For the second month in a row Showtime is serving up a fight that has the potential to be Fight of the Year at the close of 2005. The Old Lion versus the Young Turk. Pressure versus Precision. Kostya Tszyu versus Ricky Hatton. Will Tszyu’s experience and guile be too much for Hatton, or will the relentless work rate and hometown advantage spur ‘The Hitman’ on to victory? Read on to find out who the Doghouse Boxing scribes pick to win and why.
Photo @ Tom Casino/ SHOWTIME
Anthony Cocks: Anyone who thinks this fight will be a walk in the park for either fighter is dreaming. Tszyu’s three round blowout of Sharmba Mitchell has as much relevance to this fight as Felix Trinidad’s beatdown of Ricardo Mayorga had to his subsequent humiliation at the hands of ‘Winky’ Wright. Hatton is a much better all-round fighter than most people are willing to give him credit for and on Saturday night I expect he will give us the fight of his life. While the experience edge is clearly in Tszyu’s favour, Hatton has youth and a hellacious work rate on his side. The reigning 140-pound king likes to set his own pace and providing Hatton can get past that long right hand, I think he’ll meet with some success on the inside. In saying that, I think Tszyu’s class will prevail in the end, but he will look old at times as he labours to a 9th round stoppage.
Scott Mallon: When this fight was first announced I didn't give it too much thought and right away picked Tszyu. However over the past few weeks my thoughts have been turning towards Hatton's youth and swarming style and in my view it's actually a pick ‘em fight. This fight definitely isn't a gimme for Tszyu and I expect Hatton to give him all he can handle and then some for Hatton has a lot to prove. If Tszyu is successful with his counterpunching I expect him to batter Hatton and win by a middle round knockout. If Hatton can put enough pressure on Tszyu without getting caught, look for the upset. I'm going to have to go with Tszyu though as he has the experience, power and counterpunching ability on his side. Tszyu by 8th round TKO.
Benny Henderson Jr.: If I was a betting man I would put my money on Tszyu. Hatton has had the pleasure of the hometown crowd backing him in every fight, well, this time the hometown crowd will witness their hometown hero go down. The Thunder form Down Under will make quick work of the Hitman.
Julian Kasdin: I am taking King Kostya by mid-rounds KO.
Rob Scott: The power of Tszyu will ultimately be too much for Hatton. Tszyu will play the hunter, ultimately capturing his prey around the 9th/10th.
Brent Hedtke: There's no doubt that Hatton is as tough as they come and that his body-work is practically second to none. Unfortunately for the Hitman, he offers up nothing that Tszyu hasn't seen before. The consummate slow starter Tzsyu will come out as he did in his rematch with Sharmba Mitchell and try to blitz Hatton. Ricky will be able to hold him off for a few rounds but eventually Tszyu's right hand bombs will wear him down. Tszyu by TKO6.
Martin Wade: I believe in Ricky Hatton. I believe that he will surprise us all on Saturday night and win by losing. Hatton will get close to Tszyu, smothering the big right hand; this will enable him to take rounds 1-5. In rounds six and seven Hatton’s skin will betray him as Tsyzu’s right hand starts to dial in. Between 8 and 10 they will stop it on cuts giving Tsyzu an uncertain victory but a ticket to the welterweight division. Hatton will “win” by establishing himself as “the man” at 140 with upcoming showdowns against Cotto and Floyd Mayweather.
Sean Newman: I have gone back and forth on this fight. A couple of months ago, I had this crazy idea that Hatton would spring an upset, having the kind of pressure style that Tszyu wouldn't be able to keep up with. But then I asked myself whether Hatton was in a class with Zab Judah and Sharmba Mitchell, two fighters I thought would beat Tszyu, and the answer was a resounding NO. Tszyu keeps proving me wrong, so I won't give him the chance to do it again. I'm going to say Hatton crumbles the first time Tszyu connects solidly to his chin, call it a second round blitzing for the champion.
Martyn Elliot: Ricky Hatton is much better than he has been given credit for in the build-up to this fight. Everyone knows about his body-punching, but he can also box, he can stand toe-to-toe and mix it, he's got a good chin and, perhaps most importantly for this contest, he's an intelligent fighter capable of carrying out trainer Billy Graham's game plan.
Don't let the idea that Hatton hasn't fought anyone fool you. Tackie and Phillips were good tests for him at that stage of his career, but the quality of his performances made them look like poor opponents.
Kostya Tszyu has also been sold short during the build-up the idea his only tactic is the big right hand, looking for a one-punch finish is nonsense. However, it is the most effective weapon either boxer has in this fight and Hatton will need to be wary of it throughout. The Englishman also needs to be aware that Tszyu is one of the few fighters as effective as him up close.
I see Hatton approaching this one far more conservatively than normal in the early rounds and staying out of danger, before setting a blistering pace in the second half of the contest to take advantage of Tszyu's inactivity in the past couple of years. Hatton's work-rate should be enough to clinch a narrow decision on the scorecards, but he'll probably have to get up off the canvas on his way to taking the title.
Jason Petock: Hatton is going to try and come forward with his bull rushing style early, but Tszyu will prove to be too strong and too adept for the lesser experienced Hatton, dominating the action and landing devastating right hands with precision. I predict Tszyu will win by knockout in the 5th round.
Andrew Mullinder: Pressure fighters have often struggled against boxers with big right hands and, as Larry Merchant pointed out, it’s always difficult to back against a fighter who’s an of all time great in his weight division against somebody as relatively untested as Hatton. But I think this is a far more even fight than it may look at first glance. Tszyu’s victory against Mitchell was perhaps misleading. Mitchell fought badly on that night and it looks as though Tszyu simply has the number of any counter-punching southpaw. Against pressure fighters, Tszyu has been less impressive, and Hatton is a far better boxer than people give him credit for. Hatton has fought 95 rounds to Tszyu’s 23 since November 2001. And while Hatton has one of the highest work rates in the world, Tszyu prefers a more pedestrian pace. If it goes beyond 5, and Hatton doesn’t get cut, listen for the loudest roar you’ve heard as Hatton is announced winner by unanimous decision.
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