By Rick Reeno
Brooklyn's Paulie Malignaggi (31-4, 7KOs) shocked a lot of his critics with a showcase performance en route to a ninth round stoppage of previously undefeated Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-1, 21KOs).
The pro-Senchenko crowd at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk were trying to lift their fighter from the opening round, but it was Malignaggi's superior display that silenced the ringside observers.
Not regarded as a big puncher, Malignaggi quickly turned Senchenko's face into a swollen, bloody mess within five rounds. Going into the ninth round, the left side of Senchenko's face was an absolute disaster and his left eye was nearly closed shut.
During the ninth round, veteran referee Steve Smoger had seen enough and saved Senchenko from further punishment.
The victory gives Malignaggi the WBA's welterweight title and he also becomes a two division world champion.
Richard Schaefer, CEO for Golden Boy Promotions, was ecstatic with the way Malignaggi pulled it off.
"I think this is one the biggest career wins for Paulie. Winning the world title in this kind of fashion, and stopping the guy, it seems that since Paulie moved up to 147 - and he's always been an exciting guy - but now there seems to be some power behind his punches. He's hurting guys now and this is a big victory for Paulie and Golden Boy," Schaefer told BoxingScene.com.
"I'm thrilled for Paulie. He took the risk. Not too many people gave him a chance, but he did it. I told him before the fight, just remember one thing - 'skills are what pay the bills.' And I think we saw two skill levels here, between Paulie Malignaggi and Senchenko."
Malignaggi was dominated and stopped by Amir Khan in May of 2010. Following that loss, Malignaggi made his welterweight debut in December of the same year and stopped Michael Lozada in six rounds. It was Malignaggi's first TKO win since 2003. At 147, Malignaggi appears to be stronger and secured TKO wins in two of his four fights at the weight.
"I remember the first fight he had at 147, he stopped the guy too. I think he feels really comfortable at 147 and he's one the craftiest fighters and he really knows his stuff and he's exciting as well. I'm not surprised but I am surprised [with the way he beat Senchenko]," Schaefer said.
"We knew he could do it. We knew he that he was going to be able to pull it off. We believed in Paulie and as a matter of fact, we gave up our promotional profit for this fight - and that's how much we believed in Paulie, that he was going to pull it off - and he sure did. And he didn't just pull it off, he did it in spectacular fashion.
Malignaggi's dream is to fight at Golden Boy's inaugural show at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, which is scheduled for October 20th. From the moment the Senchenko fight was made, Malignaggi was salivating at the sheer thought of making the first defense of his title before a hometown crowd at Barclays.
The Barclays Center is scheduled to open in September and it will be the new home arena of the NBA's Nets, who make the shift from New Jersey. The venue has an exclusive deal with Golden Boy, who plan to stage boxing events on a monthly basis starting in October.
"Of course we are going to be talking to him about the Brooklyn arena," Schaefer said.
"It is a billion dollar facility, state of art, and one of biggest and most luxurious venues - not only in the United States but in the world. To be fighting in that venue is a dream come true [for Malignaggi]. We are going to put together a spectacular event. We certainly will have Pauli Malignaggi, who really represents Brooklyn so well. To have him there is a no-brainer."