Amir Khan vs. Paulie Malignaggi Catches Fire in New York
By Gabriel Montoya (May 15, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing (Photo © HBO)  
Not quite a riot, but definitely a melee and hopefully as entertaining as Saturday’s night Boxing showdown at Madison Square Garden, today’s weigh-in for the Paulie ”The Magic Man” Malignaggi vs. Amir Khan junior welterweight throwdown got heated past the boiling point. All seemed fine, if a bit nationalistic, as the Brooklyn native Malignaggi hit the stage and looked ripped and ready at 139 pounds. Malignaggi, a supreme sh*t-stirrer, has talked nonstop in every forum he can find from Twitter to Facebook to articles on every boxing site. Khan, on the other side, has stayed relatively quiet, as he trained first at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA with head trainer Freddie Roach, but then also at Sugar Ray’s in Vancouver, where Khan had moved camp briefly then got stuck when visa issues kept him from moving on to New York. As “The Magic Man” stepped off the scales, he looked at Khan, did the international sign for “You’re dead” by running his hands across his own throat and taunted Khan and his seeming legion of fans with calls of, “It’s over.”

Khan stepped to the scale and weighed in at 139½. There’s an interesting moment on the YouTube clip provided by @FabulousMADY Madelyn Aria from @boricuaboxing on her Mady8002 YouTube channel. Here is the link for the brawl:

As Amir finished weighing in and began dressing, Paulie stared out over what- by the look in his eyes- were a helluva lot of Amir Khan fans chanting “Allahu Akbar (God is Great)” and “If anyone can, Khan can.” For a brief moment, “The Magic Mouth” was silenced. When Khan then turned to Paulie to get ready for the customary face-off (or “pose-off” to you “Zoolander” fans). The two met with angry “I dare ya” smiles and came together head-to-head. It was strange because both men’s mouths kept moving, but Khan seemed to close his eyes when pressing forward with his forehead. Khan’s own promoter came up and put his arm around Amir’s neck in an attempt to push him back. Khan, at the same time, shoved Malignaggi back and all hell broke loose. Cameras filled the video screen and the photographers holding them pressed forward in an attempt to get closer to two half-naked guys getting pulled apart. Khan’s father and brother take center stage and yell to their own contingent to get back. Guys from both sides then get into it; Paulie would later tell the press he got in a few kicks or tried to. Who says MMA and boxing don’t mix?

In short, it was a press conference brawl that both sides will use like a late election story to push the ticket sales higher. No harm, no foul. Afterward, as seen on the video, an angry Lou DiBella was incensed that Khan’s camp was allowed to bring in a 3-1 ratio of followers. Granted someone could have been hurt- let’s face facts- a fight that had a tiny bit of heat just got full-blown exciting, on a global level, thanks to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and every boxing channel in the world. At least it did in the “five-seconds-and-bang” internet world.

To be fair to those who have not yet, but might buy a ticket now, DiBella, who has raised the issue of a possible fine and suspension for Khan, has linked this to his @LouDiBella Twitter comments on the subject to this:

Thoughtful to the end.

As for the fight itself, it is now officially personal. All that trash talk from Malignaggi has finally gotten a reaction out Khan and an unexpected one, at that. Usually calm and cool, the young man from Bolton, England feels it’s his time to shine. Quiet during all the conference calls, instead allowing Paulie to be the guy to sell the fight by wearing a black hat, Khan spoke of why he wanted to come to America in the first place.

“A lot of fighters in the U.K. leave very late in their career to come to the U.S.” Khan told the media in a recent conference call. “You know, I want to do it early. I think I won a world title a lot quicker than most British fighters because I trained at the Wild Card Gym in L.A. I always used to get the question asked to me, when are you going to fight in the U.S.? And they just made me more hungry, and now signing up with Golden Boy Promotions, I think in a way, has made me more hungry to fight over here.”

Khan, a silver medal winner in the 2004 Olympic Games, was first promoted by British promoter Frank Warren. Under Warren’s promotional banner, Khan enjoyed a big payday against faded legend Marco Antonio Barrera and won a portion of the junior welter title. The two moves were enough to keep anyone with a promoter, but Khan had the U.S. and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions on his mind, so he split with Warren while keeping Warren-acquired trainer Freddie Roach and went a lil’ Hollywood.

But the knock on Khan is not his promotional company nor his credentials. It’s the chin. A knockout loss to unheralded Breidis Prescott in less a minute, back in 2008, has many in the sport, despite the rebuilding that Khan has gone through, wary of just how far he can go. Khan believes his loss is less about chin and more about an early lack of technique. The kind of training he has gotten under the excellent matchmaker and game planner Roach, along with the level of sparring he has gotten against the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Jamie Kavanagh, Rashad Holloway and others at the Wild Card is the reason Khan came to the States. His only regret is he didn’t do it sooner.

