x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ricky Hatton's career worthy of a champion

Hatton's tenacious spirit and unwillingness to duck a challenge means he will be missed. Key bouts and a video

Ricky Hatton's, left, victory over Kostya Tszyu, right, in June 2005 to win the light welterweight title was one of the biggest of his career.
Ricky Hatton's, left, victory over Kostya Tszyu, right, in June 2005 to win the light welterweight title was one of the biggest of his career.

The words "There's only one Ricky Hatton" have resonated from the backstreets of Manchester to the bright lights of Las Vegas over the past 14 years. But they have been sung in boxing's great coliseums for the last time.

The catchy melody accompanied Hatton wherever he travelled, from his first professional bout at the Kingsway Leisure Centre, Widnes, England, in September 1997 when he beat Colin McCauley in a first-round technical knockout, to the MGM Grand Hotel in the heartland of American boxing, where Manny Pacquiao would turn out to be the man who felled the Briton for the last time with a stunning second-round knockout.

It was fitting Britain's two-weight world champion announced his retirement from boxing at a briefing in Manchester, so often the scene of the City fan's brutal assaults. (see video at the end)

The only surprise was the decision to not come sooner, though Hatton was always one of those warrior fighters who would need the referee to intervene. He was never going to fall on his sword lightly.

Sadly for Hatton, an investigation by the now defunct News of The World last September saw him caught up in a drug scandal that would have made it almost impossible to mount a serious comeback, thus soiling the memories he provided in the ring.

It is a shame on so many levels, not least because over a 47-fight career that brought 45 wins (32 by knockouts) and two losses, Hatton's two-fisted maniac style marked him out as one of Britain's finest exponents of the sweet science.

Although Hatton never once entered the ring with anything less than a chiselled physique carved from the toughest granite, it was in contrast to the way he let himself go when not in training.

His body would balloon in weight beyond all recognition to the 63.5kg of solid muscle that bounded through the ropes on fight night. It was not uncommon for Hatton to hit that mark minutes before several weigh-ins during his career.

Although not as technically accomplished as his great rivals Floyd Mayweather Jr or Pacquiao, Hatton had Herculean-like strength, most notably on the inside, and his raking body punches took his opponents' breath away.

His appeal across the Atlantic was palpable long before his fight with Mayweather in December 2007. He cracked America two years earlier when his duel with Kostya Tszyu, the then IBF light welterweight champion, at the MEN Arena took place at 2am in the UK in order to satisfy the cravings of a knockout-starved US television audience.

A highlights reel will show him relentlessly stalking his prey, pressuring them so he could work them from the inside, then rolling his chest before unleashing right and left wrecking balls.

The chink in Hatton's armour was his susceptibility to walking into left hooks.

Never was this more graphically illustrated than by Pacquiao in May 2009. The shot that finished Hatton off would have floored a rhino. It was the last time we would see Hatton enter the squared circle.

Hatton never ducked a challenge; his mantra was that in order for him to be considered the best, he had to take on the best. He took the fight to Mayweather as he stepped up in weight for their welterweight clash before a controversial decision by Joe Cortez, the referee, to deduct a point or a low blow in round six changed the momentum of the fight.

With the bout too close to call, Hatton panicked, looking for the "big shot", playing right into the peek-a-boo defence of the American. The referee stopped the fight in round 10 shortly after Hatton had tasted canvas for a second time.

It is impossible to say if Hatton would have changed the outcome if the point had not been deducted. Yet if the turnbuckle had not been there to rescue him from sprawling out of the ring, "The Pride of Hyde" would still be rolling down the Vegas strip to this day.

Hatton's zenith was the night he dethroned Tszyu in front of 22,000 of his own frenzied fans in Manchester. The Australian was the light welterweight emperor having unified the division for the first time in 30 years during a decade of destruction.

Video courtesy SkySports

Battered to a pulp after 11 unforgiving rounds and unable to take up the cudgels for the final three minutes, Tszyu quit on his stool. Everyone shared in Hatton's wild-eyed paean.

The look in Tszyu's eyes resembled a man caught in a the eye of a storm desperately searching for a way out.

However, drug scandal aside, for all the spectacular knockouts, such as the barrage on Jose Luis Castillo or the spate of combinations to batter Carlos Maussa, those defeats to his two arch foes will, sadly, define the career of the one Ricky Hatton.

 

KEY BOUTS OF HATTON'S CAREER

v Kostya Tszyu, June 2005
Hatton dethroned light welterweight king Tszyu, but his tactics were anything but regal. He stayed just the right side of legal before Tszyu quit at the start of round 12 unable to continue.

v Floyd Mayweather Jr,  December 2007
A dubious point deduction by Joe Cortez, the referee, turned the fight in the American’s favour. Mayweather floored Hatton twice to record a 10th round knockout.

v Manny Pacquiao, May 2009
It was Pacquiao who proved to pack the bigger punch in the battle of the men at 63.5kg. Hatton was sent to the canvas in rounds one and two to end the fight and, eventually, Hatton’s career.

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