Maloney: A Study in Contrasts Between Hatton and Tszyu

09.06.05 - By Frank Maloney: This past weekend saw one of the biggest boxing events to be staged in Britain since such high profile occasions such as the Lewis -Bruno, Lewis - Ruddock, Benn - McClellan or McGuigan - Pedroza fights. The Hatton - Tszyu card had been the fastest selling fight on record in Britain, with all 22,000 tickets going in just 2 hours. Last week I'd visited both the Hatton gymnasium and Tszyu's camp at the Arena in Bolton. The different approach of how these fighters prepare for fights and relate to the media was similar to the contrast of doing your shopping in the corner shop or driving to London's West End and browsing at Harrods..

The City of Manchester had reaped great renown for it's hosting of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, but has recently missed out on all major football trophies this year. England's second largest city is now enjoying the spotlight that local boy Ricky Hatton brought home to his beloved hometown by toppling Kostya Tszyu, who had been described as the one of the current best pound for pound fighters in the world today. But many British reporters, who in their hearts wanted Ricky to win, had gone into the event quietly saying that it might be a step too far for Ricky.

I personally had been in Manchester all week, working alongside my fighter Scott Harrison. Scott was preparing for a defense of his WBO Featherweight title against another Mancunian, Michael Brodie, at the same venue, Manchester Evening News Arena, the night before Tszyu - Hatton so I was in a perfect position to witness all the goings on during the final build up for Hatton - Tszyu and there are many photos of those events and of all the fights that weekend on my website,

Going into last weekend, Ricky has won all 38 of his fights and was the hottest property in British boxing, but still had not developed an entourage, rather keeping the same friends that he had grown up with. Hatton prefers to keep things plain and simple, with the gym that he trains in, Phoenix Camp, always having its doors open to the press, the public or just kids from the street. Ricky's open media day at the gym a few days before the big fight saw journalists and cameramen packing the facility.

Everyone was there waiting for the young man to turn up. When Ricky did enter the gym, it with just him with a bag on his shoulder, a baseball cap on his head and his cheeky schoolboy face. He started talking to everyone as if he had known them all his life. He had time to sign pictures, posters and nothing was too much for him.

Eventually, he sat on the ring apron and talked to the media for at least 40 minutes before going through with a light workout. I must comment on how fit and defined his body looked. You could obviously see that all the hard work had been done and this was just a day to chat and see the press. Even between his working the bag and shadowboxing, Ricky had time to play a couple of jokes on the press. The whole environment was media friendly and very laid back.

The comments from the press in attendance were very favorable and those newsmen weren't totally from Britain, with many from coming from Australia, Europe and America as well. You have to say that Ricky is dream for a promotional company and for the media to work with. The same can't be said of the former world champion, Kostya Tszyu and his media day that took place the following afternoon.

That workout was held at Bolton Arena, which was purposely built for the Commonwealth Games and is situated on the outskirts of Manchester. As we arrived at the arena, Kostya Tszyu's stretch limo and three backup cars pulled up. I have to say that this was the biggest entourage I've seen since Razor Ruddock paid a visit to our shores in the nineties. The press were all held in the cafeteria and were issued orders by a member of Team Tszyu before being allowed to enter the workout area. Before we could go in however, those seeking to see Tszyu's workout were scrutinized and some of the press were denied entry.

No one was allowed to talk to Kostya Tszyu while he went through an amazing routine of floor exercises and stretching. Afterwards, the press were all asked to leave the gym. We didn't know why but we assumed that was when Tszyu would be working on tactics. This was unexpected and the comments uttered by some of the British Press are thoroughly unprintable. After about fifty minutes they were invited back into the arena to see Tszyu go through a number of additional stretching exercises. It finally ended with Kostya standing on his head in the middle of the ring, during which he spoke with the press.

Tszyu seemed more relaxed than members of his entourage did. Eventually, he left the arena and we were told that he would be back after having a shower. The Australian entourage then went into overdrive, managing the press as to where they were to sit and ask questions. Tszyu then reappeared and sat on the ring apron, speaking to the press for about 20 minutes. He was very respectful and paid compliments to Ricky during his comments.

Someone had sprayed truckloads of manure on the fields outside of the arena. The odor was coming though the building and Tszyu mentioned that someone must be trying to poison him. He did say this with a smile, the only time that happened during the media day. He eventually left the arena by the back exit so no one could follow him or take pictures.

Everything was done in an orderly and clinical fashion. It was even more clinical and organized than the Lennox Lewis camps I had been involved in. Tszyu's approach obviously works, as he was still the world champion at that point, despite being 35 years of age. The same approach that each fighter applied at their respective media days was also very noticeably in effect from both teams at the press conference. Ricky joked with the press and Kostya Tszyu answered questions clinically, clearly with great focus.

I was asked by someone to describe Tszyu and I said that he looked like and sounded like a man preparing to do a clinical assassination job and then get out without being captured. I was also asked by the British press as to which approach to the media was better, Hatton's or Tszyu's. I responded that I worked that way Tszyu does when I was managing Lennox Lewis and use a similar approach managing Scott Harrison. You can't knock how Ricky operates and we found out on Sunday morning what approach worked better.

All us British fans went in hoping that Ricky would be successful but on the night I believed that the cold-eye no nonsense approach of Scott Harrison would certainly work against Michael Brodie. I had told people that if that fight had gone past 5 rounds, I would have been surprised.

I don't know much about how Brodie prepared but I do know that Harrison had reverted back to isolating himself in the Scottish mountains and he also worked with a sports medicine team from Glasgow University. People who say Scott has problems making the weight should have been at the weigh-in. Brodie had to remove his underpants to make the weight, while Harrison wore thick wool socks along with a chain and cross and made the weight the first time. It was a foreshadowing of the fight to come as Scott knocked out Brodie with tremendous body shots in the fourth round.

The Hatton way of training and preparing would not suit Scott Harrison and vice versa. But none of us in boxing know which is the right and wrong way. It's a unique sport and managers and trainers have to find what works for the individuals they work with. But maybe with the Hatton way proving successful in the early hours of Sunday morning, it could make the jobs of many managers and trainers much easier if they adopted Ricky's down to earth approach.

In any case, the whole of Britain celebrated as the boy next door became the number one light welterweight in the world. Though many people in the trade may not approve of the way he trains or approaches a big fight, it certainly works for Ricky Hatton. The spartan approach may work for Scott Harrison but unfortunately for Kostya Tszyu, it didn't work for him last Saturday night.

- Frank Maloney,

Article posted on 09.06.2005

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