Does the Manchester Dawn Shine Rays of Hope for Hatton?
By Luke Dodemaide (June 4, 2005) 
Photo © Mr.Will/
In Manchester, England, at the uncommon and unusual starting time of two am tomorrow morning, Britains latest local sensation will compete in a fight that will almost certainly define his career. Experts are tipping he’ll taste the canvas and defeat before the sun rises, however Hatton fans are confident Sunday morning will see the dawn on a new era in the 140 pound division.

Ricky Hatton is English, is twenty six years of age and undefeated, yet boasts a resume more padded than a wonder bra. Looking through his record you won’t find one opponent who was considered a top fifteen fighter little lone any threat at all to Ricky Hatton’s perfect record. Over his career the guy’s been more protected than Osama Bin Laden.

Though his opponents are questionable, his skills are not. But trying to assess Ricky Hatton’s career has been like trying to measure the talents of a million dollar thoroughbred who only races ageing donkeys, but it seems that on Sunday morning (Manchester time) boxing purists will finally be able to accurately rank Ricky Hatton among the talented division when he lines up with the star of the 140 pound stable, IBF and undisputed linear world super lightweight champion Kostya Tszyu.

When Ricky looks across the ring at the most ferocious 140 pounder in boxing, as he stares into those unforgiving eyes, Ricky’s safety will never have been so under threat inside the squared circle. Kostya Tszyu, 35, is undoubtedly the most dangerous and devastating fighter in the division, if not the sport.

So has Frank Warren gone insane? This isn’t the mega- conservative Frank Warren management style we’ve all come to know and hate over the years!?

We’ve all been waiting for Frank to throw the dice with his most precious commodity, but here he has thrown Ricky right into the deep end here without even letting him get his toes wet in the deepest division in the sport, a questionable move that according to the bookmakers predict will not pay dividends. Has Frank Warren become suicidal? Or is this the smart dashing move he has always intended to make?

One thing that takes the fascination of this title bout beyond the common hungry challenger versus veteran champion match up is the interesting potential meshing of styles between these two contrasting stylistic fighters. Kostya Tszyu carries a game plan built around patience, waiting for the perfect opening to exploit and capitalise on with his phenomenal power, and nearly every time he does just that.

And more often than not closes the show in the early rounds, a fate even fighters of the calibre of Zab Judah and Sharmba Mitchell could not avoid.

Ricky Hatton on the other hand brings a high pressure, high work rate style designed to break a fighter down with thunderous body shots and then punish his opponents down the stretch often causing a late stoppage.

It is interesting to note that Ricky Hatton ( 38-0, with 28 knockouts ) KO’s just under seventy four percent of his opponents, while Kostya Tszyu ( 31-1, 25 knockouts ) KO’s seventy six percent of his combatants while fighting far better opposition.

The power, literally, is in Kostya’s hands and you can be sure those cruise missiles will be frequently shooting straight for Hatton’s chin. So therefore I think the key factor that will determine Ricky’s fortunes lie in the stability and durability of his defense throughout this bout.

Kostya has found little trouble finding the gaps in southpaws, yet failed to land major blows on more conventional orthodox fighters such as Ben Tackie and to an extent Jesse James Leija. Ricky Hatton must alter his careless style into something more compact.

Hatton’s defense has been described in the past as his biggest flaw as he simply gets hit more than he should while fighting the guys he does. He is seen as being most vulnerable when throwing his signature left hook to body as he leaves himself wide open for a counter shot, something that must have Tszyu licking his lips.

Hatton cannot simply afford to sideline his best punch, rather the British must pray Hatton has feverishly worked on fixing this defensive hole without suffering offensive loss. Because if Hatton can keep Tszyu waiting for that opening that he will try to avoid ever coming, he can take Tszyu into the later rounds were the presumed investment Hatton will put into body shots will take their toll and swing the fight into Hatton’s hands, or at the very least these defensive adjustments will help Ricky avoid being knocked out and humiliated ala Sharmba Mitchell last November in his second encounter with Kostya Tszyu.

Another ray of hope for the British challenger can be seen in the fact that Kostya Tszyu is now north of thirty five years of age, an age where the fighter of this generation, Roy Jones Jnr has found himself warming more canvasses than he has the inside of world championship belts.

Father time can catch up overnight, but this decline is nothing to bank on, just ask Bernard Hopkins’ last half a dozen opponents.

On Sunday morning (Manchester time) I believe it is feasible the sun may greet a new super lightweight world champion, but if the 140 pound division is to dawn on a new era it will take the performance of a lifetime from Ricky Hatton, an altercation in his technique which must include a tightening of his defense and a below par performance from Kostya Tszyu.

So will Britain crown a new king this weekend? Britain may be still have it’s monarchy, and a wonderful one at that I may add, but the 140 pound division is governed by a dictatorship which has been ruled with an iron fist by the merciless Kostya Tszyu, undisputedly for the past four years, and though Ricky will give it a shake, I’m still going to stick with Kostya Tszyu. To overthrow such domination would be one hell of a feat.

Though I can see rays of hope for Ricky, will he see that right hand and avoid it often enough to become the 140 pound champion of the world? I wouldn’t hold my breathe on it.

Kostya Tszyu ain’t through… yet.

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