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Boxing's laureate riles Malignaggi

Ben Dirs | 07:34 UK time, Thursday, 20 November 2008

"When Cotto broke your jaw it took time to recoup, when Hitman breaks your jaw you'll be sucking on soup." Not exactly Wordsworth, but to be fair, what did Wordsworth know about mitt work?

You'd have thought Ricky Hatton, a man who is one dodgy performance away from hanging up his gloves, needs a rapping trainer like a moose needs a hat stand*, but Floyd Mayweather Sr isn't just a rapping trainer. He's "the poet laureate of boxing".

And poet laureates of boxing have a habit of getting up opponents' noses, as anybody familiar with the career of Muhammad Ali, who held the office between 1960 and 1981, will recognise.

"Should I do some more?" said Floyd after a ditty that must have lasted two or three minutes. But Paulie Malignaggi had seen enough.

"Man, you should have wrote children's poems, what you doing in boxing?" said the New Yorker, whose nose had clearly been got up.

Hatton, meanwhile, chuckled rather smugly to himself. "I don't have to do any trashtalking, Floyd does it for me. I think he got under Paulie's skin a little bit."

Skin-getting-under is clearly in the Mayweather genes - Floyd Jr got so far under Hatton's before they met last December as to be almost tumorous.

Indeed, Hatton's cage was so rattled that he ended up making dopey cutthroat gestures at the weigh-in, but at Wednesday's final press conference at the MGM Grand, he was very much a man in control of his emotions.

After Malignaggi had finished his little rant - "I hope Ricky left his wrestling pants at home" - Ricky coolly trumped him by saying he hoped they could still be friends after the fight.

He got an appreciative ripple of applause, while Paulie stuck out his bottom lip and nodded rather embarrassedly, having been made to look every bit the Vegas virgin he is.

Malignaggi's promoter Lou DiBella is no Vegas virgin, and it was he who brought up subject of refereeing, an aspect of the fight that could be key in deciding the outcome.

As Malignaggi alluded to, Hatton has a reputation as something of an octopus, and DiBella will hope his concerns land on the doormat of Kenny Bayless, who'll be the third man in the ring on Saturday.

DiBella's jab aside, it was Hatton's presser by a wide margin, although it was his trainer landing all the significant blows. And that's exactly how Hatton would have liked it.

If I had an M&M for every time a boxer had told me their training camp had been their best ever, I'd be able to open a four-storey M&M department store (there's one in Vegas - would anyone like me to bring home an M&M dog sweater?).

But those journalists who saw Hatton's final open workout on Wednesday (I arrived a couple of hours too late and can't pretend I was there: damn you Ross and Brand...) are unanimous in their opinion that Hatton has, as he put it, rediscovered his "twinkle".

Media workouts are unreliable barometers of form - after all, Ali used to spar with fluffy gorillas and The Beatles at his, and he didn't do too badly - but those I have spoken to assure me there was a new-found freshness in Hatton's moves.

Radio Five Live commentator Mike Costello assured me he looked "impressive". Mayweather Sr preferred to put it another way:

"He's back, it's amazing, ain't no jack, the Hitman comes alive... he's the man with the man who's gonna make the plan, to put Paulie on his pants." Funny, it doesn't seem as good when you write it down...

* Apologies to Mike Costello, this line was his, although he nicked it off Mickey Duff, so I don't feel so bad.

PS. I cannot believe Ben Dirs is in Las Vegas wasting the license fee payers' money... I just thought I'd save a few of you the effort...


  • Comment number 1.

    Lets hope Ricky & floyd are right!!!
    He did look s*** in his last fight but considering he was comin off that defeat to the pretty boy and he was supposedly ill, it wasnt so bad. By his own admittance Hatton thought he was bulletproof after 'bulldozing' thru Tyzu so get ktfo like he did musta battered his confidence. Ye ye ye fighters get beat all the time n comeback but its how a fighter comes back thats a gauge of the fighter they are. Nice to see him smiling again. good luck Ricky!

  • Comment number 2.

