Beyond Castillo; Is Hatton’s Cupboard Bare?

tumbleNobody could question the legitimacy of the venerable Jose Luis Castillo as an opponent for the Mancunian terrier Ricky Hatton in June; the 37 year old warrior is a revered fighter, capable of an outstanding punch output, an unflinching desire for combat and a rounded technical game. The clash promises high-octane, high quality toe to toe action and whatever the relative merits of the two in pound for pound terms it is a proper fight and the type Hatton urgently needs. After Castillo however, the way forward is far less clear.

Only two years ago the ten stone division Hatton inhabits boasted a catalogue of exceptional fighters and a strong reserve of capable contenders. Alongside Hatton stood Kostya Tzsyu, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Floyd Mayweather, Junior Witter, Vivian Harris and Miguel Cotto, ably supported by Lovemore N’Dou, Ricardo Torres, DeMarcus Corley, Soulyemane MBaye, Philip N’Dou and with the potential for weight jumps by Diego Corrales, Acelino Freitas and Castillo it was a competition rich and compelling division.

Victory over Kostya firmly established Hatton as the premier fighter in the division. A proven golden boy. Whatever Mayweather’s talent or Gatti’s reputation, Hatton had beaten THE man. A misguided sojourn to the Welterweight division and a publicly announced commitment to ‘chase’ Mayweather swiftly undermined this status and helped enhance Mayweather’s reputation almost as much as his commendable, though cherry-picked, approach to jumping weight classes and finding competition. Just how did Mayweather get through from 130 to 154 pounds without facing Freitas, Mosley, Hatton, Cotto, Tyszu, Margarito or Wright? Another question for another day.

A quick retreat to 140 pounds following Hatton’s mediocre display versus Luis Collazo took him back to a weight division now significantly weaker than when he left it; Cotto, Judah, Tyszu, Gatti and Mayweather had now departed and Corrales jumped straight past from Lightweight to Welterweight. In the void second tier fighters like Urango, Rabah, Torres and N’Dou have stepped up and secured belts. Belts largely meaningless as they were generally vacated by superior champions. Hatton (IBF & WBA) being a case in point, but Mayweather (WBC) and Cotto (WBO) also abdicated to leave a vacuum for inferior fighters.

Looking around for Hatton’s next obvious opponent following his presumed success against Castillo, and personally I expect him to demolish the veteran Mexican, is a harder task than ever. He maintains he is willing to go back to Welterweight for the right fight, i.e. Cotto or Mayweather, but his preference – and that of his trainer Billy Graham – is to stay at 140 pounds where his fearsome strength and stamina have greatest effect. So just who is at 140 or capable of making the weight and being competitive?

We can discount the following as broken or retired fighters, fighters that HBO or whichever network would struggle to sell as believable challengers to Hatton.

1 – Corrales – destroyed by Clottey and stated to be unable to boild down lower than 142.

2 – Tsyzu – retired, and any comeback would be at Welterweight.

3 – Freitas – stopped by aspiring Lightweight Diaz. The Brazilian has retired before, surely the stoppage loss to Diaz is the end?

Of the active fighters the following are unlikely to feature for more political reasons;

1 – Junior Witter – despite looking like the most obvious fight available, the WBC Champion isn’t on the radar because “he isn’t a television fighter”, “brings no fans to the table” or”has been disrespectful”, according to Team Hatton at least.

2 – Souleymane M’Baye – stylish WBA champion is handled by Frank Warren, too much history for Hatton to consider annexing the title he forgave rather than face M’Baye.

3 – Lovemore N’Dou – beaten by Mitchell, Cotto and Witter, the IBF champion is looking for paydays and would snap Hatton’s arm off, but how can a career gatekeeper be sold as an elite opponent for Hatton? He cannot.

Which leaves a sparse collection of others:

1 – Ricardo Torres – WBO Champion with the wild punching style, caused Cotto problems but was bombed at the midway point.

2 – Vivian Harris – Matched to fight Witter next, and Hatton will be praying for an American win to end the whining from Witter and to make the Harris fight more lucrative and sellable.

3 – Demetrius Hopkins – Described as fortunate to survive a battle with veteran Steve Forbes on points, Hopkins carries extra clout because of his name but is a chasm below Hatton in quality

4 – Kendall Holt – Upwardly mobile Holt is gaining momentum following two impressive victories over fellow contenders Hlatshwayo and Arnaoutis but looks like a raw candidate in the ring and as a known entity

5 – Paul Malignaggi – tackles N’Dou for the IBF Light-Welterweight belt next and pushed Cotto the distance, a brave likeable fighter with some American reputation

6 – Joel Casamayor – Lightweight veteran with two wins over Corrales but a defeat to Castillo at Lightweight.

7 – Juan Diaz – the main man at Lightweight following his punishment of Freitas, the chunky brawler named the Baby Bull would presumably want a couple of easy defences at Lightweight before risking all in jumping up.

Looking for a long-shot:

1 – Paul Spadafora – the Pittsburgh ticket seller came close to facing Hatton about two years ago but Warren opted for Harris only for Harris to pull out, in the interim Spadafora is on the fighting comeback from incarceration. A well known fighter Stateside however.

To conclude, without a jump back to Welter where Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito contend – another elite fight comparable to Castillo and Kostya is hard to find these days. Lets hope post Castillo doesn’t see another couple of mediocre fixtures for a fighter everyone believes to a pound for pound contender.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian Hamill says:

    If Vivian Harris beats Witter (and I think he will) then Harris must be Ricky’s next fight- even though it will certainly end in a stoppage win for the Hitman. After that there are only two viable fights for Ricky- Juan Diaz or Miguel Cotto. Team Hatton must decide which one they feel most strongly that Ricky could win, and put all their efforts into securing that fight. If, after these logical next two tests have been negotiated, Ricky will then have proven himself and built a legacy. It will only then be time for him to decide whether to retire, or risk everything and go for a fight that could ensure legendary status- against Mayweather or Mosley. One man to be avoided is Antonio Margarito. He won’t sell many tickets, but he’s as dangerous as they come.

  2. David Payne says:

    Brian, A very reasonable argument. I agree with you that Diaz increasingly looks like a fight Hatton will be drawn to. A smaller opponent, with a come forward style and consensus champion at Lightweight.

    I’m not sure Hatton fancies Cotto at 147. They should have dine everything to get him at 140 because he was ripe then, very ripe.

  3. Khaosai-Galaxy says:

    I would pay money to see Ricardo Torres and Ricky Hatton chuck bombs at each other for 6 or 7 rounds, wouldn’t you?

    Cotto was a walking stoppage at 140, we all knew that and to be honest i don’t think Cotto’s people were that stupid to have ever let him get anywhere near Ricky at 140.

    Catchweight is all the rage now, no?

    143/144 Cotto – Hatton?

    Why not?

    oh yeah “boxing politics”

    lol

  4. David Payne says:

    Boxing Politics makes some people furious you know. I suppose HBO would be very reluctant to cancel out on of its premier fighters, after all Saturday will see the end of one or both.

  5. phil says:

    steve forbes and ricky hatton. Steve crushed hopkins. Golden Boy should be ashamed. Forbes is got great hands and seems like a good deserving guy

  6. David Payne says:

    Steve Forbes is a worthy contender, but he doesn’t really fit my description of the type of opponent Hatton should be facing. Were he to return to 4-5 fights a year and be capable of sustaining that type of activity for another203 years then I would say, yes Forbes is an interesting fight.

    But he fights 1-2 a year, and is likely to retire in 2008.

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