“I just regret not hooking up with Freddie a long time ago,” said Khan. “If I’d come, it’d been a massive difference in my style, if I’d come here a long time ago. The reason…I thought was I need to move to L.A. and move with a trainer who is going to give me a game plan and instructions, and I need to use my brains because I’ve got the boxing skills, and I need someone to bring it out. I think it’s every fighter’s dream to fight in America, and it’s my time now, and I…make no mistakes, and not only win the fight, but I want to with it with style so in the future, there will be big fights. I’m new to Freddie’s gym. It’s been about two years I’ve been with Freddie, and I can see a massive change in my style. I start thinking about what I need to do in a fight. Instead of using my heart in fighting, I use my brains. I see everything more clearly now. I have a game plan. I have instructions to follow, and it just makes work a lot easier.”

In Malignaggi, Khan is facing arguably his most experienced opponent to date. Slick, fast, feather-fisted but tricky, with enough boxing skill to trouble anyone at 140, Malignaggi is a pure boxer who, on any given night, can upset the showcase apple cart of any fighter. However much Khan’s chin is in question, his strength, size, youth, and bigger punch in this match-up cannot be. Add in that Amir is looking to make a statement in Paulie’s backyard at Madison Square Garden, no less, the pressure on Khan increases exponentially. There are some that would say his out-of-character antics at the weigh-in are indicative of that. But to hear Khan tell it, he invited that pressure in the first place.

“When the fight was announced against Paulie, you know, I really wanted it at the Madison Square Garden,” Khan explained. “I think it’s the Mecca of boxing. I’ve been to a fight over there. There’ve been some huge fights over in the Madison Square Garden. You’ve had lead fights over there. You’ve had [Mike] Tyson and big, big names. And hopefully, they can put my name down there as well. Also, you had Naseem Hamed, who made his American debut, and I’m sure my debut can be as good or maybe better. Like I said, I’m fighting a guy who is very experienced, who is well-known in New York, and I’m going to be fighting him in his own backyard, and hopefully, be the guy to beat him there as well.”

“ It’s the first fight in America [for Khan],” said Freddie Roach. “Paulie is an experienced guy. We’re going to make a statement”

And after that statement is made? Well, the division only gets rougher, from here on out. Victor Ortiz is a dangerous contender under the Golden Boy banner. Timothy Bradley is the guy everyone considers “The Man” at 140, but then there is Devon Alexander, who holds two of the belts and doesn’t strike me a fighter who likes sharing. So once Khan makes his statement, who will be next? And how does he rank himself among the elite?

“I think, at the end of the year, there’ll be a big fight for me,” said Khan. “I want to fight one of the best and the young fighters in my category. This fight is a debut fight. I’m fighting Paulie. I’ve never fought in America as a professional, so I want to get the feel of it. And I think Paulie is the right opponent for this moment in time. Yes, I can see the [at] end of the year, a big fight against, you know, one of the top four or five fighters in the division, and I think that’s when I can also prove, myself, how good Amir Khan is.

“Probably on paper,” Khan continued “you’ve probably got someone like Devon Alexander, and then you’ve got Timothy Bradley, and then you’ve got myself, and then probably you’ve got Maidana. But to be honest with you, I even think that [the 140-pound division] is probably the most explosive and most exciting, and there’s a lot more to the fight. You’ve still got Ricky Hatton in the mix and other fighters. I think them three are the big names in this category who I’d love to fight one of them in the future. Also you’ve got Victor Ortiz, who is another great fighter, fighting on the card. So it’s a very exciting division, but I know I’ve got the skills, and I’ve got the ability to beat these guys. And being with Freddie Roach and the Wild Card Gym, not only [do] I want to become a world champion- and I’ve achieved that- but I want to become…I want to unify the title and unify the division, and I think that’s my next step to move up.”

Saturday night, Khan takes that first step toward being a star in America. Winning is the important thing, of course, but exciting the masses in the ring- as opposed to just at the weigh in- will be key. Saturday night is Khan’s first big chance at American fame. The question now becomes, what will he do with it? Time will tell.

Montoya’s Saturday Night Fight Picks

At Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY

(HBO) Amir Khan (22-1) vs. Paul Malignaggi (27-3): Khan by UD

(HBO) Victor Ortiz (26-2-1) vs. Nate Campbell (33-5-1): Ortiz by SD

Daniel Jacobs (19-0) vs. Juan Astorga (14-4-1): Jacobs by Brutal KO

Tor Hamer (11-0) vs. Kelvin Price (6-0): Hamer by TKO

In Culiacan, Mexico

(FOX Sports) Humberto Soto (51-7-2) vs. Ricardo Dominguez (31-5-2): Soto by TKO

At Upton Park Stadium, West Ham, England

Kevin Mitchell (31-0) vs. Michael Katsidis (26-2): Mitchell by TKO

At Estadio Luna Park, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Omar Narvaez (31-0-2) vs. Evert Briceno (32-5-1): Narvaez by TKO.

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* Special Thanks To MaxBoxing.

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