    Boxinlova - Yeh, it was good to see Ricky smiling again, he looked genuinely happy and very relaxed, with none of the tension he had before the Mayweather fight, when it all looked like it was getting on top of him. Although I'm not sure how happy he is about Billy Graham turning up...

    Where's IronDirkDiggler? I thought he would have been on here by now demanding I be hung, drawn and quartered.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great Blog Ben, and love the PS, I've had enough of this "wasting licence payers' money" rant. Are the BBC supposed to not send someone to Vegas to report on one of the best British boxers in the last 20 years?

    Hatton to win by 6th round stoppage. No problems. Very interested to see his improved Mayweather-influenced style.

    Incidentally, who do you think will win the De La Hoya vs Pacquiao bout, and can Hatton beat that man?

    Keep up the blogging!

  • Comment number 4.

    haha Ben, don't worry - most of us understand that the BBC should send their best boxing journo out to Vegas to cover the big fights, we are all jealous it just doesnt manifest into hatred amongst all of us.
    Anyways, another good piece - looking forward to Fridays, Saturdays and of course Sundays - hope you maintain your recent superb standard.

    .....oh and do hurry back for the India Tests - it aint the same without you!

  • Comment number 5.

    Great blog Ben, very refreshing read. Although I can't imagine a more 'chalk and cheese' partnership in boxing than Hatton & Mayweather Sr I have a sneaky feeling that it could work like a dream, and really rejuvenate the Hitman. Obviously his days are numbered whatever the result but it was sad to see him so sluggish and predictable vs Lazcano, so here's hoping that sparkle has returned. Come on Ricky!

  • Comment number 6.

    Nice blog Ben. I'm looking forward to watching the "new improved" Ricky hatton fight!

    Oh, can anyone tell me what the time the fight will be starting, GMT? I stayed up to watch the Calzaghe fight two weeks ago thinking it started at was 5 before it kicked off if I recall :S

  • Comment number 7.

    Agree with the blog above, why are the BBC wasting license fee payers' money sending Dirs to Vegas?

    For the cost of this trip the BBC board could have bought Jonathan Ross another pair of purple novelty slippers, perhaps they'll think first next time.

  • Comment number 8.

    I cannot believe Ben Dirs is in Las Vegas wasting the license fee payers' money.

  • Comment number 9.

    Haha great ending Dirsy and enjoyable blog to go with it. Bet you're glad you're in Vegas to cover what will hopefully be Hatton's rebirth as a top 10 P4P fighter as opposed to covering another English cricketing flop! Could have done with you today though to lighten the mood on another disappointing performance. I'm sure there's plenty more waiting for you for when you get back though don't worry.

    I think this partnership could be a great one. Hatton's already said he hasn't got many fights left in him but Mayweather seems like he's really injected a new lease of life into Ricky. It'd be great to see him finishing his career with some truly memorable performances like Calzaghe's doing rather than see the gradual decline that comes with age.

    If things go well on Saturday night do you think this could be a partnership that will continue for another few fights or is this just a one-fight arrangement between Ricky and Floyd?

  • Comment number 10.

    Mayweather senior has done this fight a big favour.

    The insipid build-up to Calzaghe-Jones was in danger of being mirrored for this one. This fight should be better - it's harder to call - and now there's a bit of antipathy.

    I don't think anything - or anyone - will arrest Hatton's decline as a boxer. It was said a few years back that a pressure fighter like Ricky would burn out soon and I thought people were being overly pessimistic, but it turned out to be true. His notorious 're-fuelling' antics have surely caught up with him, though whether the light-hitting (and just plain light) Malignacci will be the guy to call time, I don't know.

    I certainly won't be forking out fifteen quid to find out.

    David Haye and Carl Froch are the new stars of British boxing; Ricky and Joe are fading away........

  • Comment number 11.

    Another great read Ben. I wouldnt mind one of the m and m dog sweaters hahaha. I hope Ricky has picked his performance up a bit and we get to see a better standard of boxing from the hitman.

  • Comment number 12.

