Paulie Malignaggi won his homecoming fight in Brooklyn on Saturday, but it wasn't the dream scenario he had envisioned. Malignaggi struggled through 12 rounds with Pablo Cesar Cano, eventually winning a split decision on scores of 114-113 twice for Malignaggi and one card of 118-109 for Cano. Cano dropped Malignaggi in the 11th round and seemed to get stronger as the fight went on.
Early on, Malignaggi opened up a cut right above the left eye of Cano, giving the champ a target for the rest of the night. Cano, however, appeared to be much faster than Malignaggi had expected, which resulted in Malignaggi eating a few big shots in the first half of the fight. Also, with Cano missing the 147-pound weight limit in Friday's weigh-in, he was clearly the bigger fighter on fight night.
In the eighth round, Cano staggered Malignaggi with a solid counter-right hook to the body. As the fight wore on, Cano's body work seemed to have an effect on Malignaggi, who slowed down considerably in the later rounds, taking his one clear advantage away. Malignaggi also became visibly frustrated in the latter stages, once nearly lifting Cano off the ground during a clinch.
In his post fight interview with Showtime's Jim Gray, Malignaggi said he thought he won the fight, that he controlled the action and out-boxed Cano. What he probably didn't envision in his first major fight in his home borough of Brooklyn was the vociferous boos guided towards him after the fight. With many Mexicans in the crowd seemingly in support for Erik Morales in the night's main event, Malignaggi was a bit of a road warrior in his backyard.
To his credit, Malignaggi did bust up Cano's face, took a lot of power shots and held on to perhaps win the 12th round against a much bigger man. Malignaggi retained his WBA welterweight title and moved to 32-4, 7 KO's, while Cano dropped to 26-2-1, 20 KO's.