Floyd Mayweather/Ricky Hatton: Don’t count the Hitman out
By Anthony Coleman, photo by Rob De Lorenzo - GBP - It is fair to say that 2007 has been one of the best years for a boxing fan in recent memory. We witnessed the emergence of talented new world champs like Kelly Pavlik, Jorge Linares, Nonito Donaire and Christian Mijares, and of course we were treated to a lot of great fights. To Calzaghe-Kessler, Miguel Cotto’s thrilling wins over Shane Mosley and Zab Judah, Katsidis-Earl, and of course Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez engaging in two epic battles it has been a hell of a year for a sport that is supposed to be on its last legs.
Article posted on 08.12.2007
Now this weekend we have the last big fight of the year: Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Ricky Hatton for the Welterweight Championship of the world. In my opinion this is the most important fight of the year.. No I don’t expect this fight to challenge Vazquez-Marquez II for fight of the year (in fact I think it has the high possibility to be a crap fight), yet in terms of boxing in the coming year much of the puzzle will be solved when the victor’s hand is raised on Saturday night. At this moment the Welterweight division is the most talked about division in all of boxing because of the talent that is running through it. You have pound-for-pound entrants in Cotto and the aforementioned Mayweather, tough dangerous fighters like Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams and one of the hardest punchers in the sport in Kermit Cintron. The question on the minds of boxing fans is whether or not any of these fighters will actually meet each other in the ring in 2k8, and Saturday night’s fight may actually give us clues if it would be a real possibility (especially if Hatton were to win). Yet that is something that should be thought about on Sunday morning, right now let us look at the combatants for this championship fight.
Going into contest Mayweather has been installed as the huge favorite. In fact many, like Yahoo’s Kevin Iole, is giving Hatton no chance of defeating Mayweather. To me that is kind of strange. It is not ridiculous that Mayweather is considered the favorite (in fact he should be regarded as the favorite). Hatton’s lone Welterweight fight was a razor thin points win over top ten contender Luis Collazo (the same Collazo who would drop a wide unanimous decision loss to Shane Mosley). But if you listen to some of the pundits it seems as if Hatton is playing the role of Buster Douglas when he was heading to Tokyo to face Tyson nearly 20 years ago (yes it has nearly been that long since the fight took place). Hatton is considered a top 10 to 15 pound-for-pound fighter in most publications so it should stand to reason that he may have a better than horrible shot to beat the “Pretty Boy.” Plus if we looked at what both fighters bring to the table then you’ll see that the fight is a much closer matchup than many will lead you to believe it is.
In terms of defense this is an absolute no brainer. Mayweather is one of the best defensive fighters in the sport today as he is highly adept at judging the distance and rolling and with a fighter’s punches (especially along the ropes when he uses his cross arm technique). He is also still a good counter-puncher (though not what he was at lower weight classes). As a ring general you can make a case, along with Hopkins and JM Marquez, that he is the best in the sport today. When it comes to setting the pace and using the perimeter of the ring to work at a long distance Mayweather is at his most dangerous.
In terms of athleticism again the advantage must go to Mayweather. Even at 30, his reflexes are still hair-trigger quick and he has the best handspeed of any of the current pound-for-pound guys. So if you look at those factors it is enough to make a Mayweather the clear favorite.
Now lets look at Hatton. In terms of offense I have no problem in saying that Hatton at this stage of their respective careers has the better artillery. Quite simply, since moving up to 147 Mayweather’s offense has fallen off the cliff. He still has that pin-point accuracy, thanks to that flawless technique and handspeed, but gone are the days he would actually deliver those punches in combination. As evidenced in his fights with Judah, Baldomir, and his 154 lbs fight with De La Hoya, Mayweather now relies mostly on a series of one-twos, the occasional counter left hook or lead-right hand and getting on his bicycle to avoid return fire. He no longer cracks with the same kind of authority he once displayed at 130-140, so I’m not so sure that he will be able to gain Hatton’s respect.
Conversely, Hatton puts heavy pressure on his opponent and he goes to the body and head with three to four punch combos. Also what has been often overlooked is the fact that Hatton has great handspeed when he delivers his blows. That was the one thing that actually shocked Kostya Tszyu in his 140 lbs title winning fight. Plus it is also worth noting that he often frustrates his opponent by tying them up on the inside with his arms. When he gets on the inside he could make it hard on Mayweather by punching then becoming an octopus and hugging him until the referee calls for the break.
More importantly perhaps the biggest reason why Hatton’s chances of pulling out a victory is better than what is being reported can be traced back to the night of April 19, 2002. That date was Mayweather’s first fight with Jose Luis Castillo, a fight that I and many others felt that he lost. In that fight Castillo gave Mayweather hell by continually pressuring him to the ropes, backing him up, while using his jab and landing powerful shots to the body and head. Hatton is one of the best pressure fighters in the sport, has an underrated jab, and is a better athlete than Castillo was in his prime. If Castillo could bring Mayweather to the brink of defeat then it shouldn’t be a shocker to see Hatton accomplishing the same feat.
However there are so differences between both Hatton and Castillo. While Hatton is definitely the better athlete and fights the 36 minute full court press, his accuracy and punching technique isn’t as good as Castillo’s. And plus Castillo was a far better fighter at cutting off the ring. As evidenced by his fight with Collazo, Hatton doesn’t cut off the ring well, he usually follows his opponent in a straight line and that could create problems as somebody as fleet of foot as Mayweather.
Based on his edge in athletic ability and technical skills I’m tabbing Mayweather to get a unanimous decision in a closer than expected contest. Yet if you have some extra cash laying around in your pocket it wouldn’t be stupid to place it on a Hatton victory, especially with the odds that are being presented. Hatton may very well lose this fight, but a victory is very possible scenario.
News of the World
-Right now, as 2007 comes to an end, it probably is the best time to consider the honors for this past year. Right now unless Hatton defeats Mayweather the probably leader for “Fighter of the Year” is Kelly Pavlik. He won all three fights by KO and one against a top four contender in Edison Miranda and of course his title winning effort against Jermain Taylor. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if people go against conventional wisdom and select Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez as co-winners for putting on two of the three or four best fights of the year in 2007. Speaking of which…
-Unless something dramatic happens Vazquez-Marquez II will be the clear, undisputed fight of the year. I personally loved every minute of the match and it displayed all that was great about boxing: non-stop action, courage, and skill. Had this fight gone another 3 rounds it may have been on the level of a Corrales-Catillo, but that really is all speculation, as it stands it is already a classic. Their rubber-match next year should be another barnburner.
-Kermit Cintron is receiving a lot of heat for his performance against Jessie Feliciano, his overreaction to his hand-injury after the fight, and of course pulling out of his unification fight with Paul Williams. I won’t cut him any slack for his putrid performance against Feliciano and he looked like a clown rolling around on the floor grabbing his hand after the completion of the fight. However, I’ll go easy on him for pulling out of his fight with Williams. He may very well had suffered ligament damage is hand (which the Cintron camp reported to the media) so if he needs to go into surgery or rest up then it is OK. However, if he doesn’t fight Williams after he has recovered from the injury then I think he intentionally ducked out of the fight and is avoiding “The Punisher.” Yet we should leave that speculation for the future and at this moment let us focus on the rest of 2007.
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