No Excuses For Ricky Hatton This Time Around
By Brandon Estrict for (April 30, 2009)  
Forgive Ricky Hatton if he hasn’t been quite as entertaining and captivating on HBO’s critically acclaimed reality series/hype machine, 24/7, as he was nearly two years earlier. Gone is the genuine animosity, the mutual disdain, the disrespect for his opponent, and though he’s had his moments, like revealing to new cornerman Floyd Mayweather Sr. that he had been training in a thong, they’ve been fewer and farther between from everyone’s favorite Mancunian this time around. And with good reason.

Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton, the premier Junior Welterweight in the world and British Idol, has been here before.

Back in late 2007, the wildly popular Hatton showed up to test his mettle against the, then, best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Floyd Mayweather Jr. The promotion, aptly named Undefeated, featured two of the sports’ superstars who had a combined professional record of 81-0 between them and was a great success on HBO PPV, and at the box office due in large part to Hatton. On the 24/7 series leading up to that particular mega-fight, Ricky Hatton all but guaranteed victory and had his hometown fans full confidence as they turned out in droves(estimated to be around 30,000 people) flooding the Vegas strip and creating a surreal, circus like atmosphere. Hatton boasted such things as, “I’ll have no excuses, if he beats me that night, he’ll have earned it,” and “I won’t stop coming until my heart explodes.” Hatton and then chief cornerman, Billy Graham, felt slighted by an arrogant Mayweather, who labeled Hatton a crude, one-dimensional, face-first slugger who threw wide punches. They used the taunt to their advantage in the gym, motivation for what was arguably the best Ricky Hatton we’d seen up to that point on the December 8, 2007 fight night.

So sure of victory were Hatton and Graham, that at the weigh-in to the actual fight, Hatton gave a throat-slash gesture to Mayweather, the defending WBC and Lineal Welterweight Champion at the time, after scaling in 2 pounds under the 147 lb. limit. He proceeded to grab a microphone and play to the 3,000 or so fans in attendance to show their support, taunting Floyd as he was booed out of the building by the Hatton die-hards. Hatton and Hatton Nation were here to prove they not only belonged amongst the cream of the crop, but that they in fact were the premier entity in boxing. Hatton truly believed he was the best fighter in the world, and he had everyone that made the trip overseas from the United Kingdom eating out of his hand. Hell, there was a live band playing during the actual fight.

The stars seemed to be aligned brilliantly for “The Hitman” to shock the world, and claim his perch atop the game. Such stars were in attendance that night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as countrymen David Beckham, accompanied by wife Victoria, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Denzel Washington, Jay-Z, Jude Law, you name ‘em. Anybody who was somebody made sure to show face for this epic fight. Ricky would bounce to the ring and slap fists with guys in his corner by the name of Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Sugar Shane Mosley and his good pal, Marco Antonio Barerra. It was simple and plain, Ricky Hatton follows through on his words, and he’s boxing’s new “it” fighter, a mantle desperately in need of an heir with De La Hoya on his way out.

There was one huge problem, however. It was a check-hook, a punch thrown while turning away from an opponent who comes in aggressively. It came in the 10th round and it sent Hatton crashing, head-first, into the turnbuckle before bouncing off and falling flat on his back. The courage he showed in getting back to his feet was admirable, but it was all but academic as referee Joe Cortez separated Mayweather and Hatton, who had grabbed on for dear life, giving Mayweather the spacing he needed to end the fight with a double left-hook and accurate right hands. To add insult to injury, the towel was thrown in from the corner for Hatton as the fight was in the process of being waved off. Lost in translation of this feel-good, changing of the guard story was the brilliance of Floyd Mayweather, a reality harsher than in any other contact sport. Ricky Hatton had not only lost for the first time in his career, but the fighter, 45-1 (32), who carried the hopes of so many had been stopped.

It was a humiliating way to go down, and Hatton was crushed. When asked about the loss recently, he corrected the question of it being a humbling defeat, stating, “Humbling? No…I’m already a pretty humble guy, it was more like heartbreaking because I was so sure I would win.”

