Hatton Comfortable With Referee Joe Cortez

01.12.07 - By Matthew Hurley: During the buildup to his December 8th welterweight showdown with Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Ricky Hatton has endured and pretty much ignored all of the “Pretty Boy’s” taunts and name-calling. From being derided as a “C level” fighter to a “one dimensional club fighter” to a boxer who should feel lucky to even be in the same ring with the self-proclaimed “greatest fighter of all time”, Hatton has shrugged it all off with his characteristic good humor..

But Floyd’s trainer Roger has finally raised the ire of the Manchester “Hit Man” by accusing him of being a dirty fighter. Hatton, who prides himself on his professionalism and work ethic, finally lost his temper when questions by the Mayweather camp were being raised about who would referee the fight. It was during the weeks prior to the announcement that “fair but firm” Joe Cortez would be the third man in charge that Roger began making his accusations.

“The rubbish that Roger Mayweather has been coming out with is just an attempt to influence the referee,” Hatton told the Daily Express. “If I commit a foul in the ring, then Cortez should and will punish me. But all the Mayweather camp is trying to do is find a way to criticize. I will take that as a compliment. The best thing that’s happened is that Cortez was made the ref, because he’s experienced and done countless world title fights.”

There is little doubt that Hatton does employ a clutch-grab-and-hit technique and that this dimension to his game sometimes turns off fans, but it will be Cortez’s job to distinguish between egregious fouls and legal inside fighting. It is the inside game that Hatton will be banking on in order to wear the fleet footed Mayweather down. If Cortez doesn’t allow Hatton to crowd Mayweather and bully him into the ropes, the Mancunian fighter could be in for a long night.

One observer who feels that Hatton’s skills are vastly underrated is Bernard Hopkins’ trainer Nazim Richardson. Richardson has provided the Hatton camp with sparring partners and traveled to Manchester to spend time with Ricky while he trained.

“Ricky knows that coming forward and putting on the pressure is not going to be enough,” he told the Sporting Life. “Ricky is much quicker and cleverer than people give him credit for. He is not just going to be walking forward. I think it will be a rough fight. Ricky has the ability to turn this into a real dogfight, and that is where his chances lie. His chances lie with being strategic within that dogfight, because Mayweather won’t relish that ruggedness. Ricky beating Mayweather would not be a shock.”

Hatton agrees with that assessment and his recent workout in Las Vegas with trainer Billy Graham ensconced in a heavily padded body suit provided ample evidence of the approach Hatton will take when the opening bell for the first round clangs.

“Mayweather wants to keep me out at a distance,” Hatton says. “He doesn’t want me up close and that is why he wants the ref to pull us apart at every opportunity. There is nothing wrong with fighting in close like I do as long as it’s legal.”

A former foe, Jose Luis Castillo, common to both fighters, has since rethought his prediction since the night Hatton knocked him out in the fourth round. After the fight Castillo, who lost two close decisions to Mayweather (the first loss is still hotly disputed in boxing circles), said Floyd would easily beat Hatton. Now he says, “It is difficult to call this fight. Mayweather is very quick and sharp but Hatton throws a lot of heavy punches and he’s faster than people give him credit for. Hatton is a very proud, strong fighter and he can win. I have no doubt about that.”

Roger Mayweather may still be spouting off, his derisive asides very often unintelligible, but Floyd, even when he continues to brag about himself, no longer seems particularly interested in trying to intimidate Hatton. The champion has come to realize that Ricky is not only nothing like Oscar De La Hoya, whose skin he was able to get under and infuriate, but also that he finds Floyd’s antics added fuel to his own comedic grace. Even Floyd’s closes advisor Leonard Ellerbee admitted that Hatton is a funny guy. Hatton’s willingness to be self-deprecating deflates all of Mayweather’s taunts. Roger doesn’t get it, but Floyd does and in that realization the “Pretty Boy” knows that he will have his hands full on December 8th.

“Floyd would like to think the pressure will get to me but I’ve always boxed in front of bigger crowds and I’ve always had the right preparation. I’ve been groomed to fight at this level from the start. I’m ready for him.”


Official For Hatton – Mayweather

Referee – Joe Cortez

Judges – Paul Smith, Dave Moretti and Burt Clements.

Article posted on 02.12.2007

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