Boxing legend and former light-welterweight king Ricky Hatton was in my hometown of York, England yesterday, the Manchester warrior a guest of honour at a dinner. Joined by York hero and former European, British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champ Henry Wharton, Hatton mingled with fans, posed for photos, signed autographs and then took to the microphone to speak about his fantastic career.
Possessing the natural, seemingly effortless timing of a professional comedian, Hatton also captured the entire attention of the room with his honest revelations. Speaking about his key fights, his battle with depression and his proudest achievement – that of earning the biggest fan following in British boxing history – a quite trim-looking Hatton was a smash hit with the 100 or so fans in attendance.
Amongst other things, Hatton spoke on:
The Kostya Tszyu fight:
“Because the Tyszu fight was at 2am, the press were asking me was it a bit unusual fighting so early in the morning and how had it altered my training schedule. But I told them, ‘it doesn’t bother me, everybody in Manchester fights at two in the morning!’ But we had a game-plan for the fight, me and my trainer, Billy Graham. Tszyu was a strong right handed puncher and he was a long right hand puncher. He’d KO’d Zab Judah and Sharmba Mitchell, who tried to pull away [from punches] – that was perfect for him. So I thought, ‘I know what I’ll do, I’ll f*****g run at him!’ But as foolish as people thought that was, it worked. The first two-rounds, I was like a greyhound on the track. It was a wonderful opening couple of rounds which I won by a country mile. But then Kostya got into a rhythm. For rounds 4,5,6,7, he was jabbing and pulling back, jabbing and pulling back, and I thought the fight was slipping away from me.
“I sat on my stool, I think after the 8th-round, and I said to Billy, ‘this fight’s running away from me.’ He told me not to give up or lose heart, to keep on him, that he didn’t like fighting at such a high tempo. He told me that if I kept on him he’d eventually break. He said, ‘don’t worry, he’s not laid a glove on you.’ I said, ‘well keep an eye of the ref because someone’s knocking f**k out of me!’ But eventually, in round-ten, I got him in a clinch and he just sagged and I thought, ‘this is my moment now.’ I put my foot on the gas and sat on the stool at the end of the 11th-round, I knew I was probably one round up. He was tired but believe you me, I wasn’t far behind him. I had to summon up one last bit of strength but then I saw the ref wave his arms in the air and I just fell on the floor! They still say to this day it was one of the best British wins (huge applause).”
The Carlos Mausa fight:
“I added the WBA title to my IBF when I knocked out Carlos Mausa in the 9th-round. That was another tricky fight, where I was cut over both eyes. He had an awkward style. He was six-foot tall and normally when a fighter fights, if he dips to the left you know a left hook is coming, if he dips to the right you know a right cross is coming. But this f****r, he’d dip to the left and then chuck a right! Not only did I not know what he was doing, I don’t think he did! So I’m cut over both eyes; I’m winning every round but I’m under pressure. In the 9th-round I took a run-up and my feet came off the floor and I hit him with a left hook and he went down. It was a case of walking to the neutral corner thinking, hah, ha, got you. But I got to the neutral corner and I saw him put his arm on the rope and I though, ‘f*****g hell, he’s getting up!’
“As it happened he didn’t get up and I added the WBA belt to my IBF and I was also awarded The Ring Magazine belt and also the Ring Magazine Fighter of The Year award. That was a very, very proud moment for me.”
The Luis Collazo fight:
“I went to Boston to fight Luis Collazo for the WBA welterweight belt. I wanted to do what my heroes had done and win championships at different weights. But that extra seven-pounds, you’ve see me, I’m a little short a**e, and it was harder for me to move up in weight. So I challenged Luis Collazo and I knocked him down in the first ten-seconds of the fight! I went to the neutral corner and I thought, ‘f*****g hell, I’ll be at the bar at half-past nine!’ But how wrong I was. At ten-stone (140-pounds), I could barge and shove opponents around, but with that extra seven-pounds, he wouldn’t budge. So it was a real toe-to-toe war that went one way then the other. I won by a unanimous decision but by the smallest of margins. Then I decided to go back down to junior-welterweight.”
The Jose Luis Castillo fight:
“I was known as a body puncher throughout my career, and that [4th-round KO via left hook to body] has to be the best body punch I’d thrown throughout my career. He really went down like a sack of spanners. Some people said maybe Castillo had seen better days and that if he’d been in his form Castillo wouldn’t have gone down like that. But later on he had an x-ray and it was found out that that punch broke four of his ribs.”
