By Keith Idec
Paulie Malignaggi’s move to welterweight has been pretty productive thus far.
Malignaggi scored his first knockout in seven years in his welterweight debut. He followed that sixth-round stoppage of Michael Lozada with a decisive 10-round unanimous decision win against Jose Cotto.
But even if he the heavily favored Malignaggi performs well again against Orlando Lora on Saturday night in Los Angeles, the former IBF junior welterweight champion won’t completely dismiss a return to 140 pounds.
“I don’t have a certain fight in mind, but I realized in this camp that being in California might allow me to make 140 pounds again,” said Malignaggi, who’s trained by Eric Brown at Freddie Roach’s famed Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. “I’m not sure if I want to go through that sacrifice. It’s still work to make 147, but I think being in California, the heat here might allow me to shrink down to 140 again.
“I think for the right opportunity, I would go back down to 140 pounds, if the right opportunity is there. And if the opportunity comes at 47, I’ll stay at 147 pounds, which is where I’ve been very comfortable for the last year. I think I’m creating options.”
The 30-year-old Malignaggi (29-4, 6 KOs) is ranked in the top 10 at welterweight by each of boxing’s four recognized sanctioning organizations. The Brooklyn-bred contender is ranked highest by the WBA, which rates him as its No. 3 contender at 147 pounds.
Despite his record, the mostly untested Lora (28-1-1, 19 KOs) is not ranked in the top 15 by the IBF, WBA, WBC or WBO. The Mexican veteran’s lone loss came against Chicago’s David Estrada, who battered Lora for eight one-sided rounds before their fight was stopped 18 months ago in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
The Malignaggi-Lora fight will open HBO’s four-fight pay-per-view broadcast Saturday night from Staples Center.
“I’m just kind of looking at the fight as a handle-my-business type of fight,” Malignaggi said. “I want to advance to big fights, maybe a title fight, next year again, especially because people said I was done. People always love to write my obituary. People always like to say, ‘This kid is done.’ After I lost the Ricky Hatton fight [in November 2008], it was, ‘You know what? This kid is done.’ I gave my reasons for the Ricky Hatton fight and that year in general. They didn’t want to hear it. ‘He’s done.’ I make my comeback, make it all the way to another world title fight, the Amir Khan fight [in May 2010], and they wrote my obituary again. ‘This kid is done as a top-flight contender.’
“But now I’m back in the position where I’m one win away, probably, from winding up with a big fight next year. I think the public needs to realize that I write my obituary when I say it’s over. I decide when it’s over. Nobody else decides when it’s over. I’ll know when I’m done as a top-level fighter. I’ll feel it. I’m not done as a top-level fighter right now. Whether I can win another world title remains to be seen, but as far as being able to compete with the best fighters in the world, there’s no doubt about it that I can.”
Malignaggi just hopes his brittle right hand holds up in the Lora fight. He ruptured a tendon in his right hand during his 10-round win against Cotto on April 9 in Las Vegas, but rest and physical therapy enabled him to avoid a fifth surgery on that hand.
“I want to get this guy out of the way and get my big fight next year and try to have a big 2012,” Malignaggi said. “Because I’ll admit, although I say when it’s over, I don’t plan on fighting that much longer.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.