Hatton To Fight Lazcano

Ricky HattonBy Richard Rodriguez: In a move that will no doubt disappoint many of his fans, former super lightweight/welterweight champion Ricky Hatton (43-1, 31 KOs) will defend his IBO light welterweight title against Juan Lazcano (37-4-1, 27 KOs) on May 24th in Manchester, England. It had been hoped that Hatton, 29, would take on one of the current light welterweight title holders Ė Paulie Malignaggi, Ricardo Torres, Gavin Rees or Junior Witter Ė rather than a lower ranked fighter like Lazano (currently ranked #12 in the IBF).

Hatton, however, seems to be looking at this fight as a confidence builder which would explain for his choice of opponent. In his last fight, Hatton was soundly beaten by WBC welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather, who stopped him in the 10th round in December 2007. The fight was never really close in that Hatton was too short, too slow and not as skilled as Mayweather, resulting in a one-sided fight up until the bitter end in the 10th round.

For whatever reasons, Hatton has decided on bypassing fights against the likes of Witter, Torres, Malignaggi, Lamont Peterson, Rees, and Andreas Kotelnik. I canít really understand Hattonís reasoning for choosing Lazcano other than the fact that Hatton is badly in need of an easy win at this point, something to try to rebuild his self image after the humbling he received from Mayweather. Iím sure, however, that Lazcano is the one that will do the trick for Hatton. Itís not that Lazcano is a bad fighter, because heís not bad. I place him at the 20th in the super lightweight division, but thatís clearly not quite good enough of an opponent for Hatton in my estimation.

Lazcano, 33, was recently beaten by Vivian Harris by a 12-round unanimous decision in February 2007. Before that, Lazcano was defeated by Jose Luis Castillo in June 2004, again by 12-round decision. Need I say more? Instead of going after a fighter ranked as low as Lazcano, Hatton needs to get back in the ring against someone a step above the likes of Lazcano, preferably one of the four super lightweight champions. Ideally, Junior Witter, the IBF super lightweight champion, is the one that Hatton should be setting his sights on rather than bottom dwellers. Witter is arguably the best fighter in the division, and has been for at least the past four years.

Despite this, Hatton has made no move to attempt to fight him and thus make it clear who the best super lightweight is in the division. Certainly, Hatton has his reasons, judging by his statements that he doesnít want to assist Witter because of his constantly calling him out in the public. But if he is at all serious about wanting to be the clear top fighter in the division, Hatton is going to need to face Witter at some point in time. It would be better now than waiting a year or two, when Hatton perhaps begins to fade even more as a fighter.

Even without a fight against Witter or one of the super lightweight champions, Hatton could still do no wrong by fighting one of the top contenders like Kotelnik, Peterson or Kendall Holt. Each one of them are ranked high and would make for a tough fight for Hatton. I wouldnít be so sure that Hatton could beat all of them, particularly Kotelnik, but it would be an interesting gauge to determine how much of his boxing skills that Hatton has left at this point in his career. Though heís still young in years at 29, Hatton looks both older, slower and with less stamina than three years ago when he defeated Kostya Tszyu to win the IBF super lightweight crown.

This was arguably the zenith of Hattonís career, a time when he was at his all time best. Since then, he seems to have slowly began to erode as a fighter leading to his recent beating at the hands of Mayweather. While Hatton is still considered by many fans to be the #1 fight in the super lightweight division, I see him as perhaps number #5 or a little lower than that. I donít believe that he still has the stamina to use his high pressure, brawling type of style to beat many of the top fighters in the division. He never was a real big slugger and had to depend on his endurance and high pressure to win his fights.

With this gone, Hatton becomes very beatable by almost any of the top five fighters in the division. With that in mind, maybe Hatton is better off fighting Lazcano or other lower ranked fighters. At least by doing that, Hatton is more likely to prolong his career and give the appearance that he's still on top.

Article posted on 12.03.2008

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