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British World Champions Are Protected
By Tom Gray (April 14, 2004) 
Ricky Hatton
The time has come to investigate this theory, as it is only being air brushed by the media at the moment. I have had strong opinions for a long time, but the apparent break down in negotiations between Ricky Hatton and Sharmba Mitchell, seems to have caused a real storm amongst the boxing fraternity. Let me lay out the big picture for you.

There are three marquee fighters in the United Kingdom who are recognized as world champions by the British public; Joe Calzaghe, Scott Harrison and Ricky Hatton. If you combine the resumes of these men you have an astonishing 89-2-1 record, which leaves no room for debate at first glance. However, let’s do some number crunching! Among these ninety two bouts, can you name one meaningful fight that will be remembered by boxing fans for a generation? It’s a lot harder than it should be. Sure there have been some exciting scraps, but the majority of the challengers provided for these three champions have either been inept, past it or both.

Joe Calzaghe has defended his WBO Super Middleweight Title fourteen times with nine inside the distance, which is an incredible statistic. However, when I examine the list of defenses it becomes clear that eight of these challengers were unknown to me when the fights were announced and that is worrying. I’m sorry, but Branco Sobot, Mario Veit and Mger Mkrtchyan sound more like mountain ranges to me, than credible world title challengers. Joe has had good wins over Charles Brewer and Byron Mitchell, but both had seen better days and the later had just come off a defeat, to Sven Ottke.

The WBO Featherweight Champion, Scott Harrison came to prominence with a great title win over Juan Pablo Chacon eighteen months ago. He then battered Wayne McCullough in a sickening mismatch, where he enjoyed obvious physical advantages against a natural bantamweight. The Irishman was hospitalized after the fight and from my vantage point, he was lucky to escape with his life, such was the ferocity of the beating he received. In his next fight Harrison was dethroned by the ageless Manuel Medina, an upset which left some big question marks against the Scot’s adaptability, as he seemed befuddled by a moving target. He avenged the defeat with a stoppage win over the Mexican in a rematch and was hailed as the only two time champion to come out of Scotland. My only problem is that he shouldn’t have lost to Medina the first time, therefore statistics like these bore me, factual or not. Since then Harrison has fought an unknown and is scheduled to fight another one in May, unless William Abelyan rings any bells.

Ricky Hatton is enjoying enormous success at the moment. He has a lucrative contract with Frank Warren and he could sell out the M.E.N arena in Manchester, fighting the building janitor. Unfortunately, that would only be a slight dip in quality of opposition, because in twelve defenses of a meaningless WBU championship, his claim to fame is beating up a worn Ben Tackie and a forty year old Vince Phillips. It seems that the British public are easily pleased, because this would not work if Hatton was American. The television networks would not allow it for a start.

What is the source of this problem then? The WBO top ten can be quite humorous at times and this would apply to Calzaghe and Harrison, as mandatory defenses provide a stable excuse for fighting guys that you never heard of. However, it does not apply to Hatton, who seemed lined up to meet Sharmba Mitchell in a fight that now appears to have fallen through. Mitchell appeared on a Hatton bill recently and looked dangerous, so maybe he is no longer an option for Hatton promoter, Frank Warren. Maybe on your fortieth birthday Sharmba! To be fair Hatton would take on anyone, but Warren stands to lose his biggest attraction and seems uncomfortable about taking a risk. This is nothing new to Frank who provided the same level of child care for Prince Naseem Hamed, at one time. Remember what happened to him?

There is some good news in all this. Joe Calzaghe is moving up to light heavyweight and will fight Glencoffe Johnson for the IBF title in the summer. This is a move in the right direction and the Welshman will get some credit if he wins, but remember it took Johnson twenty four rounds to beat Clinton Woods. What about Calzaghe versus the winner of Jones vs. Tarver II? I can actually hear you laughing just now!

I’m British incidentally, but patriotism has its limitations. I’m not guilty of betrayal, because these are facts.
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