By Chris Robinson
Moments after Thursday’s press conference featuring the undercard participants on Saturday night’s ‘Ring Kings’ event, recently-crowned WBA welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi was spotted near the media center of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with his promoter Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions.
As Malignaggi and Schaefer spoke to a small group of media members about Paulie’s future, I spotted the well-respected Harold Lederman a few feet away taking in the conversation. HBO’s unofficial ringside judge, Lederman has a certain cult status among fans and insiders and is always in the mood to talk about anything related to the sport of boxing.
Malignaggi added new life to his career this past weekend when he traveled into former champion Vyacheslav Senchenko’s backyard of Donetsk, Ukraine and outclassed him for nine one-sided rounds, forcing referee Steve Smoger to call a halt to the action due to severe swelling around his opponent’s left eye.
Malignaggi may have been counted out by many people heading into the bout but Lederman had a certain feeling all along.
“I hate to say this, I hate to be a Monday morning quarterback, but I knew Paulie was going to win,” stated a candid Lederman. “He had three fights with Golden Boy before the title fight; I don’t think he lost a round in any of the three fights. He looked better than he looked in his entire life since he’s been with Golden Boy. It’s just been a transformation. I knew he was going to do it.”
Having covered several of Malignaggi’s fights during his tenure with HBO, Lederman had only positive remarks about the Brooklyn-based fighter.
“Paulie is great,” Lederman continued. “Paulie is a super personality, a nice guy, good-looking, knows boxing inside and out, dedicated, hardest-working guy in the world, and the most important thing of all, he’s got courage. He’s got courage like nobody else in boxing. People don’t give him enough credit for that.”
The welterweight division is stacked full of talent and Lederman just wants to see Malignaggi back in the ring with anyone notable at this point.
“Anybody. I’d like to see him fight Floyd Mayweather or King Kong,” Lederman would state. “Paulie is terrific, really. He’ll stand there and battle anybody. He’s got skills, he can box, now he’s punching a little, he’s great.”
This weekend’s main event features Miguel Cotto defending his WBA junior middleweight crown against the brazen and brash Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The pay-per-view extravaganza is shaping up to be possibly the biggest event of the year and Lederman is ready for the festivities.
“Absolutely, I’m excited,” said a jubilant Lederman. “It’s Floyd. You gotta get pumped with Floyd. He’s a great personality. Miguel Cotto, he’s a great fighter, he’s got a great left hook. He’s got the old puncher’s chance. I’m very excited.”
The evening’s co-feature bout has also drawn interested, as Mexican superstar Saul Alvarez puts his WBC junior middleweight belt on the line against former three-division champion Shane Mosley.
The 40-year old Mosley has had too many memorable nights to count and despite being a huge underdog this time around, Lederman won’t be the first to dismiss him.
“It might be tough,” Lederman would admit of Mosley’s chance. “Certainly you’ve got to say Canelo, at 21 years old and with skills like he’s got, should be a big favorite. But can anybody count out Shane Mosley after that unbelievable performance he put on with Antonio Margarito? You certainly can’t count him out.”
In a little over a month, Manny Pacquiao will take center stage at the MGM Grand when he looks to hold off ambitious junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley. Pacquiao is a clear favorite to successfully defend his WBO welterweight belt but the spirit is definite high on Bradley’s end, as a recent inside look at his training led one to hear chants of ‘Easy work!’ throughout his camp.
Informed of just how much Bradley’s confidence has peaked, Lederman was first taken aback and then spoke realistically about the 28-year old’s chances.
“Wow, good for Tim. You’ve got to love Tim Bradley,” Lederman stated. “He’s got that Evander Holyfield style. He fights leaning in, you’ve got to watch out for head-butts, because that is his style. He’s got that vicious right hand over the top. He takes a great punch. Nobody’s ever came close to beating him yet. He’s beaten welterweights. I mean, Timothy Bradley is a live opponent and it wouldn’t surprise me if he turns out to be Manny Pacquiao’s toughest opponent to date.”