Ricky Hatton: The Warning Signs

Ricky HattonBy Ted Sares - I'm a Mancunian born and bred and I feel I'm no different to the man in the crowd and it's nice to reward them. I want to become a great champion. --Ricky Hatton

I have always been a big Ricky Hatton fan. I liked his sportsman spirit both inside and outside of the ring. Hell, he is the quintessential guy you would want to share a pint with at the pub. More importantly, he was an all-action, incoming kind of fighter who was willing to risk his well-being to put on a great performance. What’s not to like, unless you are one who prefers defensive cuties, slickters, and/or technique fighters. Me, I like the Benn, Thompson, Watson, Hatton type.

Now the Ricky I remember had an aura of invincibility as he marched across the ring and pressured his opponents with brutal body work until they were ready for the kill and then righteously marched back to his corner with another round in the bank.. He was always fit and ready, had great stamina, a solid chin, and just kept coming and coming. Watching him stop the unstoppable Ray Oliveira in 2004 and then making the great Kostya Tszyu quit on his stool a year later merely affirmed his perceived invincibility.

However, when he was put on Queer Street by Louis Collazo in 2006, I was shocked. This was the very first time I had ever seen “The Hitman” in any real jeopardy. Howevere, I attributed it to moving up in weight from 140 to 147 and not being able to bring his power with him. His easy win over tank-like Juan Urango at 139 pounds confirmed this for me. Then, his one-punch blow out of aging Jose Louis Castillo to win the IBO and vacant WBC International light welterweight titles put The Hitman back in invincible status. Hell, Collazo was just an anomaly, wasn‘t it?

Then, a mega purse attracted a fight at 145 with Floyd Mayweather Jr and the result this time was disaster as Hatton was repeatedly victimized by pot shots and finally taken out in the tenth stanza. Seeing Ricky Hatton on his back was a new experience for fight fans throughout the world, but again, a case could be made, albeit much weaker this time, for fighting at the wrong weight.

On May 24, 2008 in Manchester, U.K., the real warning signs made their ugly appearance. The very tough Juan "The Hispanic Causing Panic" Lazcano was the designated confidence builder and was 37-4-1 coming in. With wins over such notables as Antonio Diaz, Jesse James Leija, John John Molina, Wilfredo Vazquez, Stevie Johnston, and Ben Tackie, this guy was no walkover. Hatton got the unanimous win, but Lazcano used his lanky build and punching power to dish out his own punishment and had Ricky badly hurt at least twice (both times by crunching left hooks in the eighth and tenth rounds). However, and this is a monumental “however,” a quick timeout was inexplicitly called by referee Howard John Foster in the tenth round so Hatton's corner could tie his shoe laces. This, in my opinion, could well have altered the outcome of the fight, as referee Foster saved a wobbled Hitman from possible disaster.

What was suppose to be a confidence builder at the right weight revealed to me at least that the aura of invincibility was now gone and that Ricky was passed his peak. After the fight, he looked and talked like a fighter who had just gone through a meat grinder, even though he won by scores of 120-108, 120-110 and 118-110.

But once again, I was lulled back into a degree of shaky conviction when Hatton fought and beat Paulie Malignaggi by 11th-round TKO in November 2008. The Hitman dominated from start to finish and looked like the Hatton of old. Of course, this one was fought at the light welterweight limit.

This impressive win set up another mega purse and mega-hyped match for The Hitman vs. Manny Pacquiao on May 2, 2009. It was suppose to be a close fight that would live up to all the hysteria, but all it did was increase the hysteria for Manny Pacquiao and affirm unequivocally that Ricky Hatton is no longer the Ricky of old. After decking him twice in the first round, Pacquiao ended matters in the second by devastating and scary one punch KO.

Now back to those warning signs. The first one appeared in the last round of the Collazo bout. The second ones were in the Mayweather defeat. But the real ones appeared in the eighth and tenth rounds of the Lazcano fight--and had it not been for an alleged loose shoe lace, who knows what might have happened.

If Ricky now retires, which I hope he does, he will leave a rich legacy of a true sportsman who always have 100%, won multiple titles, and was a credit to his sport. That’s the Ricky Hatton I want to remember, you know, the one who entered the ring to his adoring fans and to the very high camp Blue Moon.

Article posted on 04.08.2009

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