By Keith Idec
Pablo Cesar Cano wouldn’t have been Paulie Malignaggi’s first choice for what the Brooklyn native hopes is the first of several fights at the borough’s brand new Barclays Center.
The WBA welterweight champion cannot afford, however, to consider Cano anything other than a serious threat to take his title Oct. 20 at the new home of the NBA’s Nets. Malignaggi’s grand plan includes a rematch against Ricky Hatton (45-2, 32 KOs), the wildly popular British star Malignaggi expects to come out of retirement sometime in 2013.
To keep a Hatton rematch marketable, Malignaggi must overcome Cano (25-1-1, 19 KOs), whose lone loss came against Mexican legend Erik Morales nearly 11 months ago in Las Vegas.
“I think [Cano is] a guy who has to be respected,” said Malignaggi (31-4, 27 KOs), who stopped Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs) in the ninth round April 29 in Donetsk, Ukraine, Senchenko’s hometown, to win the WBA 147-pound title. “He can punch a little bit and he seems very hungry to accomplish a lot in his career. He seems like he wants to do a lot. He’s not easily bothered by getting hit or anything like that. I don’t expect an easy night, but I’m going to have a game plan for him and I’ll be ready to beat him when we step in the ring.”
The Malignaggi-Cano encounter will be the co-featured fight of a tripleheader broadcast by Showtime. The main event will pit Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia (24-0, 15 KOs) against Morales (52-8, 36 KOs) in a 12-round rematch for Garcia’s WBA and WBC 140-pound crowns. Undefeated middleweight contender Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (27-0, 20 KOs) is expected to open the Showtime telecast against an undetermined opponent.
The 31-year-old Malignaggi anticipates criticism for facing Cano, largely because the 22-year-old Mexican contender has fought his entire six-year pro career at lightweight and junior welterweight. Cano has won three straight fights, one at lightweight and two at junior welterweight, since his corner men wouldn’t allow him to continue following the 10th round of the Morales loss, a WBC 140-pound championship match Malignaggi maintains might’ve been more competitive if Cano hadn’t taken it on such short notice.
“I want to point out that his only loss, he took it on about 10 days notice,” said Malignaggi, who is 4-0 at welterweight since moving up from 140 pounds. “So essentially, had he had a real training camp for the Erik Morales fight you never know if he would’ve won that fight. Then he’d be undefeated. So his one loss, he was replacing Lucas Matthysse on less than two weeks notice. You don’t know how in shape he was for that fight.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.