By Matthew Hurley: Junior Witter, tired of his losing campaign to goad Ricky Hatton into accepting his challenge for a junior welterweight showdown, has upped his verbal attack on the Manchester fighter, questioning his ring skills and fistic courage. Witter, 36-1-2 with 21 KOs out of Bradford last fought on September 7th, successfully defending his WBC light welterweight championship by stopping Vivian Harris with a vicious assault in the seventh round. The fighter has been calling for a Hatton fight for years but Ricky has all but ignored him. Most recently Hatton’s lawyer expressed through the media that the ‘Hitman’ would never fight Witter as long as the taunting continues..
Witter sees all this as a form of persecution. “Anyone who has been persecuted over the years for reasons that are unjust, that’s how I feel sometimes,” he told the Times. “But that’s life. Life’s not fair and people aren’t fair.”
Witter’s frustration with his lack of star power in the face of Hatton’s massive fan appeal is understandable. The big money is always out of reach until that one breakthrough bout sends a fighter into the mainstream. Hatton experienced that with his title winning performance over Kostya Tszyu and was eventually rewarded with a mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas. Witter seen Hatton as either his golden ticket or the one looming obstacle left standing in his way that continues to keep him in the shadows.
“Hatton has avoided fighting me for years,” he says. “Things go wrong and you don’t get what you deserve all the time. So you make the best of what you’ve got. I’ve got my health, I’ve got good friends around me, a good team behind me and a good woman. My life is truly fruitful.”
That rosy outlook aside, the fighter in Witter remains embittered at his inability to score monetarily in a profession in which he has proven himself to be of championship stock and, in his eyes, a dangerous enough opponent to be avoided. Ricky Hatton personifies that frustration.
“Do I think I could beat Hatton? Of course I do. I have no doubt at all and he knows it too.”
As Witter talks about Ricky Hatton the frustration he feels spills forth and his incredulity as to why Hatton became a star while he continues to toil in relative obscurity is why he continues to take aim at the fighter.
“Ricky was lucky because he came around at the right time, straight after Naz (Naseem Hamed) whose personality and arrogance people had grown to hate. Hatton was white, from Manchester, loved his football, drank too much and was a typical lad. His style was basic and easy to understand.”
Witter then slips in the knife. “Every so often a fight between us would get close but then it would just go away again. If a fight was too dangerous for Ricky it didn’t happen, so every time I was in the way I got moved out of his path. Hatton hates me and he can’t stand the fact that I’ll beat him if we ever get in the ring. That’s why his handlers have never allowed the fight to happen.”
Although camp Hatton has waved off Witter’s challenges Hatton himself is more than aware of the fighter and is as dismissive of Junior as Witter is of him.
“Frank Warren built me up and he didn’t build up Junior,” he says. “Witter has won the British title, the European title, the Commonwealth title and the WBC title. Ultimately he’s had a great career. But I’ve enjoyed seeing him squirm, fighting nobodies and getting no money. The only way he’s going to make considerable money is by fighting me.”
Hatton, however, sees no need or, more to the point, no financial need to take on Witter in the near future. As of now the ‘Hitman’ is waiting like everyone else to see whom Oscar De La Hoya chooses for his next opponent. Hatton’s name remains on the ‘Golden Boy’s’ relatively short list despite his knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather. Until that announcement, which should come in the next two weeks, Hatton has remained tucked away in his favorite pub, adding some beer fat to his muscular frame.
Witter, somewhat resigned to his fate, will look elsewhere for his next fight but his pride and anger will continue to be fueled by Ricky Hatton.
“If the fight with Hatton happens, great. If it doesn’t, it will be because he’s scared to fight me and that’s the truth of why it hasn’t happened all these years.”