has all these skills. And, while he isn't known for his power, he was able to drop
Lovemore N'Dou in his last match.
Now that Paulie's hands don't bother him as much, he's been sitting down on his punches more than he'd done in the past. He's able to put more leverage into his punches and, thus, connect with more power. I believe that Ngoudjo won't go the distance with Paulie, and the difference won't be the power, it will be the speed (speed kills, as we all know). Ngoudjo was able to take what Jose Luis Castillo and Randall Bailey threw his way so it seems illogical to think that Paulie has a chance to (T)KO him, but those two do not have the speed and footwork of The Magic Man.
It will be an entertaining fight as Paulie doesn't run away, he stands and boxes. Ngoudjo will be there to be hit all night long and I expect Paulie to find his target quite frequently. Ngoudjo is tough but he isn't the best at cutting off a ring and his skills just don't match up to Paulie's.
My prediction is a stoppage in the 10th round, but a wide UD win isn't out of the question.