Hatton-Castillo: Intangibles = Intrigue

ricky hatton18.06.07 - By Andy Olsen: Saturday night sees the long awaited contest between Ricky Hatton and Jose Louis Castillo. The IBO Light Welterweight title is on the line, but belt pales into insignificance compared to what is at stake for both fighters careers. Opinion seems divided on who will prevail, with credible arguments provided behind either outcome. This article aims to examine these arguments in detail, and look at the “known unknowns” that accompany this fight (“things we know we don’t know” if you aren’t familiar with Mr. Rumsfeld’s somewhat infamous speech).

Something we can be fairly certain of though, this is going to be good. Both go into this fight with something to prove. But I feel, in terms of career standing, it is the champion who has more reason to deliver.

Hatton has not looked good in his HBO main event career to date, again due to a variety of reasons. It is apparent that Castillo has the more credible names on his CV, yet questions were asked of him after his last performance, with some claiming he was lucky to get his hand raised at the end.

It seemed like the sky was the limit for Ricky Hatton, following his June 2005 victory over Kostya Tszyu. The win made him undoubtedly the best light welter in the world, and there were a huge number of options for the then 26 year old star. Sadly, and for a variety of reasons, talked about, and highly anticipated fights with Floyd Mayweather, Vivian Harris, Acelino Freitas and Miguel Cotto did not materialise. I am not for a minute suggesting the Hitman has not wanted these contests, but it has been to his career’s detriment that these names were instead replaced with Carlos Maussa, Louis Collazo, and Juan Urango.

The Maussa fight was Ricky’s farewell to Britain, at least for the meantime. The performances against Collazo and Urango, served to ask questions about the Hitman, including ones we thought we knew the answer to beforehand. Granted, Collazo was a Welterweight, and the Hitman had stepped up to challenge him for the WBA strap. Yet the way in which the relatively light puncher caught Hatton throughout, and especially in the 12th round, served to worry people about his chin. The same chin that withstood Tszyu’s legendary right bombs. Course, if you listen to the Hitman’s detractors Kostya was past it. Funny how no-one was saying that beforehand, but perhaps I’m drifting from the point here.

Collazo finished the stronger, which has been explained away by the fact that he was the accomplished Welter, and it was just the extra strength showing. This excuse could not be offered after the Urango fight. Hatton began brightly, and then tired alarmingly. Hatton simply jabbed his opponent then clinched, until the referee broke them. The Colombian had no answer to this, and the fight fizzled out into a boring climax. Afterwards Hatton claimed to be suffering from a heavy cold, and his team were aware that this would be the way the fight would finish if he couldn’t get Urango out of there.

The last two performances have led people to claim that Hatton’s career has peaked already. These claims will be addressed on the 22nd. If Hatton is unable to replicate his earlier performances, complete with sustained pressure and hard hitting throughout, then Castillo will prevail by stoppage. I have little doubt of that. His inactivity from June- January served him no favours, his public appearances in between the fights told us that his weight was ballooning, and I felt this caught up with him in the Urango fight. He also has had a much lesser spell of inactivity this time round.

Jose Louis Castillo is a true modern day warrior. Anyone who doubts this is basically saying that they haven’t seen his May 2005 epic with the late Diego Corrales, where the pair of them waged an unforgettable war. His pedigree can be confirmed by the fact that he is the only fighter in the lighter divisions that has a legitimate claim to have bested Floyd Mayweather in a contest. Floyd got the verdict, but, with the exception of the De La Hoya contest at 160 lbs, it is the only Mayweather decision that could realistically be called into question.

Yet Castillo too enters into this with question marks hanging over him. His last performance was supposed to be a straight-forward comeback, versus undefeated yet unheralded Herman Ngoudjo. This was on the undercard of Hatton-Urango, and was supposed to serve only as a build up to this contest. Perhaps Castillo had the same impression, as he was considered fortunate to prevail. The decision was unpopular with the crowd, and many pundits felt the relatively unknown Cameroonian had done enough to spoil HBO’s plans.

What was also worrying was the way in which Castillo was rocked throughout the contest. He certainly seemed unsteady in the second round, and there were times where the higher workrate was coming from the younger fighter. In his defence, Castillo was coming off a ban, imposed after he failed to make weight for the scheduled third fight with Corrales (the score stood at 1-1, when an overweight Castillo knocked out Corrales in their second encounter). Perhaps the inactivity, mixed with his opponent showing he was underrated, combined to result in one of Castillo’s more forgettable affairs.

So we move on to the “known unknowns”. Will Hatton be able to replicate the form that made him so talked about in the first place? Did he look after himself in between camps this time? We know that we don’t know these things. The same can be said with regards what Castillo has left. His first meaningful contest since the Corales fights, we have to wonder what they took out of him. In the build up, both talk about this being the rebirth of their careers. Castillo apparently has run into financial difficulty since the fine and ban he received from the third Corales fight. He claims that a win here will give him the financial security he doesn’t have right now.

However I feel the Hitman will prevail. He has the advantage in two key areas. Ricky, who is the younger fighter, has been in far fewer wars than his more accomplished opponent. This could be a telling factor down the stretch. Also, it could well be that Castillo’s style is made for the likeable Manchurian. Simply standing toe to toe, and trading with the older adversary could see him prevail, just like it did that amazing night in Manchester in June two years ago. It may well be more explosive than the Tszyu fight; it may also be a closer run thing, with Ricky having to take more in terms of punishment then in any other battle. Knowing that I don’t know for sure, I think I’ll go for the “Manchester Mexican” in this one. The nickname may have changed from his other 42 contests, but the outcome may not.
And don’t ever mistake me for a fan of Rumsfeld!

Article posted on 19.06.2007

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