Fighting for the first time since ending an 11-year training partnership with Billy Graham, Hatton showed that a 30-year-old dog could be taught new tricks.
Hatton, belying his reputation as an out-and-out slugger, put his seven weeks in training camp with Floyd Mayweather Sr to use by dominating the slick Malignaggi.
So in control was he that Malignaggi’s trainer Buddy McGirt climbed onto the ring apron just 28 seconds into the 11th round and indicated to referee Kenny Bayless that the fight should be stopped on a technical knockout.
Malignaggi was angered by his corner’s decision but the scorecards of all three judges indicated he had managed to win only one round in the previous 10, albeit different rounds in the minds of each official.
Regardless, the victory, which takes Hatton’s record to 45-1 (32 KOs), silenced the doubters who believed the 30-year-old was past his prime after a defeat last December at welterweight to Floyd Mayweather Jr and a lacklustre comeback in May in Manchester in defeating Juan Lazcano.
“I think bearing in mind I’ve only done seven weeks with Floyd, I showed the changes we’ve been working on,” Hatton said.
“I don’t think you’ve seen Ricky Hatton move his head as much or jab as much. I think with the changes that me and Floyd have been working on what I did tonight was quite impressive.
“This was a career-defining fight for me,” Hatton added. “The thought going into this fight was that I was past it and to be honest, doubts began to creep into my mind.
“Have I had too many fights, have I been in too many wars, has the weight-making over all the years been like everyone was saying.
“But I think tonight I’ve proved myself, I showed a technical side to my game which I’ve been missing for maybe two, three, four fights.
“We’ve gone back to basics a little bit in the gym. I’ve started moving my head, started jabbing and being aware of the punches coming back at me.
“To have done so much in just seven weeks makes me very proud.
“I think with another training camp under our belts it can only get better.”
While Hatton was taking great satisfaction in his return to form, Malignaggi was bemoaning his corner’s decision to pull the plug on his effort, his first stoppage in 27 professional fights.
“I’m better than this,” Malignaggi said.
“Ricky did a good job, maybe I would have lost on points but I’m better than being stopped. This goes as a knockout on my record but it shouldn’t be.”
Malignaggi was particularly annoyed that, having lasted 12 rounds against Miguel Cotto in 2006 having suffered a fractured jaw and a broken hand midway through the fight, his corner had jumped in to stop him when he felt in less trouble.
“I was worse off in the Miguel Cotto fight and they didn’t stop it then, why should they stop it now?”
Malignaggi showed there were no hard feelings towards the victor when he presented Hatton with four bottles of “Blue Moon” beer, matching the song adopted by his fellow Manchester City fans and to which he enters the ring.
Hatton paid tribute to his New Yorker opponent, describing the American’s style as “like when you’re in the bath and you’re trying to catch the soap”.
He spins off and he stays low and he’s very hard to get hold of,” Hatton said.
“He’s still a world champion in my eyes as he never lost his (IBF) world title in the ring and he was my nearest rival.”