    That PS made me laugh out loud Ben. It's a bit difficult pretending to work in your office when you're laughing at the computer screen though so please don't make me laugh out loud again or I will have to complain to the BBC about the use of my licence fee.

    Can't wait for this one, I think Hatton has had his wilderness years and a change of trainer and attitude will be the (re) making of him.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good blog Ben..
    You'll be amazed to see how many people will come in to write about that last line.

    Although some of them had already used this "wastage of license money" line in some other blogs.

    Nice work.
    Hope you are back for Test series. That will probably change England's luck.

  • Comment number 14.

    For all his talk I actually like Paulie Malignaggi a lot. I usually can't stand the trash talk you get before some fights but you just can't take Paulie seriously.
    During the Cotto fight he showed so much guts and determination, especially after being cut so early. He's never ducked anyone (unlike some other light punching fighters......) and deserves some respect for that.
    I think most people see this as a walk in the park for Hatton but I for one hope this is a close contest. Its a clash of styles that could lead to an interesting series of fights.

  • Comment number 15.

    Malignaggi is a tough cookie but his last performance was pretty dreadful. Hatton has a chance here to look good and get back on the right track after a few too many lacklustre performances in recent years, Castillo fight aside.

    Lots of positivety coming out of training camp but, as said, it's a song played so often before. Really hoping Hatton can get not only the win but an impressive aggressive performance.

  • Comment number 16.

    LOL Excellent ending to the piece Ben - great article and is building up the fight nicely!

    In regards to post 6 i think its on around 4am Sunday morning so its alarm clocks at ready or just party all night and pray you keep awake!!

    As for the fight - My only concern for Hatton is that Malignaggi gets on his bike flicking out jabs frustrating Hatton causing him to revert to type (Not that it did him too bad before Mayweather Jr) and lose disclipine. But i believe hatton has learnt from that night, being back in the MGM grand will help as he will want to right the wrong.

    I think a controlled agressive Ricky Hatton stops a game Malignaggi in the later rounds.

    Also a does anybody know if the choice of Mayweather Sr could have been a tip from Mayweather Jr ?- as Hatton and him seem to have a lot of respect for each other, and i think tensions between father and son have cooled somewhat - Maybe someone can clear this up for me!!

  • Comment number 17.


    Only joking mate. Fill your boots if ya continue to write quality pieces like this.

    For the record, as much as i'd like the Hitman to win im taking the gobby yank on points!!!

  • Comment number 18.

    Quality work Ben.

    It's do or die for Hatton i'm afraid, he could get shown up if he doesn't bring his A game. Paulie is a very slick operator and generally looks good when up for it.

    Good luck to Ricky, I hope the partnership with FM.Sr works. Just telling Ricky to move his head would be a start!

  • Comment number 19.

    I can't believe a journalist can't spell licence...

  • Comment number 20.

    Great stuff as usual Ben!!

    Love the little p.s. at the bottom as well - I'd much rather pay for you traveling to Vegas than for another few episodes of Eastenders or some crap like that..

  • Comment number 21.

    Absolute nonsense about Froch being a new star of boxing... He's a half-decent boxer in a fading division, full of has-beens and boxers Calzaghe already conquered!

    Been watching the build-up to the Hatton fight and hope that Mayweather Snr isnt over-hyping Hatton, coz he needs to improve on his last performance to beat Magic Man. Magic Man may not be the best boxer, but he certainly wont take Hatton for granted, and Hatton would be wise to do the same, roll back the years, mark his opponent and start breaking ribs with those killer body shots.
    If he is complacent though, Magic Man will ruin his career. No pressure, but I think this is make or break for Hatton; if he doesnt win here, he can't expect another big fight....
    Good luck Hatton!

  • Comment number 22.

    Been watching some of the build up and Hatton definitely looks to be in good shape if nothing else. Malignaggi is a slick and speedy fighter and I dont think Ricky can outbox him, but throughout 12 rounds his power will tell and I'd predict a late stoppage victory for Hatton. Just hope he's not complacent, if he boxes in straight lines and forces the issue then he'll come unstuck as he did against Floyd Jr. - Paulie wont knock Hatton out like Floyd did, but he has the tools to get a points victory if Ricky is careless, but for me it's definitely Rickys to lose.