Though he put up a ferocious fight that night, symbolized by his band continuing to sing his song even after the fight had been waved off, Ricky Hatton was said to be extremely down on himself in the months thereafter, talking about the loss and Mayweather at every opportunity he got, after taking a brief hiatus.

This is all understandable. A fighter fights for his livelihood, for his nation, for his family, whatever have you. The time, the commitment and the dedication put into getting a World-class elite Championship Caliber pugilist ready for any bout, let alone one on the grand stage and under the bright lights, is physically, mentally and emotionally draining and it takes every bit of the air you breathe, if you could imagine. Going into the biggest fight of your life, at the pinnacle of your career to come up short is a bitter and jagged pill to swallow. You at least have to concede that to Ricky.

But for a man who, in every other instance, has shown himself to be a down-to-earth, regular joe or the marketing favorite, ‘just one the lads,’ Hatton seemed to go back on a few of his pre-fight promises, and got into the business of making excuses. He did, to be fair, pay Mayweather his due, but it almost came off as little more than backhanded compliments. He would praise Floyd for being, “tougher on the inside than (I) thought,” before finishing with, “but he used a lot of sneaky fouls and such tactics to make room for his shots.”

It was especially peculiar as Hatton had a reputation that preceded him into the bout as a dirty fighter. It was a big point of debate in the wake of the bout, as many claimed Hatton was never allowed to fight his fight, because Joe Cortez had a ‘bias’ against him for his fans booing the American National Anthem and for his mauling, in-fighting tactics.

That’s fine, you’re die-hards will rise and fall with you but it has to be at least troubling that Hatton would go so far as to use the logic himself, publicly calling out Cortez for “not letting him get into his game.” Is his “game” to employ illegal tactics in warfare? A top-shelf fighter, and a nation of supporters who believe in him being just that, should not offer up these reasons for not coming out on top.

Hatton, who was the Junior Welterweight Champion as well(and retained his standing as this fight was contested one division north) also hinted that the weight gave him problems. He stated Floyd was more natural at the weight and although he wasn’t the strongest puncher he’s fought, he could feel the difference in the shots he absorbed from Mayweather Jr.

But again, for a champion as great as Ricky Hatton, you wouldn’t think that 7 pounds would be enough of a difference to negate his skills. Surely, Floyd was a little “light in the ass,” as Ricky was quoted as saying about his foe a year before they would meet. Even his father and manager, Ray Hatton, told publications that his son would only move up to the Welterweight limit for a showdown with “Lil” Floyd as they didn’t view him as being a real Welter, but rather a guy who was able to fight there based on talent alone.

Let’s leave this where it needs to be left though, let’s move forward. Once again, it is fight week in Vegas, a raucous atmosphere has already begun to take the town over in anticipation of another outstanding showdown of this magnitude and possibly even larger. Oh, and did I mention that Ricky Hatton is, once again, the co-headliner? This time it’s East vs. West, a PPV which will be distributed by good ‘ole folks over at HBO, and co-promoted by Bob Arum’s TOP RANK PROMOTIONS and De La Hoya’s GOLDEN BOY banner.

This Saturday, May 2nd, 2009, from the MGM Grand, we will see Ricky Hatton pitted against(surprise, surprise!) the number 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. This time, his name is Manny Pacquaio, or Pac-man, as he’s affectionately called by his loyal legion of supporters, a group that may actually rival Hatton’s rowdy bunch.

Pacquiao is coming off an all-time high, doling out a career-ending whooping to a lackluster Oscar last December, and even deeper than that, jumping from the Lightweight(135 lb.) division, all the way up to 147 lb. to do it! It was a fight that little outside of Team Pacquiao gave Manny an ice sculpture’s chance in Satan’s kitchen to win, and whether or not the Oscar he fought was 35, 25, or 65 years old, the fiery and emphatic way that he went about the business of destroying De La Hoya was the stuff mytical pound-for-pounders is made of. Manny did what he had to do and more. Emphatically.

