Ricky Hatton: Amid Rumours Of His Retirement; Is The Hitman Hall Of Fame Worthy?

Ricky Hattonby James Slater: Surely fans have read by now the rumours circulating that say Ricky Hatton has told close friends he is close, very close, to deciding to announce his retirement. We don't know for sure yet if this is merely the 31-year-old changing his mind once again, and that he will choose to go ahead yet with his planned summer return, or if "The Hitman" has indeed taken a good hard look at himself and realised enough is enough.

Only an official statement by Hatton will let us know what the hugely popular Manchester warrior will do or not do in the coming months, and until then we can only speculate as to whether or not the former 140-pound world champion has thrown his last paid punch.

However, assuming for the moment that Hatton's career has indeed come to and end at 45-2(32), another question springs to mind; is Hatton a fighter destined/worthy to be one day enshrined in The Hall of Fame? Once he's been retired the necessary time to become eligible to be voted in (five years, of course) will Ricky get the call to go down to make his speech at Canastota?

Upon first reading this question, it's possible fans will have an immediate answer they feel like shouting out, one way or the other. Some will say Hatton, at one time Ring magazine's fighter of the year, clearly deserves to be in; while others still will probably say no way should the man who lost the two biggest fights of his career have his name allowed to enjoy such exalted company as that of Sugar Rays Robinson and Leonard, Muhammad Ali and all the other fustic greats currently immortalised in The Hall.

However - and say and think what you will - this one is no overly easy question to answer.

Looking at Hatton's undeniable impact on the sport - an impact he really made in the years 2005 to 2008 - it's hard to just brush off his chances of being enshrined one day (possibly as early as 2014). And as for his fighting talent and the number of meaningful wins Hatton scored in his career; Hatton could definitely fight, and hard, and he has at the very least three wins on his resume that are not to be sniffed at.

Let's now look and see how many plusses and minuses the professional fighting career of Richard John Hatton deserves.

Standing way above all his other wins by far - and no-one will disagree on this line of thinking, I'm sure - is Hatton's momentous upset win over the mighty Kostya Tszyu. Upsetting the odds in a big way back in the early morning hours of June 6th 2005, Hatton forced the defending light-welterweight champion to quit on his stool after a quite thrilling 11-rounds inside The M.E.N Arena in the undefeated challenger's hometown.

If Hatton doesn't get respect for this win, he gets respect for nothing. In short, Hatton, then in hindsight at his absolute peak at age 26, smashed the fight right out of the man who had lost just once before and was expected by most to make toast of Hatton. This win goes in as a huge plus as far as Ricky's chances of going into The Hall.

The next genuinely meaningful win for Hatton was to take place a little over two years later. Though he followed up the shock win over Tszyu with alphabelt wins over the decent duo that was Carlos Mausa (TKO 9) and, up at 147-pounds, Luis Collazo (a very fortunate-looking WU 12), it is Hatton's win over Mexican near legend Jose Luis Castillo in June of 2007 that earns him the serious points where his Hall of Fame-worthiness is concerned.

Yes, the man who had twice previously pushed the sublime Floyd Mayweather Junior closer to defeat that anyone else ever has to this day, was past his best when he met Ricky, but he was not considered a shot fighter any more than he was looked at as one who would cave in inside four-rounds and from a one-punch KO against Hatton either. But, in perhaps landing the single best body shot of his entire career, "The Hitman" took Castillo out in style in Las Vegas, and his career received a major boost as a result. So too do Hatton's H.O.F chances receive a major boost as a result of what was his 43rd pro win. This win was so impressive, it persuaded the aforementioned Mayweather, then in the early stages of one of his many "retirements," to come back and face Hatton.

Unfortunately for Hatton - and for his chances as far as The Hall are concerned - Ricky lost the fight to "Pretty Boy" that year, being KO'd in the 10th-round of a pretty one-sided fight. Hatton showed grit, of course, but his skill levels were nowhere near enough to unseat Mayweather and his position atop the pound-for-pound rankings. This loss, though it was to a great, has to go down as one of Hatton's minuses as far as this article is concerned.

There was, however, one more fine winning performance to come for Hatton; the commanding win over the slick and tricky Paulie Malignaggi.

To be fair, this win doesn't exactly earn Ricky a ton of points due to the fact that Malignaggi, though fast and skilled, could not and cannot hit anywhere near hard. Still, some experts felt that even if "The Magic Man" didn't win in November of 2008, he'd at the very least make Hatton look foolish at times and enjoy long periods in which he outboxed the Manchester favourite. Malignaggi, who was pulled out by his corner seconds into the 11th-round, did neither.

Some experts were so impressed with Hatton's showing, they began calling his new (and as it turned, out short-lived) trainer, Floyd Mayweather Senior, all manner of wonderful things. Hatton, it must be said, did look fresher and better than he had in quite a while. To this day, no fighter has ever manhandled Malignaggi as effortlessly as did Ricky that night in Vegas - not even the mighty Miguel Cotto.

Indeed, Hatton looked so good, many people made his next fight, with Filipino southpaw Manny Pacquiao, a winnable fight for the now 30-year-old who was 45-1. The struggles with Collazo and, more importantly, Mayweather, were attributed to how Hatton had ventured too far up in weight in trying his hand as a welterweight; against the naturally smaller one-time 106-pounder, Hatton would get the job done. Or so he and his army of fans thought.

So to the next minus on Ricky's resume. Even though Hatton shouldn't be overly penalised for losing to the man who is today the number-one star of the pound-for-pound ratings, he does lose almost all of the momentum his win over Malignaggi got him as far as this article goes - mainly because he was iced so quickly and with so little effort on the part of Pac-Man.

Hatton, basically, was in with no chance in May of last year when he faced Pacquiao. Walking in with no defence and subsequently getting decked twice in the opening round and then put away in unforgettably violent fashion in the 2nd-round, "The Hitman" became the get-hit-man. Ricky was out before he hit the canvas and, almost as quickly, experts everywhere were suggesting he retire from the sport.

Well, here we are, bang up to date, and it seems Ricky may actually be close to announcing his exit from the rough side of the ropes. And when five years have been up after he has done so (if he does, that is - for who knows, Ricky may fight on and win some big, big fights yet?) will he get voted in at Canastota?

On the plus side; Ricky has to his name that superb win over Tszyu, and those two very good wins over Castillo and Malignaggi. On the minus side: Hatton has to his name that KO loss to Mayweather, that struggle with Collazo and, most importantly, that brutal KO loss to Pacquiao.

Add these minuses and plusses up, and it's clear - Ricky Hatton, though a damn good fighter on his day, does NOT belong in the Hall of Fame.

Article posted on 09.03.2010

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