Ladies and gentlemen, Ricky Hatton has arrived.
On Saturday night in front of 22,000 screaming fans at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, England, hometown hero Ricky Hatton put in a workman like performance to outhustle former undisputed 140-pound champion Kostya Tszyu en route to an eleventh round stoppage when the Russian-born Australian refused to come out for the twelfth round.
With the win Hatton who was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards by margins of 105-104, 106-103 and 107-102 kept his undefeated record intact and became the IBF junior welterweight champion.
Hatton, a prohibitive underdog going in to the bout, set a torrid pace from the opening bell, swarming the aging champ as he worked his way inside to launch his short hooks and uppercuts. Tszyu appeared disconcerted by Hatton’s brawling style, and the Mancunian Hitman continued to push forward and smother Tszyu’s vaunted right hand while launching his own two-fisted assault to the 35-year-old’s body and head.
With Hatton intent on trading punches in close, Tszyu started to find his range in the third, landing a big lead right cross to open the round. But Hatton appeared to be unfazed by Tszyu’s superior firepower as he continued to press forward and bury his left hook into Tszyu’s midriff.
Tszyu had his best rounds in the middle of the fight and despite the repeated clinches he found a way to create enough space to land his jarring right hands and short hooks form the outside. The seventh round was arguably Tszyu’s best as he landed repeatedly with hooks and uppercuts on the mauling Hatton. A body rip from Tszyu strayed south of the border and Hatton took a quick trip to the canvas, but the infringement only warranted a warning from referee Dave Parris.
Hatton’s workrate continued to impress in the eighth but his accuracy was dipping while Tszyu’s right hand radar was starting to find the mark. In the ninth Tszyu appeared visually tired while Hatton continued to back up the defending champion. A low blow from Tszyu received a warning from referee Parris, but as soon as the action resumed a blatantly low blow from Hatton sent Tszyu to the canvas. Tszyu took about a minute to recover, but the damage was already done.
Perhaps surprisingly, the 26-year-old miniature man-mountain was the stronger man in the ring, and Tszyu received no respite in the later rounds as Hatton stayed right on his chest in a relentless display of pressure fighting. Hatton came on strong in the tenth round as Tszyu struggled to keep up the pace and in the eleventh it was apparent that Tszyu was literally on his last legs. After returning to his corner at the end of the round, trainer Johnny Lewis advised referee Parris that his fighter would not be continuing.
At the conclusion of the fight Hatton’s face was surprisingly unmarked, while Tszyu’s face was a swollen mask that betrayed the fierce battle he had just been engaged in.
With the win Hatton improves his ledger to 39-0 (29) and becomes the undisputed king of the 140-pounders. Tszyu meanwhile falls to 31-2-1NC (25) and sees his career hang in the balance.
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