What next for the Hitman?

15.02.06 - By James Allan: With the definite news that Floyd Mayweather is going to fight Zab Judah next, there is a question mark over who, Ricky Hattonís next opponent is likely to be. Mayweather would have been the preferred choice as far as team Hatton were concerned but for whatever reasons Floyd doesnít want it at the moment and so it will have to wait. The Hitman is riding high at the moment with two of the four major titles to his credit and the name of Kostya Tszyu on his list of victories. He is an established name in the Light Welterweight division and not the perennial contender he was in danger of becoming just over a year ago. He, along with Amir Khan, is the major boxing attraction in Britain at the moment, but unlike Amir, who is still in the early stages of his career, he is an established world-class fighter. What all of this means is that in Britain, he can sell out just about any venue he chooses to fight in. He is a pay-per-view attraction and as such his name has the financial clout to entice the top foreign fighters to come over and face him in Britain. Ricky would probably like to fight in Las Vegas and Atlantic City in order to raise his profile in the United States and also to place his name alongside boxing legends like Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, and in the future he probably will, but it is an undeniable fact that financially he doesnít have to. He is already a very wealthy young man and he is now a big enough name in his own right to be able to fight in Britain for the rest of his career if he wanted to. Promoters would be happy enough to push his fights and with the coverage of big fights in Britain being pushed back to two or three am in the morning in order to accommodate American TV audiences he would still draw in big viewing figures.

Given all of this, Ricky will want to face another big name in his next fight. Maussa was useful in that a fight with him allowed Ricky to add the WBA strap to his IBF title, but in terms of profile, Maussa did little to add to Rickyís reputation. There is, in my opinion, currently a choice of four fighters Ricky would probably like to face. They are, Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Diego Corrales or Jose Luis Castillo. He could also look to fight Junior Witter, Carlos Baldomir, Acelino Freitas or Vivian Harris.

Of the first four fighters Gatti must surely be Rickyís preferred option. He also is a huge box office attraction and a fight with him would appeal to the majority of boxing fans, as they are both come forward fighters with decent chins. If truth were told, Ricky would strongly fancy his chances against Gatti. He is six years younger than him and hasnít been in anywhere near as many wars as him. Gatti is all heart, but as was shown in his fight against Mayweather, heart isnít always enough, and in his own way, Ricky is just as effective as Mayweather at breaking down and demoralising opponents. His constant pressure style of fighting is incredibly difficult to combat, and I am not convinced that Gatti hits hard enough to keep Ricky off of him. If Gatti were to stand in front of Ricky, this would suit Ricky perfectly as it would save him the trouble of having to go looking for him, and while Gatti is a decent boxer when he decides to box instead of brawl, I donít think he is quick enough or clever enough to avoid Ricky all night. At best this strategy would probably only delay the inevitable, a stoppage victory for Ricky. However, this is boxing and as such you can never take anything for granted. Ricky will know this, and for that reason I donít see him taking Gatti quite as lightly as he took Maussa. For Gatti a fight with Ricky would represent possible redemption after taking a fearful hammering at the fists of Floyd Mayweather, a chance to win another World Title and another huge payday. All of these reasons make the fight attractive to both fighters and also to the TV companies and thatís why I see it as being a question of when not if they sign the contracts.

However, given the choice of opponents available to Ricky, my own personal preference would be for him to face Junior Witter. Witter has been calling him out for long enough now, and has a run of nineteen straight victories since his loss to Zab Judah in 2000, a fight he took at a weekís notice. There is no denying that he looked awful as he spent most of the fight running from Judah but nothing in his 17 fights before that had prepared him for taking on Judah, and given that Zab came with a huge reputation at that time, it may be that Witter took stage fright on the night believing that he may have been in over his head. Whatever the reasons, the American TV companies turned against him and seemed to have almost no interest in putting him on again. However, a run of 15 straight knockout victories followed by a good win over Lovermore Nídou and the current holding of the British, Commonwealth and European titles have raised his profile again here in Britain, and given Rickyís immense popularity, this is a fight that could be sold over here and it would probably interest many American viewers. On a professional level, I think that Witter would cause Hatton more problems than Gatti would. He can definitely hit hard enough to trouble him and he has good movement. I am not quite sure how good his chin is, but I donít rate Ricky as a one-punch knockout artist. He may have finished Maussa off with one shot, but by the time he did knock him out, he had sapped all of Maussaís resistance and he was ready for taking. Ricky is a hurtful puncher but not devastating, his great strength lies in his fantastic work rate and whether or not Witter would be able to match this would be the key to their fight. Also, of all the fighters on offer for Ricky at the moment, I believe that Witterís style most closely imitates that of Mayweather. I am not putting him in the same league as Mayweather, but it would be fascinating to see if Ricky could work him out and how quickly he could do it. On a personal level, Witter has been shouting for a match against Ricky for years now. At 31 years of age you have to ask how many more years does he realistically have left at the top end of the game? He really needs to secure a big fight now before he slips into complete obscurity. It would be interesting to watch the two top Junior Welterweights in Britain facing each other and it would be a shame if Witter were to leave the game without ever having the chance to make up for his disappointment against Judah but as we all know, fights arenít made nowadays purely in terms of people deserving a shot. Team Hatton would probably look on Witter, as too much risk for too little gain and the chances of this fight ever taking place are negligible.

Ricky is an enviable position at this exact moment in time, able to pick his next opponent and with a super fight already to his credit. It will be fascinating to see what his next move will be.

Article posted on 15.02.2006

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