Mayweather V Hatton. Unparalleled, Undaunted, Undefeated

07.12.07 - By Andy Olsen: As I write, the weigh in for the Welterweight showdown has just finished. A spectacle in itself, it has surely served as a wonderful appetiser for tomorrow nights’ action. I get the feeling we’re in for something special on Saturday night. So too do the 25,000 or so Britains who are in town for the event (I too would love to be, but unlike Hatton’s girlfriend allegedly has had to, I can’t give up my teaching job to get out there)..

I feel there was enough to convince the last few remaining Brits who weren’t going to stay up for the 4AM start to change their minds. So how will it go down? Well, here’s my attempt at putting partiality to one side, and previewing what must be one of Britain’s’ biggest Sporting moments (and I don’t feel that’s anything in terms of over emphasis).

The total opposite of each other, in a variety of ways, Mayweather and Hatton have already done their bits to ensure PPV sales on both sides of the Atlantic will do well. Styles, personalities, upbringing, you name it, they differ. All concerned have done a good job getting this across, through the various media which are covering it. Mayweather accommodates a close nit group; Hatton goes into the fight with millions behind him. Neither man can stomach the idea of losing to their adversary. Such adds to the already highly-anticipated bout.

British Boxing is going through a period of probably unprecedented boom. Ricky’s moment of truth comes as Joe Calzaghe reigns supreme at Super-Middle, his ten year dominance of the division confirmed with a superb win over Mikkel Kessler, in front of Thousands of his adoring countrymen. David Haye recently travelled to France to knock out reigning WBC and WBA Cruiser champ John-Marc Mormeck in 7 rounds. Add to the mix Enzo Maccarenelli, and the solid if unheralded Clinton Woods, and I am not sure we’ve ever had so many talented fighters all plying their trade at once. But let’s be honest, a Hitman win here would surely top all of these fighters achievements.

So can Ricky do it? Well, as the fight approaches, a whole lot of people have been made to have a rethink. The changing attitude hasn’t gone as far as stating he will prevail, but the growing consensus is that the affable Manc can seriously compete with the “Pretty Boy”. Maybe he’ll even give Mayweather the toughest fight of his career. Right now Hatton’s most recent victim Jose Louis Castilllo, and new promoter Oscar De La Hoya are the two vying for that distinction. It must surely give the Hitman encouragement that Castillo came so close; with some saying he deserved the nod from the judges. The Hitman’s “Mexican” style of pressure fighting can be compared with the Mexicali native. I do however disregard the difference in how both faired versus their common foe as any indicator ahead of tomorrow. The war with Diego Corrales, and subsequent defeats to the scales seemingly took a lot out of Castillo, and it probably wasn’t the same fighter that was destroyed by Hatton this past June. Not to take anything away from the Hitman’s performance, and awesome finishing shot- no-one else had managed to best Castillo in such a fashion.

Another scenario that has become less talked about is that we are going to watch a repeat of Mayweather v Gatti, from June 2005. Gatti and Hatton may have a similar style, but the fact remains Arturo’s career had taken its toll on his body long before he stepped in the ring with Floyd that night in Atlantic City. Taking nothing away from Mayweather, he looked magnificent, and produced a punch perfect display. But the fact remains Gatti’s walk forward style and lack of punches thrown led to Mayweather having a much easier night than anyone could have predicted. The Hitman is also more tactically apt, as the information his trainer Billy Graham is able to obtain has contributed to him having his finest hours to date. And the name of one such tactic is already well known.

The concept of “Educated pressure” was first mentioned by Graham, who was analysing the Gatti contest in the Sky Sports Studio, as the way of Hatton besting Floyd. Very few previews have gone without mention of the term, and it has been seen by those who fancy Ricky to do it as the key to victory. Not letting Floyd use his undoubted hand speed in firing off combinations would surely give Hatton his best chance of pulling off the upset. Hatton himself has vowed to “not leave Floyd alone for a second”, and to do this he has to be in the best shape of his life.

The Weigh-in, where he scaled 145lbs, didn’t half suggest that he is (Floyd scaled bang on the 147 limit). Ripped to the bone, I feel Hatton may well have fallen upon his absolute optimum fighting weight, in accordance with his height and build. His camp have assured boxing folk that lessons were learnt from his previous Welterweight assignment, which ended in near disaster. Louis Collazo came very close to retaining his WBA crown, as the Hitman visibly tired towards the end of their 2006 battle in Boston (although we Brits have a history of doing badly in this city!). Kerry Kays, the world renowned nutritionist, claimed afterwards that they were preparing for a defence at 140lbs, and the extra weight was not put on in the fashion they would ideally like. Billy Graham spoke out about this before the contest (Hatton won via UD), and it is feasible that it wasn’t just an excuse for a bad night at the office. The camp are a lot happier about preparations for this Welterweight excursion.

But will it be enough? Despite the changes in opinion of the closeness of the contest, consensus has Floyd making it 39-0. For all the records are similar, Mayweather has mixed it with a higher class of opponent overall. Taking apart a superb boxer in Genaro Hernandez in 1998 to win his first title (WBC Super-feather), he has hardly looked back. Yes he tells us how good he is, and that he’s an all time great, but the bottom line is he could well be right. If he wasn’t up to much, you wonder why no-one has been able to best him over five weight divisions. He’s looked stunning at times (I’ve mentioned Gatti, so I’ll instead refer to his hammering of the late warrior Diego Corrales in 2001, with a forth round stoppage). He’s also bored us (Carlos Baldomir realised the task was too big for him, and Floyd closed it out with the emphasis on being effective rather than spectacular), but it’s always been enough for him to come away the winner.

It’s also fair to say that the Hitman’s record is a little padded. Now this isn’t to give him his due. I felt Floyd’s comments, that he has only beaten old men is inaccurate and harsh. Perhaps those who agree would care to offer an explanation why Kostya Tsyzu was the overwhelming favourite going into their May 2005 battle? For all boxing history is revisionist, stating anything other than Ricky took his best shots before pummelling him into submission is not giving Hatton his due. But Hatton has had a couple of less than testing assignments, dating back to pre-Tsyzu times where certain individuals shied away from fighting him. However his 43-0 record is not as illustrious as his opponents.

I have no problem expressing the hope that I am wrong with my verdict. But if I’m pushed, I still have to go with a Mayweather win, probably a unanimous decision. Looking at it analytically, there’s just too much to suggest that Floyd will be able to handle what will get thrown at him. But the nearer to the fight, the more I feel I’ve got this wrong. The same feeling I had ahead of Hatton v Tsyzu, or that time in 2004 when supposed no-hoper Danny Williams beat what was left of Mike Tyson. Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll take great delight in getting it wrong again; or rather share this delight with millions of the Hitman’s countrymen.

As an aside, and also at the weigh-in, Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins, both of which, incidentally, fancy the Hitman to prevail tomorrow, gave the 6000 or so Brits in attendance an added attraction. The stare down seemed to be of the genuine nature that Hatton and Floyd would later embark in, and may have served as an appetiser to a proposed April showdown between the two. For all Golden Boy Promotions have done a superb job in promoting tomorrow night’s fight, and indeed the aforementioned proposed one, mention has to be made of the fighters themselves. Boxing has plenty talent and personalities worth tuning in for. Long may it continue.

Article posted on 08.12.2007

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