Paulie Malignaggi acknowledged he wasn’t 100 percent sure Ricky Hatton would fight him, especially with Oscar De La Hoya dangling big bucks in front of the “Hit Man” from Manchester, England.
But Hatton opted not to fight the “Golden Boy” and instead has set his sights on Malignaggi, the IBF junior welterweight champion.
“The business part of the sport can drain you,” Malignaggi said. “I didn’t look so spectacular in my last fight. I broke my hand, and with Oscar out there, of course I was worried that (Hatton) wouldn’t fight me.”
Both fighters were in Las Vegas on Saturday in advance of their Nov. 22 showdown at the MGM Grand Garden. But only Malignaggi made it to a news conference; Hatton apparently contracted food poisoning late Friday night and was unable to attend.
“If Ricky Hatton thinks he feels bad now, wait until Nov. 22. He’s going to feel a whole lot worse,” said Lou DiBella, Malignaggi’s promoter.
Malignaggi (25-1, five knockouts) said he has been in training for a month, splitting his time between his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. He plans to move his training camp to Las Vegas in early October so he’s not distracted.
“This is definitely the biggest fight of my life,” he said. “I live for these kinds of opportunities. The bigger the moment the better I perform.”
Hatton (44-1, 31 KOs) will try to atone for his lone loss, which came Dec. 8 when Floyd Mayweather Jr. knocked him out at the MGM Grand.
As was the case the last time he fought here, Hatton figures to have plenty of support from his fans throughout the United Kingdom.
More than 12,000 of the available 16,270 tickets already have been sold, and Golden Boy promotions chief executive officer Richard Schaefer predicted the fight will be a sellout.
The fight also will be offered on regular HBO instead of pay per view.
Malignaggi said his broken right hand has healed from his May 24 split-decision win over Lovemore N’dou in Hatton’s hometown of Manchester. Malignaggi broke the hand in the sixth round.
“It’s hard to look good when you’re a one-armed fighter,” he said of his performance over the second half of that fight. “I’ve had four surgeries. I never worry about it. I’ll be fine.”
His biggest concern? Hatton’s penchant for holding and hitting.
“You want to fight inside? Fine. Inside fighting is inside fighting,” Malignaggi said. “But when you’re holding and hitting, that’s not boxing. I expect the commission here (in Nevada) to understand that.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.