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"Ricky Franchise" and Boxings "12th MEN"
By Martin Wade (April 13, 2004) 
Ricky "HITMAN" Hatton
The recent Showtime Championship Boxing turned out to be all right for fighting after all. As I turned on the “telly” equipped with my “American fight fan” arrogance, ready to impress my buddies with my long soliloquies on why Hatton should prove himself here a funny thing happened. I realized that it is hard to rationalize fervently why Ricky Hatton should be fighting here while experiencing an overwhelming desire to want to be there. What a crowd! If collective consciousness and raucous energy were bottled, the processing would take place at the MEN Arena. As a huge fan of the “sweet science” it is humbling to see boxing embraced the way I in my mind feel it should be embraced. I actually sat up and turned up the volume on my TV, trying to envision being there. When you add Hatton’s crowd-pleasing, duranesque style and gracious sportsmanship it’s enough for this fight fan to covet the experience firsthand.

On this side of the pond, only Joe Mesi comes close to this kind of fan support and even he is encouraged to take his act to Las Vegas. Casino Economics, Vegas’s role as
preeminent fight town, and Boxing’s place on the fringes of the mainstream make it difficult for our fighters to cultivate Hatton like appeal. When Roy Jones, JR. fights in Pensacola or other name fighters choose to fight at home it is always viewed as unconventional or unwise. Watching Hatton fight at home shatters all of our clichés, it is clear that he is energized by boxing’s version of “the 12th man”. When Ricky Franchise thanked his fans for supporting him unconditionally I truly started to respect his leverage as a player in the junior welterweight division. Frank Warren and Showtime are capitalizing off of the basic truth that “passion sells” and the people of Manchester have great passion for the “Hitman”. I have no idea what the song “Blue Moon” is about, but I do know that Hatton’s entrance and reception is the most dramatic pre fight moment in boxing. As a viewer I felt treated with the pre fight piece on Hatton in his element, this savvy piece of television allowed me to feel more connected to the WBU titleist. Even Sharmba Mitchell was impressed by the enthusiasm in England, commenting “we aren’t doing it like this for fighters in the states and that’s sad”. Wouldn’t it be great if the best fighters in our country all had fanatical localized followings? Just imagine.

Imagine a love affair between the people of Michigan and “Pretty Boy” Floyd, “Lights Out” Toney and Chris Byrd. A love fest so intense, the three fighters are able to sell out Joe Louis Arena twice a year. Imagine Vernon Forrest and Holyfield pulling fans from Turner Field for a double bill in Atlanta. It would be refreshing to see Real Sports do a segment on Bernard Hopkins: “Unofficial Mayor of Philadelphia” than the one on April 13th detailing his anonymity. Until Hatton fights Sharmba Mitchell or one of the serious contenders at 140 there will be cynisism, but all such proposed bouts should take place in England. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask the top 140- pounders to cross the pond for a 3am scrap with the Hitman. At this point, a loss to any contender in boxing’s deepest division would never derail the Hitman express. If Hatton were to best Mitchell in a proposed June bout, it would not be premature to say an American “star” is born.

I believe Hatton has the style and personality to be a big success in the United States. The Manchester native has stated on numerous occasions that he is ready to be tested and I believe him. Hatton’s erosive body attack and subtle diversity (if you’re a purist) will make him a natural for high-pitched action bouts in the near future. I for one no longer feel like I have to go to Vegas to become a fan of the hitman, I already am. If given a preference it would only be natural for any real fan to catch the Hitman show unadulterated and unrestrained, in jolly old England.

Questions or comments,
Martin Wade:
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