Tszyu vs. Hatton: Another Hometown Upset in 2005?
By Brent Hedtke (June 2, 2005)  
Photo © Mr.Will/ HoganPhotos.com
When two fighters of Kostya Tszyu and Ricky Hatton’s caliber and stature meet in the ring, picking a winner can be about as easy as doing no-handed push-ups. Often times, we look to the betting lines in Vegas to see what the so called ‘experts’ have come up with. Currently the Sin City soothsayers have Tszyu as 2.5 to 1 favorite over The Hitman. I’m sure there is some kind of science involved in the world of handicapping but in boxing you might as well just use a magic eight ball. And if you were to ask it about the outcome the June 5th Undisputed Junior Welterweight Championship bout between Tszyu and Hatton, you’d probably get a response of ‘answer hazy, try again later’.

While the Vegas forecasters use numbers, moon calculus and other various mathematical tools that I haven’t even thought about since freshman year, those close to the fight game know that a fight like this comes down to one magical word; intangibles. Webster’s defines intangibles as something that is “incapable of being perceived by the senses or of being realized or defined”. Sounds like Pink Floyd lyrics, I know, but it’s basically just shorthand for ‘those little things that can have a huge affect on a certain situation’. In boxing, intangibles can be anything from a fighter’s trainer, the type of gloves being worn, the referee in charge, or in the case of Tsyzu versus Hatton, as any successful realtor will tell you, it’s all about location, location, location.

The roar of a hometown crowd can inspire confidence in a fighter and in turn help intimidate his opponent. It can help him rise up off the canvas and give it everything he’s got even though his tank is on ‘E’. Or, it can give him a serious case of the jitters and magnify his flaws under the watchful eye of an audience transfixed on his every move. Just ask Cory Spinks and Andrew Golota.

In February of this year, Zab Judah wandered into hostile territory for his second shot at St. Louis’s favorite son, Cory Spinks. Spinks had everything going for him. He held the Undisputed Welterweight Title, was making his first million dollar plus purse and had the entire Show Me State in his corner.

In front of a record setting indoor crowd of over 22,000 rapid Spinks fans, The Next Generation made his way to the ring behind a wall of cheers, lasers and pyrotechnics and accompanied by St. Louis native and rap superstar Nelly. I didn’t have my stopwatch out to time the spectacle but let’s just say that it made a Naseem Hamed ring walk seem like a 40 yard sprint.

Spinks soaked up the affection from the adoring hometown fans and by the time he finally reached the ring he was beaming with confidence. And why not? He had already defeated Judah once, albeit narrowly, but the first fight took place in neutral territory in Las Vegas.

Whether it was the anxiety brought on by the pressure to perform in front of 20,000 screaming fans or Judah’s renewed focus and constant pressure, Spinks was unable to deliver the victory the hometown fans were expecting. A huge left from Judah sent Spinks to the canvas in round 9. He was met with an onslaught from Judah that forced referee Armando Garcia to call a halt to the action amid silence from the stunned onlookers of the Savvis Center. Did Spinks’s overconfidence seal his fate? Did the prospect of more million dollar paydays and even more grandiose entrances in the future cause him to lose focus? Only Cory Spinks knows. But to most onlookers, Zab Judah looked the more disciplined and relaxed fighter and was ultimately the victorious one.

A couple of weekends ago Don King took his Heavyweight circus on the road again, this time to the Windy City. In DKP’s latest marathon card, Lamon Brewster was to bring his WBO Heavyweight Title (which just recently surpassed ‘World’s Greatest Grandpa’ in terms of status) to the densely Polish populated city of Chicago to make his second title defense against the always interesting Pole, Andrew Golota.

The bout was held at Chicago’s United Center but it might as well have been Warsaw. The entire arena was awash in red and white and blood thirsty Poles erupted every time Tomasz Adamek landed a punch to Paul Briggs’s head on the undercard. By the time Golota made his way to the ring, the deafening chants of “Po-land, Po-land” had reached dangerous decibel levels. One was forced to wonder how the pressure would affect the chronically unpredictable Golota. We all know what happens to Golota when he loses his focus. Just ask Riddick Bowe’s crotch or Samson Po’uha’s neck.

As soon as Golota took off his robe, it was obvious even from ringside that he was a ball of nerves. His eyes were twitchy and he looked extremely dry. The next 53 seconds answered the question of who was the more confident fighter. Brewster dropped Golota fourteen seconds into the first round and floored him twice more before referee Genaro Rodriguez put a halt to the action, seven seconds shy of the one minute mark.

Golota left the ring virtually unnoticed and made his way through the red and white sea of Poles trying their best not to make eye contact with the fallen giant. With tears streaming down his face, The Powerful Pole draped himself under his robe and quietly entered his dressing room. Whether it was tears of sorrow, embarrassment or just plain confusion, it was an obvious sign of Golota’s shame of letting down an entire arena of his countrymen that just moments before were cheering his every move.

It could’ve been Brewster’s uncharacteristic blitzkrieg from the opening bell that confused and ultimately destroyed Golota but moments after the fight reports streamed in stating that just hours before fight time, Golota was nowhere to be found. Given Golota’s mental state, which is shaky at best, there is little doubt that the pressure of fighting in front of a 21,000 plus hometown crowd affected the sensitive Pole’s nerves.

Will Ricky Hatton suffer the same fate?

Hatton has fought eleven of his last fourteen fights at Manchester’s M.E.N. Arena, all to virtual sellouts. This Saturday will no doubt not only be the biggest fight of The Hitman’s career, but a turning point as well. Will the near riotous atmosphere of the M.E.N. Arena hinder Hatton’s focus as he tries to take the Welterweight Championship from one of the hardest pound for pound punchers in the sport? Or will his countrymen’s support give Hatton the confidence he needs to dethrone the current 140 pound king? Only Ricky Hatton knows, but come Saturday, The Hitman better focus his scopes and tighten his cross-hairs on Tszyu and only Tszyu or the Australian’s thunder will undoubtedly put Hatton under.
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2005