Khan to fight Malignaggi in May
NEW YORK -- Amir Khan is ready to make a splash in the United States.
The exciting British silver medalist from the 2004 Olympics will defend his WBA 140-pound title against former champion Paulie Malignaggi on May 15 at Madison Square Garden, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions told The Associated Press.
Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya was headed to England on Tuesday for a news conference to introduce the fight, with another news conference planned for next week in New York.
"I think this is the perfect setup for Amir," Schaefer said. "When he signed with Golden Boy he wanted a big fight. Paulie Malignaggi is a big-name fighter."
Khan has been hoping to raise his profile by fighting in the United States, splitting with veteran British promoter Frank Warren and signing with Los Angeles-based Golden Boy. He also began working with Freddie Roach, who trains pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.
Khan (22-1, 16 KOs) was considered one of the top professional prospects to come out of the Athens Olympics, winning his first 18 fights in lopsided fashion. Then came a first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott that gave everybody in his camp reason to worry.
The popular 23-year-old from Lancashire regrouped, though, winning his next fight in the second round and then defeating rugged veteran Marco Antonio Barrera. Khan lifted his title from Andreas Kotelnik last fall, winning just about every second of every round, and knocked down previously unbeaten Dmitriy Salita three times in a first-round stoppage in December.
Each of those impressive wins came in relative obscurity.
"Fighters like Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton -- if you want to capture the U.S. market, you really need to do it with statements," Schaefer said, referring to a pair of British champions who made their mark stateside. "So Amir Khan is coming to the United States to make his statement."
While he'll have the luxury of doing so in the biggest media market in the world, Khan will also have to deal with a potentially hostile crowd. Malignaggi is from Brooklyn and has fought numerous times in New York City, generating a massive following on the East Coast.
Malignaggi (27-5, 5 KOs) held the IBF version of the junior welterweight title until a loss to Hatton in November 2008, and has been trying to goad Khan into a fight by calling him "Amir Con."
"It was a long time coming," Malignaggi told the AP. "We were talking a lot of trash back and forth because, honestly, I don't think he's done enough."
The brash, often abrasive Malignaggi is coming off a dominating win over Juan Diaz in December. That victory avenged a controversial loss and immediately thrust Malignaggi back into the picture in a loaded division that includes the likes of unified champion Devon Alexander, unbeaten titleholder Timothy Bradley and several rising prospects.
"I haven't got the credit I deserved sometimes, and some of it's my fault," Malignaggi said. "I felt I underperformed on the big stages, but now I've got the right team around me."
Also entering the fold is Juan Manuel Marquez, the former three-division champ who intends to campaign at 140 pounds. Schaefer planned to meet with him Tuesday to discuss his next fight, which could come against Hatton if he ends his retirement as expected.
Might there be a tournament-style plan in the works, with the Malignaggi-Khan winner fighting a potential Marquez-Hatton winner?
"We need to see what Ricky Hatton is going to do in the coming weeks," Schaefer said. "There are reports one day he's going to retire, then other days he's going to fight. I think we need to see how this would shake out. Juan Manuel Marquez made it clear he'd like to fight Ricky Hatton. They were interested as well."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press