Diaz vs. Malignaggi Rematch – The Hype:
Diaz vs. Malignaggi II is a fight that needs to happen. A little less than three months ago these two squared off in a fight that contained much controversy both before and after the bout. Houston has become well known over the years in the sport of boxing as a city that is not afraid to give their fighters “hometown decisions” and they didn’t disappoint on August 22nd, when hometown hero Juan Diaz took the stage. The sad part is that Malignaggi saw it coming from a mile away.
Malignaggi expressed his concern with judges Gale Van Hoy as well as the other two judges, the Texas Athletic Commission, and referee Laurence Cole before he showed up in Texas. Juan Diaz was about the only guy that Malignaggi didn’t malign prior to the showdown. That wouldn’t change as Paulie’s nightmare came to fruition that night, being handed a lopsided unanimous decision loss that many felt he won. The scores were 115-113, 116-112 and an embarrassing 118-110 from Van Hoy, the judge Malignaggi fought the hardest to get off the ballot.
From my vantage point, Malignaggi won a clear decision based on the fact that “The Magic Man” kept Diaz at bay almost the entire fight with his superior speed and crafty defense. Diaz, a tremendous pressure fighter was unable to close the distance long enough at any point in the fight to deserve the decision. Diaz will need to be able to do that if he wants to have a shot in the rematch because this fight will have a new set of judges and most certainly will not be held in Houston (Editor’s Note: Diaz vs. Malignaggi II is set to be held in Chicago on December 12.)
Let’s compare the two fighters heading into the rematch.
Juan “The Baby Bull” Diaz‘s last four fights have been very tough and his record (2-2 including the Malignaggi robbery) in those fights illustrates that. After beginning his career at 33-0 he stepped up in class to fight Nate Campbell. Campbell opened up a cut on Diaz’ eye in the early rounds which visibly through Diaz off. Diaz fought valiantly but wasn’t the same fighter, losing a close decision. He then fought fellow young up and comer Michael Katsidis. Diaz’s superior speed and boxing ability gave the brawler Katsidis fits, ending in a SD for Diaz.
Diaz, always looking to fight the best, then fought future HOF’er Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez is a well known slow starter and Diaz took advantage of that, hurting Marquez in the first round. Diaz continued to put on the pressure through the middle rounds but it became clear as the fight wore on that Marquez was the superior fighter with the more accurate punches and the heavier hands. Marquez started picking off the aggressive Diaz on the way in and eventually was able to give the baby bull his first KO loss in round 9. This led up to the Malignaggi fight that most thought he lost. A tough 4 fight series to say the least.
Malignaggi has fought three world class opponents and left the ring the loser in each one. Miguel Cotto in 2006, Ricky Hatton in 2008 and Diaz in 2009 all got the best of Paulie (at least on the judges’ scorecards) and are the most notable fights in Malignaggi’s career. In addition, the loss to Hatton looks particularly bad considering what happened when Hatton got into the ring with Manny Pacquaio in May of ‘09. Wins over Lovermore N’Dou (X2), Herman Ngoudjo and Edner Cherry give Maliganggi a solid resume but a resume without a signature win. A win over Diaz in the rematch would give Malignaggi the signature win he needs.
It’s no secret that neither fighter has much in the way of power. However, while Malignaggi seems all together incapable of scoring a knockout (5 knockouts in his 26 wins), Diaz has the potential to wear down his opponents with his pressure and the sheer volume of punches he throws, often resulting in a late stoppage. By most standards, Diaz’s 17 KO’s in his 35 wins would be considered feather fisted but when you’re going up against a guy in Malignaggi who hasn’t scored a KO or TKO since 2003, you end up looking like Mike Tyson by comparison. That being said, don’t look for a knockout from either fighter in this one.
Malignaggi’s speed is arguably his best asset. It was the key to his success (“loss”) against Diaz in the first fight. Malignaggi is a relatively tall (5’9″) fighter for the 140 pound weight division who uses his lightning quick jab and quick feet to move around the ring pot shotting his opponents, trying to avoid battling on the inside. Diaz who stands just 5’6″ wants to do the exact opposite. Diaz has quick hands as well but his punches are not as accurate as Malignaggi’s because he’s usually chasing down his opponent. If Malignaggi can pick off Diaz coming in like Marquez did and like he was able to do at times in their first fight, he’ll be in a very good spot.
Many question Diaz’s toughness. In his last three fights where he received cuts (Campbell, Marquez, Malignaggi) he struggled mightily. He faded against both Campbell and Marquez after the cuts opened up and while Diaz thought he proved in the Malignaggi fight that he could fight with a cut, most everyone agrees that Diaz didn’t look good in that fight either.
Malignaggi, for all his fast talking, wild hairdos and flamboyant style is a much tougher guy than people give him credit for. In his battle with Cotto in 2006 Malignaggi was battered for 12 rounds but he kept fighting and in the end came up short but gave Cotto all he could handle. Malignaggi, way behind on the scorecards against Ricky Hatton was overwhelmed with emotion and disappointment when his corner threw in the towel. While you might be able to question the kid from Brooklyn’s fashion choices, you can’t question the guy’s heart and determination.
Diaz vs. Malignaggi II Prediction:
This fight is a tough one to pick. I thought Diaz was going to beat Malignaggi down for 12 rounds on his way to an easy decision in the first fight. While Diaz won a wide decision, most of the punishment given out came from Malignaggi. I had never seen Diaz as ineffective as I did in the fight with Paulie and I’m wondering if that was just an aberration or if Diaz’ struggles will prove to be a pattern come December 12th.
Did Marquez take something out of the “The Baby Bull” that night that he was brutally KO’d? Only time will tell but for now I’m going assume that Diaz just had an off night and he will come into the rematch better prepared for what Malignaggi brings to the table. Diaz looked completely flummoxed as to how to get inside on the taller, longer man. I look for Diaz to find alternate ways to get in close, starting by using better head movement. He also needs to use his feet to cut the ring off more effectively than he did in the first encounter. If Diaz can do this, and I think he will, I see him getting the decision. This time he’ll deserve it though.
DIAZ UD 115-113