    If Hatton wins this then I'd hope he could get a dream match-up against ODLH or Pac-Man in England and then retire on a high as he's been a great ambassador for British boxing, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Good luck Ricky!

  • Comment number 23.

    PM will be a tough test but I think he will fail in the later rounds as RH becomes too strong. His only hope is to finish it on cuts which with the way he jabs is a possiblity ( flick not a solid ram rod). when PM tires he gets hit too easily and I don't think he will have been hit so hard to his body before.

  • Comment number 24.

    It's definitely an interesting match up. I'd say end of the road for the loser, unless the loser is Malignaggi and it's a marginal loss after an epic. Any other result should signal the end for the loser.

    A few points to bare in mind:

    Malignaggi does not have the power to stop Hatton.

    Hatton is more intense than Cotto.

    Brave that Malignaggi proved himself to be against Cotto, I don't think he would last another beating like that again.

    If Hatton has found a new impetus under Mayweather senior then he should stop him by the late rounds or win easily by UD. From there he should look for the winner of the Dela Hoya/Pacquia (sp?) dust up and then either Margorhito (sp?) or a rematch with Mayweather.

    If Hatton has lost his appetite since his loss to Mayweather then it will show once and for all in this fight, and if so he should call it a day. Malignaggi certainly has the bottle to put this to do test.

    My money is on Hatton by TKO in the last three rounds with the carrot of earning the right for a rematch with Mayweather being the motivation. This he could only call for if he beats the winner of Pacquia/Dela Hoya and/or Margorhito so he could say he is the best out there.

  • Comment number 25.

    and by the way.

    Slightly off topic but, when it comes to comparing the careers of Calzaghe and Hatton, Hatton wins hands down.

    As much as I admire Calzaghe, he never fought the Cream de la Cream in his weight divisions, unlike Hatton (or Hamed for that matter).

    Calzaghe should have taken on Roy Jone Jr and Hopkins when they were in the peak of their careers.

    Hatton went to las Vegas and took on Mayweather when he was the number one P4P fighter in the world.

    Not only that but Hatton's divisions have had far more talent in their prime in action than Calzaghe's divisions. Welter and light welterweight have been the weights with all the stars in the last 8 years. Calzaghe had some british greats in his in his early fights but they were all past it by then, and of course he ducked Jones and Hopkins until they were old.

    Still they've both contributed a great period for british boxing over the last 20 years. Hats off to both of them.

  • Comment number 26.

    Big fan Dirsy but for Pete's sake could you take that horrible mug shot down.You look like the fat lisping guy that got gassed on 24!
    Anyways hope for an brilliant fight and i truly hopes it lasts all 12 rounds.

  • Comment number 27.

    a brilliant fight even!

  • Comment number 28.

    Hatton to lose on points or a late round stoppage. Hatton can not make 140llb and be stong and he never was a welter. All those beers curries kebabs etc about to catch up with him i am afraid. It has been a long time since he was convincing in a fight over the hill i think. By the way i hope his fans do not disgrace us again at the Mayweather fight they were a disgrace

  • Comment number 29.

    to the guy who wrote, "I can't believe a journalist can't spell licence.".....
    Perhaps Ben has been over there a tad too long, as this is how it is spelt in the states; don'tcha know?

  • Comment number 30.

    Hey Ben, have you been to the Crown & Anchor in Las Vegas yet? It is the only British pub in town and where most of us ex-pats go for our fix of British food, beer and football. I think you would be fully justified in 'researching' this story in the name of journalism.

  • Comment number 31.

    Many thanks for all the positive feedback, much appreciated - even redandblack and his "you look like the fat lisping guy who got gassed on 24" comment. I can laugh, because obviously everyone knows I'm actually extremely handsome.

    odarroch - I came into this week convinced Malignaggi would give Hatton fits. Now I'm not so sure. Hatton, for all the smoke and mirrors looks sharp and relaxed, and a Hatton in decent form beats Malignaggi every day of the week. But then there's the million dollar question: how much does Hatton have left in the tank? I think he'll have enough - Hatton by late stoppage.

