Predictions: Hatton vs. Lazcano, Malignaggi vs. Ndou

The Franchise says...

Ricky Hatton returns home to soak in the adulation of his enthusiastic fans and, he hopes, set his career back on track after getting knocked out by Floyd Mayweather last December. It's tough to tell what to make of his opponent, Juan Lazcano, who hasn't fought since a February, 2007 points loss to Vivian Harris.

The Hitman's home court advantage is likely to manifest itself not only on the scorecards, but also in the way the fight is officiated. If Hatton is allowed to use his preferred roughhousing tactics on the inside without much flak from the ref, that should only heighten his expected edge in strength. Lazcano is taller and has a definite reach advantage, so his best hope seems to be to keep the fight on the outside - no small task against Hatton.

In the end, it really boils down to whether or not Hatton sustained the kind of beating against Floyd Jr. that can alter a fighter's career for the worse. When that happens it's usually pretty clear early in the next fight, so we should know in the first few rounds if that's the case with Ricky.

My gut says it's not. The home fans should provide more than enough energy for Hatton to wear down Lazcano en route to a late-round KO.

On the undercard, Paulie Malignaggi has his heart set on his own possible showdown with The Hitman. He's made that perfectly clear in recent interviews, and he's been just as frank that his career can't progress unless he keeps winning and looks good in the process.

Lucky for him, then, that he's in against someone who should provide the perfect foil. Malignaggi dominated Lovemore N'dou when they met last June, and there's no reason to expect any different outcome this time around. The only thing that would be a shock is a knockout: Malignaggi has never been KO'ed and has scored only five of his own in 24 career wins.

That makes this look like an easy call. The Magic Man cruises to an easy unanimous decision.

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