One of the most popular British fighters of the last quarter century, former light-welterweight king Ricky Hatton celebrates his 40th birthday today. “Hitman” Hatton, today very much still in love with the sport and working as a trainer, promoter and advisor, has some thrilling career to look back on. Having enjoyed a simply unrivalled fan base – thousands upon thousands of fans would travel many miles to see a Hatton fight – Hatton always gave his all in trying to send these supporters home happy.
Is Hatton an all-time great? Though many of his many fans will scram out a resounding ‘yes!’ it’s high praise indeed. Is Hatton worthy of it?
Standing way above all his other wins by far, is of course 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 140 pound 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. At the time, true greatness appeared to be in Hatton’s future.
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 some serious respect when looking back.
Yes, the man who had twice previously pushed the sublime Floyd Mayweather closer to defeat than anyone else ever had, was past his best when he met Hatton, 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, either. But, in perhaps landing the single best body shot of his entire career, Hatton 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, he lost his massive fight with Mayweather 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. Had Hatton actually managed to defeat Mayweather (as his millions of fans felt he would certainly do at the time; and still blame referee Joe Cortez for their hero’s loss) there would be no debate regarding his greatness. But he did not do so.
There was, however, one more fine winning performance to come for Hatton; the commanding win over the slick and tricky Paulie Malignaggi. Some experts felt that even if Malignaggi 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. A solid win for Hatton.
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 looked in quite a while that night a decade ago. 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 as a pro. 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.
Instead, in a brutally short fight, Hatton was iced quickly and nastily by 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 second-round, “Hitman” Hatton became the get-hit man. Ricky was out before he hit the canvas and, almost as quickly, experts everywhere were suggesting he should retire from the sport.
This he did, for three-and-a-half years, until he came back to fight Vyacheslav Senchenko in November of 2012. Hatton got himself into great shape and he was winning the fight until he got caught by a wicked body shot that sent him down and finished in round-nine. It is somewhat ironic that the famed body puncher lost his very last fight via body shot KO.
Hatton did lose his last fight as well as losing two of his three biggest fights. As such he is no all-time great, but Hatton holds a special place in the hearts of British fight fans all the same. And to repeat: he sure has some eventful and dramatic career to look back on.
Hatton’s final ledger reads an impressive 45-3(32).