Photo by Jim Everett/Saddo Boxing
“There’s only one Ricky Hatton….one Ricky Hatton! Walkin’ along, singin’ a song…walkin’ in a Hatton wonderland!”
Kipling once wrote, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid day sun.” For Ricky Hatton, December 8 was high noon.
The year was 2007.
From Manchester, England, Hatton (43-0, 31 KOs) had his share of followers jump the pond and land stateside inside the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Their invasion was accompanied by song, drums and an unyielding vocal support for their man.
A sellout crowd of nearly 17,000 fans packed into the MGM to witness two undefeated champions battle for the 147 pound Welterweight crown and pound-for-pound supremacy.
In a bout billed as “Undefeated,” the pre-fight buildup included a five day press tour where the two fighters, a combined 81-0, traveled across the United States and England. HBO, who carried the bout on pay-per-view, provided a four-part 24/7 series, just the second of its kind.
Hatton, 29, was a former three-time champion and recognized by Ring Magazine as the true, 140 pound Junior Lightweight champion. Tonight, he ventured into the 147 Welterweight division to face Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
Living and fighting out of Las Vegas, the 30-year-old Mayweather (38-0, 24 KOs) had captured five titles in five different divisions and was unanimously seen as the pound-for-pound king of the sport.
The contest was largely seen as a fantastic stylistic matchup. Mayweather, the slick boxer and defensive genius, owned an inch-and-a-half height advantage. Hatton was a ferocious body puncher and was known to press hard from the opening bell.
Both were in stupendous condition as Mayweather weighed in right at the 147 pound limit. Hatton had shed his self-imposed alter-ego of Ricky “Fatton” and landed at a rock solid 145 pounds.
Odds makers liked Mayweather and installed him as a solid 2-1 favorite.
Michael Buffer introduced the referee, Joe Cortez, and then the fighters. Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Emanuel Steward seated ringside to call the night’s action.
Scheduled for 12 rounds, the opening moments began with Hatton, wearing blue trunks with silver and black trim, moving forward like a locomotive. Knees bent and head bobbing from side to side, Hatton attacked with a ferocity of a hungry lion.
Mayweather, leaning slightly forward while moving slowly backward, looked to defend his small area of turf and counter the onrushing Hatton. The crowd was deafening as a locked and loaded Hatton fired at will while Mayweather fended him off with first class defensive wizardry.
It was clear in the early rounds that the Mayweather hand and foot speed were superior. Outfitted in grey trunks with red trim, the pound-for-pound king was landing straight right hand leads, using his left jab, and popping a left hook into Hatton’s face.
Undaunted, “Hit Man” continued to wrestle and bully Mayweather, desperately trying to get inside and make it a street fight. Although Mayweather looked to be winning the early rounds, the action was fierce and competitive.
Mayweather continued to land sharp right hand leads, one punch at a time, snapping Hatton’s head backward. Hatton continued to respond by firing left jabs and hooks and bullying Mayweather into the ropes. He was connecting and controlling the tempo of the action.
The crowd, clearly pro Hatton, roared anytime their man connected or came close to landing. The Hatton chants continued as the Union Jack was waived and drums were beaten. The atmosphere was electric.
As the two battled at close quarters in Round 3, Hatton began to show battle damage after Mayweather strafed him with another straight right hand. Lampley saw blood, “There’s a cut over Ricky Hatton’s right eye! Big cut. It was a right hand shot.”
Moving into the middle rounds, Hatton continued to maul, grind and pound to Mayweather’s rib cage. The continued grappling cost Hatton in Round 6 as Cortez deducted a point for hitting Mayweather behind the head.
The deduction emboldened Hatton as he attacked with a renewed ferocity, unleashing a furious assault. Merchant observed, “What he’s got to do is not get angry, but get even by trying to win the round, to make it an even round.”
Hatton was making it a war and the action was both competitive and spirited.
By Round 8, Mayweather was beginning to back Hatton up. The constant barrage of counter punches were beginning to take their toll. With less than a minute remaining in the round, he backed Hatton into a corner and unleashed a fusillade of punches. Lampley wailed, “Huge round for Mayweather in the eighth! Mayweather believes he’s got Hatton in big trouble!”
Now in Round 10, Hatton continued to advance but was clearly slowing. With one minute gone by, Hatton leaped forward at Mayweather who calmly stepped back and pulled the trigger on a short, crisp left hook. The punch landed flush on Hatton’s jaw as he crashed head first into the corner and then to the canvas where he lay in a heap.
The crowd rose with a thunderous roar as Steward screamed over them, “Check left hook. A check left hook! He never saw it.”
Hatton, ever the warrior, rose to take the standing eight count from Cortez. When the action resumed, Mayweather knew the end was near. He launched an avalanche of punches and, as Hatton crumbled to the mat, the white towel of surrender was launched into the ring from his corner.
Lampley saw the towel hit the canvas as did Hatton, “This fight is over! Floyd Mayweather has a knockout victory of Ricky Hatton!”
Mayweather had brought matters to a close by way of a TKO at 1:35 of Round 10.
With the ring now crowded and Hatton back on his feet, Mayweather made his way to him to offer a hug and a sign of respect to a man who many say brought the best out of him.
After the bout, Mayweather announced his retirement from the sport. The leave of absence would be short lived as he returned 21 months later to meet, and defeat, Juan Manuel Marquez.
Hatton would also return successfully and soon get another crack at the next pound-for-pound titan, Manny Pacquiao. He was stopped, brutally, inside of two rounds.