Hatton Belts Again

ricky hatton23.01.07 - By Karl E. H. Seigfried – On Saturday night, England’s Ricky Hatton won back the IBF title at light welterweight that was once his. The IBO belt was a bonus. Colombian (and now Floridian) southpaw Juan Urango showed well in two rounds out of twelve, but dropped a clear-cut unanimous decision to give up his belts. While the superbly-conditioned Hatton never seemed to break a sweat, the heavily-muscled Urango looked like he never really got warmed up.

At 139 pounds, both Hatton and Urango were a pound under the light-welter limit at the weight-in. By fight night, the two were up in the light-middle range at 149. Both fighters were wearing 10-ounce gloves for the first time, instead of the usual 8-ouncers. A new rule from the Nevada commission now requires the larger gloves for all fighters at lightweight and above.

Urango looked as powerful and muscular as a bodybuilder, but claims to have never lifted weights; the story is that his muscles all come from a childhood spent pulling boulders from the river near his hometown in the mountains of Columbia to sell to contractors. Bringing back the old debate about the musclebound, Urango looked consistently a full class slower than Hatton in both offense and defense. “Sometimes,” said Hatton before the fight, “that muscle mass takes away a bit of speed.”

Although Hatton has been known to balloon up in weight to over 175 pounds between fights, he is always dedicated come training time and enters the ring in fantastic form. When his world title shot against Kostya Tszyu was scheduled for 2 a.m. local time in his hometown of Manchester (for broadcast reasons), Hatton faithfully performed his roadwork and gym workouts at that ungodly hour to make sure he would be ready for the match. His conditioning and stamina this time out were evident as he outworked Urango, landing over a hundred more punches during the course of the fight.

Hatton began the first round at close quarters and was immediately busier, faster, and more accurate. “There’s a science to fighting close,” he said last year. He looked as light and fleet on his feet as a dancer, and he continually threw punches from his trademark odd angles as he slipped and twisted away from Urango’s sluggish counterpunches. His continuously fast pace swept the first four rounds, but repeated heavy bodyshots from Urango in the fifth slowed him way down as the titleholder came on to take the frame.

Referee Tony Weeks called a time out in the sixth for a low blow by Hatton, but Urango waived his right to a longer pause. The Mancusian regained the momentum and took the round with a body attack of his own. By the seventh, he was back at full speed and looked as fresh as if it was the first. Throughout the fight, Urango raised his hands victoriously as the rounds ended, but other than some good headshots in the ninth that gave him the point, nobody else thought he was putting anything in the bank.

After both fighters landed some solid hooks in the tenth, Weeks called another time out in the eleventh, this time for a massive clashing of heads that miraculously didn’t open up the notoriously cut-prone Hatton. For the rest of the round, Hatton switched to a favored tactic: holding. He seemed shaken, and at one point almost fell through the ropes. In the final round, Hatton ran out the clock with more clutching, later saying, “I took me foot off the gas a little bit.” Not a dramatic finish, but a solid win that all three judges scored as 119-109 for the Englishman.

Hatton is once again a title-holder at light welterweight, and his record now stands at 42-0, like the other major British champion, super middleweight Joe Calzaghe. The IBF, WBA, WBU, and Ring light welterweight belts all previously belonged to Hatton, along with the WBA welterweight title he won from Luis Collazo in his one-fight venture up in weight. He eventually gave up each of the belts when HBO proved uninterested in airing any of his mandatory challengers, in yet another series of situations where the sanctioning bodies shot themselves right in the foot.

The contracted summer superfight can now go forward with Jose Luis Castillo, who was victorious on Saturday night’s undercard. Not that a star fighter losing his “tune-up” has stopped any recent money matches (see Barrera, Judah, etc.), but at least this one seems just a little bit more logical.

Article posted on 24.01.2007

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