Billy Graham, the long-time trainer of Ricky Hatton, today claimed that the British public will one day accept Hatton as the greatest fighter to ever have emerged from the United Kingdom. It seems an ambitious claim given the mediocrity of his recent encounters but considering the achievements of the previous champions from these shores, it isn’t impossible to believe he could succeed in fulfilling that prediction.
Jose Luis Castillo is a solid start in such a quest, certainly Kostya Tszyu is insufficient in isolation, but until Hatton tackles Mayweather or, by perverse paradox given their divergent reputations, Junior Witter then for me there will always be an unwanted asterisk next to his ledger.
It is certainly easy to see Hatton learned from his days under the Frank Warren umbrella. Castillo is a brave and dangerous opponent, but at 37 with a several hard bouts behind him, weight making problems that could still haunt him even at 140 pounds and a lethargic, or old, performance in his last bout – he surely represents ripe fruit for Hatton.
Though carrying infinitely more kudos than his title holding contemporaries in the Junior-Welterweight division, Castillo lacks the freshness of Vivian Harris or the awkwardness of Witter. Nobody can criticise the match up in principle and I will, sadly, succumb to the pressure to pay out £15 to view the encounter – but following the Tsyzu victory the Mexican wasn’t top of any list of potential opponents – Cotto and Mayweather held that honour. Time has moved on, and following the forgettable Maussa, Collazo and Urango – pragmatic fight fans will be relieved to see Hatton in with a marquee fighter.
Whether Castillo, at 37, brings enough to establish Hatton as the greatest British fighter of all time is open to conjecture – to me it doesn’t. Lewis’ victories over Ruddock, Golota, Mercer, Holyfield, Tua, Tyson and Klitschko push him further than Hatton’s collection of Magee, Phillips, Tackie, Tszyu, Maussa and Collazo. Of course, Hatton remains unbeaten – something Lewis failed to do.
Not that the debate begins and ends with comparison to Lewis; Wilde, Berg, Buchanan and several others would all feature.
Hatton has time to improve his record; Harris, Mayweather, Mosley, Corrales, Witter, Freitas, Cotto and Judah are all within a few pounds of Hatton and all would add meaning to Billy Graham words. The only problem is, Hatton doesn’t have the time for them all. Lewis fought a decade at championship level thanks to his languid style, power punching and the natural late blooming of heavyweights – all luxuries Hatton doesn’t have.
At 28, his prime will be a fleeting companion.