Could Poor Matchmaking Cost Ricky Hatton?

24.05.04 - By Andrew Mullinder: How long will Frank Warren be able to justify the use of boxers who have little or no chance of victory, as credible opposition for Ricky Hatton? After Hatton had completed the inevitable battering of career Super-Featherweight, Dennis Holbaek Pederson, in April, Warren had intimated that Hatton’s next fight would be against a top line opponent; possibly Sharmba Mitchell, possibly Paul Spadafora. Instead, Warren, Britain’s pre-eminent boxing promoter, has made the stupefying decision to match Hatton, for the third time in four fights, against the sort of opponent who requires fans to make a visit to BoxRec before being able to asses his worth.

It is difficult to criticise caution when applied in an unforgiving sport like boxing, where one lucky punch can scupper years of good work, however, Frank Warren’s managing of Hatton may be starting to do more harm than good. Over the last year, Hatton has produced impressively dominating performances against credible opponents such as Vince Phillips and Ben Tackie. Unfortunately for Hatton, the impact of these performances is in danger of being overwhelmed because the cynical use of naturally smaller journeymen such as Aldo Rios and Dennis Holbaek Pederson is leading to claims the Hatton is little more than an over protected pretender.

What is to be gained, beyond bolstering Hatton’s record and coffers, by matching him against a relatively unheard of Argentinean boxer who has fallen short every time he has dipped his toes into world class waters, is beyond me. Perhaps, in this situation, it is easier to look at what will not be gained. First, whatever the outcome, Hatton’s career will not progress by fighting Carlos Wilfredo Vilches. Miguel Cotto’s convincing win against in-form fringe contender, Lovemore N’dou, and the introduction of three undefeated Lightweight World Champions, Leonard Dorin, Paul Spadafora, and especially Floyd Mayweather Jr, to the 140 lb division will mean that Hatton’s continued feasting on hopelessly overmatched opponents will be seen in an even more negative light than usual. In this context, Hatton’s standing within the toughest division in boxing is likely to be diminished.

Second, Hatton’s last four fights have illustrated that he boxes to a far higher standard when faced by dangerous and challenging opponents. The lazy defence and unimaginative methods of attack which were evident in Hatton’s fights against Pederson and Rios disappeared when he fought Tackie and Phillips. Hatton can gain no benefit from being allowed to fight in a slothful way too often: it will only encourage bad habits and prematurely neuter any unused potential Hatton could develop.

Finally, it must be pointed out that while many of Hatton’s loyal and extraordinarily loud fans will have been initially enticed by the prospect of watching the all action Hitman steamroller opponents, even the most blood thirsty can not be expected to remain satisfied by the ritual slaughter they are currently expected to pay hard earned cash to watch. When all things are considered, the choice of Vilches as an opponent seems a bad one – especially when Hatton’s predilection to succumbing to gruesome cuts means he is only ever one accidental clash of heads away from calamity. Warren has succeeded in conjuring up a no win situation where whatever the outcome, Hatton’s reputation could be damaged. It is certainly a matchmaking decision that has dismayed Showtime, Hatton’s potential long term cash-cow, who are not televising the fight live and are rumoured to be dissatisfied with his recent progress. I know how they feel.

Article posted on 24.05.2004

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