By Coyote Duran (May 13, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
One can only imagine that World Junior Welterweight Champion Ricky Hatton is silently telling the world, “I told you so.” Hatton had so many reasons lined up to not face then-WBC super lightweight titlist Junior Witter, 36-2-2 (21), that now the reasons just don’t matter now that Witter lost his belt on Saturday to undefeated-yet-unheralded Palm Springs, California native Timothy Bradley, 22-0 (11).
Witter thought Bradley would be an easy mark; even alluding to venturing to the welterweight division between defenses of the WBC title. Apparently, Witter was confident that Bradley’s reluctance to compete outside The Sunshine State would be his undoing once he arrived in Nottingham, England. Witter would discover how wrong he really was 12 rounds (Bradley’s first 12-rounder, to be exact) later.
What’s fascinating about Bradley’s win is how under-the-radar he was prior to the Witter fight. Certainly, Bradley’s opponents leading up to Witter (Manuel Garnica, Jaime Rangel and Donald Camarena, among others) weren’t exactly world-beaters but to gain a spot at contention in any alphabet organization, it’s typically not necessary to beat anyone great.
But you all knew that, right?
Witter knew it as well and, unfortunately, banked on it and likely hoped for the hometown sway. One knockdown, some bad advice from Witter's trainer, Brendan Ingle and a split decision later, Bradley is now that man in line for a shot at Ricky Hatton’s championship.
Ricky Hatton’s sense of strategy has served him well in non-welterweight fights and, odds are, will serve him well; should he get past Juan Lazcano on May 24. Ricky Hatton has a penchant for staking his claim on belts worn by opponents he knew he could beat. After beating Kostya Tszyu for The Ring World Championship and the IBF belt back in June of 2005, Hatton took other titleholders to task by taking belts from them that Tszyu wore before he was stripped of them, Carlos Maussa (for the WBA title in November 2005) being one of them. Hatton would face Juan Urango in January of 2007 for the IBF belt that Hatton dropped before going to welterweight to face then-WBA titlist Luis Collazo. Logic dictates that Ricky Hatton hunts who he can beat and most of those he hunts are junior welterweight titleholders of some sort.
Disclaimer alert: This is not to confuse Hatton with other world champions who do their best to duck any and every viable contender possible. Hatton, as a real world championship representative of the 140-pound weight class, has made every reasonable defense, mandatory and optional, save for Junior Witter.
And now that Junior Witter is no longer the threat he once was or possessed of the WBC hardware he once had, any argument for Hatton facing him is surely moot.
Or is it?
Could it be that Junior Witter’s last loss has now given Ricky Hatton license to accept the challenge at long last? It’s possible but less likely than Hatton going after new titlist Bradley instead.
It’s kind of frustrating to delve into the new scenarios when you know the ones you really wanted are long gone.
Bradley has relatively less experience against top flight opponents as well as limited geographical scope. He’s also lacking in the championship rounds; which makes his win over Witter a special, yet surprising, anomaly. Tested against a long-distance, short-range pressure king like Hatton, Bradley might be systematically broken down in four to seven rounds and that’s the perfect opponent for Ricky Hatton. It looks even better when the perfect opponent is undefeated.
But Timothy Bradley isn’t just anybody’s target now; he’s everybody’s target. On the same evening Hatton defends his championship against Lazcano, IBF junior welterweight titlist Paul Malignaggi meets Lovemore N’dou in a rematch; making the doubleheader especially integral to the immediate future of the division.
Malignaggi has zero hesitation in calling out the Mancunian world champion where Hatton certainly would’ve chosen a fight against Malignaggi over Witter because Hatton sees Malignaggi as beatable. Hatton’s no dummy. He probably compares himself, stylistically, to the only fighter to beat Malignaggi, WBA welterweight titleholder Miguel Cotto (which is rather funny because if Hatton made another trip to 147 to face Cotto, Cotto would very likely be the favorite).
It would serve Bradley well to grab a seat and watch. The pre and post-fight pathologies among the evening’s winners could be very revealing and could provide just the insight Bradley needs to prepare for a potential showdown with either Hatton or Malignaggi (or in a less likely scenario, Juan Lazcano or Lovemore Ndou).
Or maybe even Junior Witter one more time.
It’s no secret that there are probably just as many boxing fans and writers who don’t care about The Ring Magazine’s World Championship policy as there are those who do and Timothy Bradley’s, Ricky Hatton’s and Paul Malignaggi’s next fights might pave the way for the unification that non-Ring devotees crave. There are few contenders in the junior welterweight division that can provide as titillating a fight as any of the aforementioned bigshots paired together. Sure, there are fights that can be made with Witter, Demetrius Hopkins, Steve Forbes, WBO titlist Ricardo Torres and WBA titleholder Andreas Kotelnik but the intrigue lies within the circle of recent and impending interest.
There will be some time, understandably, spent recovering between Hatton, Malignaggi and Bradley after their respective fights but once that’s passed, there will be three fresh junior welterweight luminaries awaiting opponents; all ready for each other, all with weaknesses to exploit.
All targets among themselves.
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