The Floyd Mayweather Junior fight:
“By this time I had won four world titles at two different weights and the only thing left was to beat the number-one pound-for-pound fighter. I’d beaten the number-two, which was Tszyu, so I wanted to beat the number-one, which was Mayweather. In the interview after the Castillo win, I said, ‘Floyd Mayweather, how many rounds did he go with Castillo?’ And they said, ‘24.’ I said, ‘well, there you f*****g go then!’ So the fight was made and I thought it was very important before the fight which referee would work the fight. Floyd likes to fight on the back foot and I like to come and get close. So the referee that was announced was Joe Cortez. He’d referred me before and he’d stood back and let us fight. So when he was announced [for the Mayweather fight] I thought, ‘great, that’s one-nil there, we‘ve got the best referee we could do.’
“But I don’t know what it was, but he just wouldn’t let me fight. And I’d be an absolute idiot to stand here and, after all that Floyd Mayweather has done and achieved, say I only got beat because of the referee. No. I might not have won the fight anyway, but all you want is a fair crack at the whip. When you fight the best you want to be given a chance to fight your fight. But for whatever reason, I don’t believe he let me. It was break, break, break and then he took a point off me. The first thing you’re taught as a boxer is to never lose your cool, and I was getting more and more frustrated. And the minute I lost my cool, he picked me apart and that was the end of that and he got me out of there in the 10th-round.
“I was devastated and that’s when my depression started to kick in. A lot of people thought I’d be just made up by fighting Floyd Mayweather and getting my best-ever payday. But I didn’t think like that. I wanted to kill the f****r. I literally thought I was gonna beat him. And when all the fans went over, 30,000 fans, I thought I’d let everybody down.”
The Juan Lazcano and Paulie Malignaggi fights.
“I made a comeback and the fans really supported me in the best way – when 58,000 came to The City of Manchester Stadium. It wasn’t a great performance and a lot of people thought maybe I should retire. But I didn’t want to believe it was over and I ended up fighting Paulie Malignaggi. Even though I’d got beat by Mayweather I was still the number-one at light-welterweight. And I became the first man to stop Paulie Malignaggi, Miguel Cotto boxed him and couldn’t stop him, I became the first man. So that was a performance that convinced me I was right not to retire.”
The Manny Pacquiao fight:
“I had another chance to challenge the number-one pound-for-pound fighter, who this time was Manny Pacquiao. And I did really well against Manny Pacquiao, I came second! (massive laughter). Seriously, not making any excuses, I think I trained a bit too hard. Whenever I was in that boxing ring, I was trying to knock you out. I didn’t care. When I fought Floyd Mayweather, after about nine rounds, Oscar De La Hoya put his head in the corner and he told me I was five-rounds down. My heart sank. I knew I was losing but I didn’t think it was by that margin. And I said to Billy, ‘we need a knockout.’ He said, ‘you’ve worked too hard to get where you’ve got. Don’t go for the knockout, jab and move, keep out of the way and you’ll see the final bell.’
“I said, ‘you’re telling me to keep out of the way! I came here to knock him out.’ He said, ‘oh, Ricky, don’t do this to me.’ And he put my gum shield in and said, ‘all right, go on then.’ And he [Mayweather] wound up knocking me out! But the point I’m making is I always go for the knockout, whether I should or shouldn’t. And Manny Pacquiao is a murderous puncher, so when you come in reckless like I did, there was always a chance of what happened happening. He knew, with me coming in a straight line, he’d catch me, and he put his head down and he swung and caught me with a left hook. For me it was very hard, I’ve always been a proud, take on everyone, never take a backward step, fearless fighter. So for me to be demolished in two-rounds, the depression, which started at the Mayweather fight, before I knew it I was like a runaway train. I fell out with my long-time trainer and best mate, Billy Graham. But I’m proud to say we’ve been speaking on the phone again, me and Billy.”
His proudest achievement:
“To have come from a council estate, I’m very, very proud of my fan base. As a kid all I wanted to do was be a world champion, support Manchester City and listen to Oasis. I’m very proud of the Kostya Tszyu fight of course, but to have had the absolutely massive support I’ve had from the fans – as has again been proven tonight – I’m very, very proud and very grateful.”
Ricky, who walked away from the ring with a fine 45-3(32) record last November, then left the dinner to thunderous applause. Hatton showed again yesterday he really is The People’s Champion!