More astute judges than I have pointed to Ricky Hatton’s ebbing level of performance, greater students of fighters and their techniques have dissected his growing faults and weaknesses and plenty of wiser minds than mine claim his out of “monastery” habits will shorten his elite career drastically. I couldn’t agree more but most of that is tired ground.
Of fresher alarm is the slew of clichés and flimsy sound bytes Hatton is calling upon to gloss over the past and reposition himself as a pound for pound contender. It may be true Margarito arrived as a pound for pound entrant having first been comprehensively out boxed by Miguel Cotto, but to my mind pound for pound fighters rarely look like they’ve stuck their head in a hornets nest having fought Juan Lazcano, particularly fresh off a 13 month lay-off.
I feel Hatton has enough to prove at 10 stone to keep him occupied for close to a year, though appreciate it wouldn’t deliver the remuneration Hatton has grown accustomed to. Talk of DeLaHoya and a Mayweather rematch is surely subject to amnesia among those who saw him humbled last winter. If conducted at 147 pounds both become mismatches. Hatton would be demolished by Golden Boy and danced around and scythed down by the Pretty Boy. Again.
News of sacked trainers, the employment of a stylistically polar-opposite coach from the other side of the world and revelations of ailments and injuries to justify preceding mediocre performances, is usually characteristic of a fighter in denial. For all his wealth, and hunger for more, Hatton has never struck me as a man for whom pride and ego would out-rank realism. It is therefore of some surprise he falls back on blaming the trainer and looks to a change to afford him new habits he’s previously neglected for 4 years.
For all Mayweather Snr.’s presumed mastery of the defensive side of boxing I find it hard to believe Billy Graham didn’t tell Hatton to “move your head”, “jab” or “duck” during training. Three things Hatton has done precious little of just recently. Hatton is simply at a stage of his career, where he is what he is. At 29 you couldn’t change Frank Lampard into a tricky winger. To me, boxers are no different. Hatton’s faults are deeply rooted.
Hatton presents himself as candidly as possible, a ‘breath of fresh air in boxing’ and although the ‘man of the people’ shtick can grow tiresome it is founded in truth. He did have ‘bad shirt’ parties at his local pub, he does like a pint, he does prefer the company of his own people and he does connect with his audience. For all the slippage evident in his in-ring performance, his performance at the box-office remains unrivalled.
Today’s quotes from Hatton focus on his desire to “break-records” and “claim to be pound for pound number one” before he retires. He has also distanced himself from talk of retirement and will now assess his future, from fight to fight. It is all hogwash. Bluster. Hollow words.
Firstly, he should concentrate on dominating Light-Welterweight. On recent form I think his next opponent, Paulie Malignaggi and WBC champion Timothy Bradley will and would offer him stiffer resistance than Hatton anticipates. It would after all, be closing on 4 years since his career best victory by the time he could engage with either. Little has been shown in the interim to suggest improvement is still possible, and in many of the ensuing encounters he has proven to be someway below his energetic but considered best.
The Hitman points to the example long-time friend Marco Antonio Barrera as a fighter who adapted to prolong his career and Buddy McGirt did add 3 years and numerous pay-days to Arturo Gatti’s historic career when Gatti was deemed shot.
“Look at Marco Antonio Barrera; in some of his fights he turned from fighter to boxer had some wonderful fights and wins in doing so and Arturo Gatti was another one.”
Adding an illustrious new coach is one thing, apportioning blame, implicitly or otherwise, for defeat on the departing trainer another. It was handled badly too and it is amazing how quickly Billy Graham has become maligned after defeat and divorce by virtually everyone. It throws a convenient blanket over a more obvious truth.
Hatton is no longer irrepressible or irresistible at the 140-pound mark. He isn’t the fighter he once was nor will he be again. His diminished levels of performance are due to age, lack of physical discipline and poor tactics. Hatton could well have peaked before Kostya Tszyu.
He was hit freely and frequently by Juan Lazcano last time out and Bradley is a more dynamic fighter, with good movement and solid tactical acumen. Tactically, in his last two bouts with Junior Witter and Edner Cherry he’s been punch-perfect. New Yorker Malignaggi is less offensive but more slippery and capable of landing and vanishing. Cotto chopped him down but Cotto had a better defence and is a more precise puncher outside and inside than his long-time rival Ricky Hatton.
Should Hatton choose the solace of remuneration in exchange for his head on a golden platter at Welterweight, or heaven forbid a catch-weight 150 or 152, in order to face either Mayweather or DeLaHoya next summer he will afford himself a chance at greatness but it will be as transparently thin as his motive. Money.
As long-time contributor on boxrec.com, Khaosai Galaxy reminds us, “only internet forum members would believe fighting Bradley and Witter for peanuts would be more worthy than Pacquaio and DeLaHoya for millions” and I suppose he’s right.
But since when did the rankings compiled by boxing’s three key sanctioning bodies HBO, PPV and P4P become the only one’s that matter?
What do any of them actually mean in the history books?