The Ultimate Split Decision

By Tom Donelson, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: August 23, 2009

Juan Diaz holds up the NABO Junior Welterweight title belt after he defeated Paulie Malignaggi in a 12-round decision Saturday night.

Juan Diaz holds up the NABO Junior Welterweight title belt after he defeated Paulie Malignaggi in a 12-round decision Saturday night.

IOWA CITY(BASN) — Two of the more charismatic fighters in the junior welterweight put on their gloves to face each other in one of those do or die battles. Both fighters were recovering big losses to big names.

For Paulie Malignaggi, it was to Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto and for Juan Diaz, it was to the great Juan Manuel Marquez. Both fighters are still young but both felt the need to win as they attempt to gain yet another title shot in what is becoming a crowded junior welterweight with young talented fighters making their moves just as Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander.

Danny Jacobs 17-0 with 15 KO’s faced Ishe Smith in his toughest bout in the opening bout on HBO’s Boxing After Dark. Smith was once the prospect but now he was the opponent.

Smith had only nine knockouts in 21 wins, so Jacob had the advantage in the power department, but Jacobs had fought the softer opponents in his professional career.

The first round saw an uneventful round as Smith chased but didn’t throw too many punches as Jacobs jabbed and moved around Smith. As the third round progressed, he started to threw effective hooks and Jacobs threw hard rights that snapped Smith’s head back.

Jacobs appeared to have the fight in hand as he dominated the first five rounds but at the end of the fifth round, Smith nailed Jacobs with two rights, the second one hurting him.

The first half of the fight, Jacobs outworked Smith but there were times that Jacobs would keep his hands during rallies and this allowed Smith to hit him with left hooks and occasional rights just as the right that hurt Jacobs in the fifth.

Smith roughed up Jacobs and in the eighth round, Smith rough tactics appeared to pay off as he moved forward while he scored with left hooks and occasional right. The ninth round showed the flavor of the fight as Jacobs threw the more volume but Smith nailed Jacobs with solid shots but a punch after the round cost Smith the round as he lost a point.

Smith attacked in the last minute in which he threw caution to wind to win the fight by knockout. He won the last the round and Jacobs won the fight. Jacobs averaged nearly 90 punches and connected on 26 punches per round to win the fight on activity.

For Jacobs, he showed a fighter heart as he countered with punches after being hit but he also showed that he has much to learn as he appeared off-balanced when throwing punches.

Two judges scored this fight 96-93 whereas another judge scored it 100-89, giving Jacobs every round. (While Jacobs was the winner, there was no way he won every round.)

The second fight saw Malcolm Klassen put his title on the line against Robert “the Ghost” Guerrero, former featherweight titlist. He started the first round fast as he landed combinations while moving around Klassen.

Throughout the first third of the fight, Guerrero nailed his opponent with solid shots not just to the head but to the body and after a combination, he moved out of harms way.

In the fifth round, Klassen had his best round up to that point in the fight as he nailed Guerrero with solid rights as the South African fighter started to pressure his opponent.

After another dominating round from Guerrero in the sixth round, Klassen repeated his fifth round performance as he nailed Guerrero with solid rights in the seventh round.

As the ninth round ended, Guerrero looked a step behind from his early pace as Klassen continued pressure his challenger. It looked like Klassen had turned the tide going in to the last three rounds.

In the final three rounds, Guerrero gutted his way to victory as he used his guile and threw 300 punches over the final nine minutes as he coasted to an easy decision victory.

While there were times that Klassen appeared to take control; those moments were few and far between as Guerrero threw 100 punches per round while out boxing his opponent.

And Guerrero also outsmarted his opponent as he gave his opponent different angles while adjusting throughout the fight to what Klassen did. Like a good Chess player, Guerrero was always one step ahead of his opponent.

The main event featured two fighters at a crossroads and for Malignaggi, he was coming down below 140 pounds plus fighting in Diaz’s hometown. Malignaggi began the first round fast as he jabbed and moved around Diaz, making him look a step slower.

Diaz looked surprised as he seemed incapable of getting out of the way of Malignaggi’s punches nor could he get his punches off.

In the second round, the Baby Bull unleashed hooks to the body and head as he attempted to slow his opponent. Diaz threw volume of punches in the middle round and by the end of the second round, both fighters were cut.

In the fifth round, an accidental head opened a second cut over Diaz right eye but Diaz nailed Malignaggi with solid hooks whereas Malignaggi’s quick combinations scored in the sixth round to win the round.

Going into the final four rounds, this was a close fight that easily could have been even as both fighters did what they did best. Malignaggi moved and jabbed against the oncoming Diaz whereas Diaz scored with double hooks to the head and body.

In the ninth and 10th rounds, Malignanni used the ring wisely as he moved away from Diaz’s power shots while controlling the action in the middle of the ring. In the last two rounds, Malignanni boxed and used his hand speed along with foot speed to neutralized Diaz’s strength.

Malignanni’s major problem was not what happened in the ring but outside the ring as the judges determined the fate of both fighters. Harold Lederman had Paul “Magic Man” Malignanni winning the fight 115-113 but Lederman was not the official scorecard.

The judges had Diaz winning the fight 115-113, 116-112 and 118-110. (I agreed with Lederman and had Malignanni winning the fight.)

There were several close rounds but the 118-110 scorecard in favor of Diaz was a travesty and nothing more than a hometown decision. Malignaggi believed that he couldn’t win a decision and the Magic Man was not a knock out artist so he knew that his fate would be determined by the judges.

Both fighters showed that they were world class fighters and both fighters showed that they could easily win portion of the junior welterweight champions, and while both want bigger fights; they may even be favored against Alexander or Bradley, two of the champions.

Malignaggi’s biggest flaw was always his lack of power and this hurt him as he couldn’t knock Diaz out in a fight that he needed a knock out.

Commentator Max Kellerman noted that this was a fight that the market place spoke as Diaz won simply because of his name and promoters (Oscar De La Hoya Golden Boy promotion sponsored the fight and Diaz was their fighter.)

However, the market place should not determine who wins the fight. Diaz may be the more popular fighter with the bigger potential at the gate but on this night, it was Malignaggi who won the fight in the ring. He should have been rewarded with the victory.

Both fighters acquitted themselves well and showed themselves worthy of future big fights, but on this night Diaz came up just a little bit short in the ring. But in boxing, sometimes it is not what happens in the ring that matters but what happens outside the ring.