Malignaggi earns less-than-scintillating decision over Ngoudjo

Updated: January 5, 2008, 11:46 PM ET
Associated Press

Paulie MalignaggiTom Casino/ShowtimePaulie Malignaggi was pushed to his limits in the first defense of his title.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Paulie Malignaggi successfully defended his IBF junior welterweight title Saturday night, unanimously outpointing Canada's Herman Ngoudjo at Bally's Atlantic City Hotel Casino.

The Brooklyn fighter received scores of 117-111 from judge Al Bennett, 116-113 from Kenny Chevalier and 115-113 from Steve Weisfeld.

"It wasn't one of my better performances, but I felt I won the fight," Malignaggi said. "At the end of the day, I have the heart of a lion and if you don't knock me out, I'm going to stay here."

But it wasn't easy.

Malignaggi (24-1, 5 KOs) and Ngoudjo (16-2, 9 KOs) treated a sellout crowd at Bally's ballroom to an exciting fight, with the outcome in doubt until Malignaggi appeared to take control in the later rounds.

Ngoudjo, a native of Cameroon, came forward at every opportunity in the first half of the fight. Malignaggi tried to establish his jab early, but Ngoudjo's aggressiveness and effective counter-punching frequently had Malignaggi retreating with his tattooed back pressed against the ropes.

"I actually thought he would be more aggressive," Malignaggi said. "But he wasn't and I tried to be and wound up running into some punches."

Ngoudjo, ignoring the chants of "Paulie! Paulie!" from the fans, opened the seventh round with a right hand that sent sweat and gobs of gel flying from Malignaggi's blond-streaked hair. He rocked him again with a left and a right and eventually widened a cut in the corner of Malignaggi's left eyelid.

"He was a worthy challenger and a good fighter," Malignaggi said. "He buzzed me a little bit in the seventh."

Malignaggi regained command early in the second half of the bout. His jabs became sharper and his ring movement allowed him to dictate the pace.

Ngoudjo appeared to be tiring in the last three rounds, but refused to wilt. The IBF's No. 1 challenger showed why he was considered Malignaggi's top challenger. He responded to his corner's pleas and the cheers from his tiny band of fans by steadfastly throwing punches even when his arms began to tighten.

"I thought I won the fight, but Paulie is the champion and I appreciated [the opportunity]," Ngoudjo said. "I thought I controlled most of the fight, but having three U.S. judges may have hurt me."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press