by James Slater: Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton is scheduled to make his return to the ring on May 24th. Following his dismantling at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Hatton is entitled to a tune-up type of contest, and currently Sacramento’s Juan Lazcano is top of the list. The thing is, Hatton is a boxing superstar, and as such the fans and experts alike demand that he fight only formidable and quality opposition. Does the 37-4-1(27) Lazcano fit the bill?
Sure, Ricky is not going to go blazing in with a pound-for-pound entrant in his initial fight back after suffering his first ever pro loss. But will the fans be happy and willing to pay top dollar to see a Hatton-Lazcano match-up? Over here in the U.K, Ricky has been under more than a touch of pressure, as of late, anyway, to get it on with WBC 140 pound champion Junior Witter. Okay, Hatton can be excused for not signing up for such a potentially hard one immediately upon his very first comeback fight, but if “The Hitman” sticks around boxing foes the calibre of Lazcano, and refuses to face the man who is without a doubt his most obvious 140 pound rival, he runs the risk of alienating all but his most fervent admirers.
It is not sufficient for Hatton to merely claim he will never grant Witter a career-high payday by boxing him, due to disliking him so intensely. That cover story simply will not wash. I mean, come on, whoever heard of one prize-fighter so detesting a rival, but not wanting to get in the ring with him and hit and hurt him? Clearly, Hatton has at least some doubts in his mind that he can topple the unorthodox, fast and very powerful man known as “The Hitter.” At least, for the time being we have no choice but to reach this conclusion. If, however, Hatton beats up on Lazcano, then, his confidence sufficiently restored, gets it on with Witter in a domestic super fight in Britain, all criticism we be duly withdrawn. But at this present time, going by what he and his lawyer have been saying, a Hatton-Witter fight remains extremely doubtful. So we have Hatton-Lazcano (probably) instead.
So what of Juan Lazcano? Does he bring anything to the table Hatton will have any problems with? To be fair, as a tune-up opponent, Lazcano is a decent choice. He is a name, has been in with some good men himself, and he is still young enough at 32. There are two main problems with the Californian. One, he will have been inactive for well over a year when he tangles with Hatton, and two, the best names he has fought he has lost to. Lazcano was out-pointed by Vivian Harris (the man Witter iced so impressively in his last fight) in his last contest, last February, and he was also beaten by Hatton KO victim Jose Luis Castillo, back in 2004. The names Harris and Castillo are the best ones on Lazcano’s resume. What chance then, does the 32-year-old have against Hatton?
This is perhaps a touch unfair on the capable Lazcano, after all he is a good boxer and he has beaten men like Ben Tackie (who has been beaten by many top names at 140) and, at lightweight, Stevie Johnson and John John Molina. But those wins were quite some time ago. Today’s version of Juan Lazcano is very much an unproven force at top level. If Lazcano didn’t have enough to worry about, what with Hatton’s body attack, fierce work-rate AND rabid hometown fans, he can also add ring rust to the list. On a more positive note, is the fact that Lazcano doesn’t go over easily – with only one of his 4 losses coming by stoppage. The bad news is, this lone KO defeat came at the hands of the reasonable-at-best Golden Johnson. This 3rd round TKO was almost ten years ago, though, it must be said.
Let’s be honest here, Hatton Vs. Lazcano doesn’t exactly set the pulses racing. Back when he was undefeated, Hatton took on such a high level of opposition that the excitement level was never an issue – all but guaranteed as it was. It is to be hoped Ricky gets his confidence back with just the one tune-up, and then agrees to face the best yet again. For should Ricky either struggle with Lazcano, or sign to box another fighter of the same quality afterwards – or both – he runs the risk of losing a great deal of his massive popularity. Not to mention become known primarily as a fighter who continues to duck his most attractive and formidable rival.