Hatton vs. Warren - Ricky's Toughest Fight Yet?

21.09.05 - By Steve McKenna: RICKY Hatton's magnificent win over Kostya Tszyu should have been the catalyst for his career and herald a bright new chapter in British boxing.The new IBF light-welterweight king found himself splashed all over the media, receiving plaudits left, right and centre and deservedly so after forcing a proud champion like Tszyu to quit. A Boxing Monthly poll even ranked his victory as the best-ever by a British fighter, there was talk of a money-spinning clash with Floyd Mayweather and he was poised to become an even bigger celebrity after his promoter, Frank Warren, signed a deal with terrestrial TV. The world was his oyster. But this is boxing, after all.

Things are never simple in this sport and Hatton's recent actions have left many question marks on where he goes from here. The Hitman fully expects to return to the ring on November 26 against WBA champion Carlos Maussa.

But it won't be on ITV, it won't be in his beloved Manchester and Warren won't be promoting. Instead, Hatton plans to fight in Sheffield, co-promoting with Dennis Hobson the man behind IBF light-heavyweight title holder Clinton Woods and it will be on Sky Box Office. Hatton's reasoning is that he's a free agent and can do what he likes. He sees himself making more money and gaining more recognition going alone. After all, as some have pointed out, it didn't do Lennox Lewis and Naseem Hamed any harm. Warren, however, has other ideas.

Warren insists he has a contract with the Hitman, tying the pair together for three more fights. Stung by what he sees as Hatton's 'betrayal' and 'greed', Warren is adamant he won't stand by and watch him walk away especially after guiding him through 39 fights unbeaten. Hatton is equally adamant that he has done nothing wrong and is only looking out for himself and his family. Unfortunately, with both sides standing their ground, there is only one way to resolve this mess and that's in the courts. Warren is looking for an injunction to stop Hatton's bout from going ahead in Sheffield in November, but ironically says he still has a date for him to fight in Manchester - on December 3. He says he knows things will never be the same between himself and the Hatton camp again, but believes the two can still 'do business.'

Whatever the courts decide, this really is a hurdle Hatton did not need. His tendency to blow up in weight between fights is notorious, so it's important that he fights regularly. A lengthy court battle could keep him sidelined for who knows how long? And, in a mental sense, a court case is hardly the best preparation for a fight. But if Hatton truly believes he is no longer tied to Warren and wants to have more control over his career, that's his call.

Before Warren delivered the Tszyu fight, Hatton was becoming increasingly frustrated by the quality of opposition being put in front of him. Even though he was handsomely paid Warren says Hatton earned 6.3 million over the last three years the Hitman felt somewhat stifled. The easy option for him would be to stay with Warren. A shrewd matchmaker, Warren would ensure Hatton's wealth grew, while doing the best he could to keep his man on a winning roll. But perhaps, in a perverse way, the Hitman felt this was too risky. Maybe he looked at the way the career of Joe Calzaghe Warren's other big name - has stalled in recent years. Maybe he didn't want to see his career peter out, fighting mediocre opposition for decent, but not amazing sums of money?

Hatton sees going alone as more profitable in the long run. There are huge fights to be made out there, particularly in America. Mayweather and Miguel Cotto are the two big guns in the 140lb division and there is also the possibility of jumping up to welterweight, where Zab Judah, Shane Mosley and even Oscar de la Hoya lurk. Clashes with any of those would propel Hatton to the mega-money league and wins over them would also cement his name as one of the greatest boxers to ever come out of Britain. Before any of this can happen, though, Hatton must win his 40th fight. But, in Warren, he may have the toughest opponent of his life.

Article posted on 21.09.2005

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