“People Tell Me It Was Their Best Night In Manchester”
There have been some great fight nights in the city of Manchester in the UK over the years, but for many the night of June 5th, 2005 ranks as THE greatest. This was the night a young, peaked and primed Ricky Hatton put it all together in giving the sport the fight of his life. Hatton managed to overcome tremendous odds in taking Kostya Tszyu’s 140 pound world crown, “The Hitman” never scaling such heights as a relentless fighting machine again.
This week, Hatton has been looking back on his scintillating victory, the fight that changed his entire life. With Steve Bunce and Mike Costello of BBC Sport, Hatton looked back on that epic night in Manchester from almost 15 long years ago.
Tsyzu, not only the world champion at 140, but also the reigning pound-for-pound king, was widely expected to have too much experience, toughness, power and sheer overall class for the unbeaten Hatton. But Hatton, at age 26, had youth and activity on his side. Tszyu, aged 35, was having just his second fight in almost two-and-a-half years. Hatton had had four fights in 2004 and he and his team now felt the timing was perfect for the fight with Tszyu. Such thinking was proven correct.
Hatton, roared on by thousands of passionate fans – at 2 AM local time – came out, as he put is himself this week, “like a greyhound out of the traps,” and the fast pace continued. Hatton says he was smart enough to pace himself and take a rest when he needed to, but that he himself was “a good seasoned pro and a 12 round fighter.” Both men felt the hot pace and both men felt the effects of the other man’s blows.
It was soon a grueling battle. “He was hurting me,” Hatton says when looking back. “A couple of times he caught me. I didn’t buckle but stiffened.” Then came that infamous Hatton low blow – one Bunce todays calls “the most perfect, illegal left hook thrown in a British ring.”
Having been hit low himself, Hatton belted Tszyu with a monster low shot in the 9th, the punch taking a lot out of the defending champion. “Tszyu was dwindling but that shot to the knackers might have sent him over the edge,” Hatton says.
Tszyu again hurt Hatton in the 10th, his feared right hand stunning the challenger. But looking back, Hatton feels this was Tszyu’s “last roll of the dice.” After one more round, Tszyu was all out, exhausted, swollen and ready to be pulled out. Trainer Johnny Lewis did the compassionate thing and there was no 12th and final round. Hatton collapsed in a combination of exhaustion and ecstacy.
The greatest British win in boxing history? Top-10 for sure. Hatton looked set for true greatness. Instead, though he enjoyed a couple of years on the mountain top, the Tszyu triumph would never be matched. Hatton got everything right that epic night of almost 15 years ago.