Boxing

Time for Ricky Hatton to Stop Contending and Start Challenging

10.14.04 - By Andrew Mullinder: It seems a shame that the riotous crowd appreciation and glowing media assessments of Ricky Hatton’s latest performance will be probably tinged with an undercurrent of criticism. Hatton’s dismantling of the competent and frighteningly brave Mike Stewart was awesome, and more importantly, it hinted at a step back up to the world-class levels he reached when pounding out a 12 round beating to the granite chinned contender, Ben Tackie. Unfortunately, no amount of cruel body blows, thrilling pressure fighting, or spectacular demolitions can hide from his critics that only two out of Hatton’s last seven opponents were seriously expected to give him any sort of threatening argument. And while such a statistic would be acceptable for a novice, most would argue that for a fighter of Hatton’s talent and experience it is at the least worrying.

Perhaps it is harsh to criticise Hatton at this juncture of his career. He has, after all, been guided to a record of 37-0 and the brink of a world title shot. And on the way his exciting, all action style and modest, blue collar appeal (both comparable to Ray Mancini) have combined to build a supporter base as large, loyal, and loud as any other boxer in the world – generating sizable sums of money for both Hatton and his manager/promoter, Frank Warren. However, despite this undeniable success, it seems in recent months the shine has been rubbed off the Hitman’s hitherto sparkling rise.

Hatton, since the latter half of 2003, when he battered former alphabet champ, Vince Phillips, and power punching, Ghanaian hard-man Ben Tackie, has been treading water. Both fighters held an advantage over Hatton in the amount of top quality ring experience they had, and both were figured to give Ricky a tough night. However, Hatton won both fights resoundingly; his educated, perpetual attack reaching a percussive rhythm in the middle rounds that dominated all exchanges until the final bell. In fact, a good argument could be made that Hatton should have been awarded 10 points in all 24 of the rounds he fought against Tackie and Phillips. These two performances indicated that Hatton could indeed command a position near the head of Boxing’s strongest division. But instead of building on this success with further match ups against top quality opposition and, hopefully, a challenge for one of the major titles, Hatton has been left to stagnate against three (albeit competent) journeymen.

Much of the blame for this disappointing state of affairs has been apportioned to Frank Warren, Britain’s pre-eminent boxing promoter. He has been criticised heavily by sectors of the British Media, and Sky television, who broadcast all of Warren’s promotions, questioned his matchmaking ability after a Hatton fight. Even Hatton himself mused on looking at ‘other options’ after Warren failed to produce Sharmba Mitchell or Paul Spadafora, as he implied he would, for a scheduled Hatton fight in June of this year.

However, nobody should doubt Warren’s managerial and promotional record, or indeed his ability to negotiate his way through the ruthless maelstrom of boxing politics. He has skilfully worked his way up from promoting small time unlicensed fights to being Britain’s premier boxing promoter, in the process breaking the hegemony of the Mickey Duff, Mike Barrett, Terry Lawless, and Jarvis Astaire cartel that had effectively controlled all major British boxing for 30 years. He has successfully managed too many champions, sold out too many arenas and survived in boxing for too long to be labelled a ‘bad’ manager, or a ‘poor’ promoter. Warren has been more a victim of Hatton’s success and place of birth. Hatton is the main draw in almost any fight in which he partakes (bar Arturo Gatti and (maybe) Floyd Mayweather Jr.), but all of the recognised champions want a ‘champions cut’ of any purse they receive for fighting Hatton. Furthermore, most boxers – rightly – want compensating for travelling away from the familiar surroundings of New York, Atlantic City and Las Vegas and into the feverish crucible of Hatton’s hometown arena. Given Warren’s stubborn refusal to lower his demands, these factors have made negotiations, at times, intolerable. However, despite these difficulties, it is time for Warren to step up to the plate.

Hatton has shown, against Carlos Wilfredo Vilches, that a persistent lack of credible opposition can have an effect on his motivation for the rigors of preparation, and this, when combined with his predilection for suffering gruesome cuts, means Hatton is increasingly likely to be struck by calamity against the likes of Vilches and Stewart as he would Harris or Gatti. It is also likely that if he does not improve the level of opposition he is facing, he will stop improving and develop the sort of bad habits which are usually painfully exposed at the highest level. Furthermore, last week was the first time for years that Hatton hasn’t sold out his venue. It could be a blip, but equally, it could be that Hatton’s outstanding fans are growing weary of the ritual slaughter they are currently expected to pay hard earned cash to enjoy.

It may be time for Warren to gamble on Hatton’s ability, to lower his demands in the short term to invest for long term prosperity. How Hatton would fare against the defensive wizardry and lighting reflexes of Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto’s technical brilliance, Arturo Gatti’s indomitable heart, or even the Undisputed Champion, power-punching Kostya Tszyu, remains to be seen. But after watching Mike Stewart melt in the furnace of Hatton’s final assaults, this writer has no doubt that Hatton could operate on at least even terms with most of the top five or six light-welterweights. And, for the sake of his career, it must surely be the last time any boxer not mentioned in ‘The Ring Magazine’s’ top 10 is allowed in the same ring as Ricky Hatton.



If you would like to discuss any of the issues in this article direct with the writer, please e-mail Andrew_mullinder@yahoo.co.uk

Article posted on 14.10.2004



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