Hometown hero Paulie Malignaggi edged Mexico’s Pablo Cesar Cano by split decision on Saturday in what was to have been a title defense for the WBA welterweight champion.
Malignaggi won 114-113 on two judges’ scorecards to claim the victory, even though the third judge saw Cano as a 118-109 winner.
The narrow victory margin surprised Malignaggi, even though Cano sent him to the canvas with a hard right to the jaw late in the 11th round.
“I thought I won the fight. I thought I won pretty handily,” Malignaggi said.
“He was pressing the action, but he wasn’t laying a lot of shots. I got a little bit lazy. I was controlling the action. He came over the top and he got me good, but I felt like I won the fight,” Malignaggi added.
Malignaggi’s crown was not at risk because challenger Cano could not make the 147-pound (66.7kg) weight limit on Friday.
“He was strong. I don’t know if him not making weight had anything to do with it,” Malignaggi said.
“It was a little bit disappointing not to have the title on the line. I won’t say I lost focus, but it was disappointing,” he added.
Cano, who was cut over his left eye early in the fight by a punch, said he was surprised not to get the decision.
“I definitely don’t agree with the decision. I fought much better in the second half of the fight,” he said.
“I’m going to come back. I feel like I should have won the decision,” he added.
Brooklyn native Malignaggi improved to 32-4, while Cano fell to 25-2 with one drawn.
Malignaggi said he was interested in fighting Britain’s Ricky Hatton if the Englishman should win his scheduled comeback fight next month against Vyacheslav Senchenko.
Hatton stopped Malignaggi in the 11th round of a bout in 2008.
“It would be an honor to fight him again,” Malignaggi said.
Cano, 23, suffered his only prior loss last year, when he was stopped by compatriot Erik Morales for the WBC light welterweight crown.
Malignaggi, 31, won the WBA crown in Ukraine in April last year over Senchenko.