There is, however, one big difference in this super-fight, than Hatton’s last super-fight and it’s a difference Hatton claimed played a large role that fateful 2007 night. Hatton will not have to move up to the Welterweight limit, instead it is Pacquiao who will come down to 140 lb. and try his formidable hand at dethroning the divisions’ King. A King who himself looked tremendous in spots in his last outing, his first with Mayweather Sr. as his trainer, battering his alleged biggest challenge at the time, Paulie Malignaggi, for 11 rounds before winning by TKO.

The resumes speak for themselves, both of these fighters are legitimate stars, and both may present one another with the greatest challenge of their respective careers. While Pacquiao hammered De La Hoya, it was, to put it bluntly, a completely drained Oscar and I don’t believe that fight will have much bearing, or was even an accurate indication in any way as it relates to the way this fight will play out. Realistically, take that fight away and Pac-man has never competed above 135, and has even only competed one time at that weight and against an overmatched opponent.

Then you have to wonder how Ricky will react to the bright lights this time around. Will a check-hook be dancing around the back of his head? As documented, it was a pretty tough way to lose any bout, be it in front of millions, or hundreds at a High School gym. Multiply that by the amount of pressure put on fighters to perform on such a stage and you have to question whether or not Ricky Hatton has fully gotten over the loss. He looked great and has definitely tweaked his game for the better, judging by his last outing, but if you go back before that, back home at the City of Manchester Stadium in a relatively easy fight against an old, blown up Lightweight in Juan Lazcano, who is not so noted for his punching power, Hatton was rocked by left hooks on more than one occasion. It was apparently bad enough that his homefield advantage had to be put into play, when referee Howard John Foster stepped in to allow Hatton to tie his shoe as it appeared he was on the verge of hitting the canvas.

There are a plethora of sub-plots ready to go here. Can Manny Pacquiao display the accurate punching and supreme boxing ability he will need in order to keep Hatton off of him? Can Ricky Hatton, fighting a southpaw(Pacquiao is a natural Righty who is a converted Southpaw) avoid enough of the firepower coming his way to get into his territory? And even if he’s able to do so, will he, himself, be able to land accurately? Against Floyd, when Hatton got into his real estate, he still wasn’t able to land anything of consequence, and having a repeat performance will not got the job done here, just as it didn’t get the job done then.

Folks, I’ll always be as honest with every boxing fan on every spectrum, as cool with the casuals as I am blunt to the boxing-nuts. And I would advise everyone under the sun who has the opportunity, to check this one out. This is as intriguing a style match-up as you will ever see in a big fight. Not too mention the questions about both fighters that surround the event. The majority of the experts are going with Pacquiao, but I’m inclined to believe that the numbers will tighten up the closer we get to fight night. And I don’t mean that popular Pacquiao-Hatton simulation that’s been making waves across the internet, Fight Night Round 4, by EA Sports(available 6/30,, where Pacquiao wins via 11th round stoppage, I mean the real thing, complete with a weigh-in, pre-fight pageantry, an electric, star-studded crowd, and a decent undercard, this Saturday Night.

If nothing else right now, this is clear: Ricky Hatton should have no excuses. He’s fought his way back to the top of the tops, and he should’ve taken lessons from his first attempt at the Pound-for-Pound crown. This time, the fight is at his weight and on his terms. He’s got, arguable, boxing’s best trainer in his corner, the father of the only man to have ever beaten him and the trainer responsible for a lot of Oscar De La Hoya’s success, even prolonging his career some. Team Hatton was even successful in making sure that the referee assignment would not be given to Joe Cortez. Hatton has told some people around him to “bet the house on the Hitman!”

A pretty bold statement, and a road that has already been traveled? Yes. But it’s something to really think about, as you wouldn’t expect Hatton to say these things in jest, once more. It’s possible that he’s on to something. But with everything beginning to align all over again, Ricky must realize that if he can’t seize the moment this time, then, outside of the Pac-Man, he’ll have no one to blame but himself.

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