    Kentspur - Totally agree about Mayweather doing the fight a favour. I don't want to be a promoters' cheerleader, but this week demonstrates exactly why you need them. I'm sure Mayweather will have his victory poem written already.

    sublimesuperspur - I don't see why Mayweather and Hatton won't carry on together, but it will all depend on this fight. If Hatton wins and looks impressive doing so, then they'll think they've got another 10 fights left in them.

    tigermilkboy - I don't know of this Crown and Anchor. Sounds ruddy terrible!

    PS. What is it anyway - licence or license?!

  • Comment number 32.

    Re Ben #31

    The Crown and Anchor is a decent attempt at a British pub through American eyes. I guess like everything else in Vegas it is not the real thing but we can imagine. It is the one of few places where Brits get together here. The only real difference to real British pubs is we don't have a chucking out time and fights at the taxi ranks.
    The food is British food done better. The bar staff wear short tartan skirts. Like I say, it is the only place to watch British football live on TV. The place is pretty lively this week with visiting Brits-it is a mile from the Strip on Tropicana. I know Ben it is hard to get you away from the Strip Clubs and roulette and your Penthouse suite!

    p.s Where are you watching the fight? I have tickets in the Lower Level at the MGM Grand. Don't tell me you are ring side! I think I will try and inspire a Ben Dirs chant! Which do you want to hear? 'There's only one Ben Dirs' or 'Ben Dirs Give Us A Wave'.

  • Comment number 33.

    KingKightly: You can't be serious, surely? It's only because Joe was so dominant at 168 that it seems he was in a weak division. Although I'd agree that SM isn't a classic division. Saying that JC ducked RJJ & B-Hop is highly questionable (a lot would have it the other way around) and that's been resolved now (albeit a bit late). And B-Hop's impressive win over Pavlik shows he's still very much a live P4P. Pre-Tszyu (who was 35 years old when they met, remember), Hatton was a very protected fighter. I'll agree that 140 was the most exciting division a few years ago - which is one reason I was so disappointed that FMJ took on the weakest title-holder and then moved on to welterweight to take on Judah, who had previously been stopped by Tszyu (admittedly a hard puncher) at 140. But the fact remains that JC beat highly-touted "up-and-comers" (and proper belt holders to boot) and has come out on top against P4P opposition. Hatton has not fared so well, even against lesser opponents.

  • Comment number 34.

    Good work Mr Dirs

    lovin' the ps. the haters will hate you even more for that, haha.

    Let's hope Ricky's on top form on sat night, he deserves it i reckon.

    The M n M touch is mint. Can i get an M n M clipper lighter please?

    Been doing a bit of blogging myself recently as i'm a dance music journalist and hit Los Angeles, Mexico and Amsterdam. Do you know any good techno clubs in Las Vegas? So i can hit them up for a club review, haha!

    Seriously though, Calzaghe did the biz and Haye's looking exciting so it would be great for British boxing for Ricky to be the man again....

    Go Hitman!

  • Comment number 35.

    KingKightly - Give it a rest mate, it's not only slightly off topic it's become boring now!

    Nice work, like most i'm interested in what FM snr has brought to Hatton's game. Malignaggi's last fight was something else....most memorable for a quick short back and sides.

    Hatton to win in 7!

    P.S - I'll take that dog sweater - In yellow please.

  • Comment number 36.

    Ben, i'm curious - hpw do you see the fight going tomorrow? I'm glad Ricky has the trash talk on his side this time - the cutthroat at the Floyd Jr fight was the beginning of the end for that one I thought...

  • Comment number 37.

    does anyone know what time the weigh in is and if any channels are showing it?

  • Comment number 38.

    Is anyone wise on the time the fight will actually start?

  • Comment number 39.

    fight starts 3.30am british time

  • Comment number 40.

    Ben, the English version is licenCe, the USA version is licenSe. Looks like you have become an anglo-american my man!


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