Will Hatton Step Up To Be Knocked Right Back Down?

03.06.05 - By William Peden: Light-Welterweight is about as far from being a glamour division, by name at least, as you can find today. Ask a casualsportsfan to name as many boxing weight classes as they know, and they'll probably come out with Heavyweight, Middleweight, Lightweight, maybe even the memorably named Featherweight and Flyweight divisions.. But this weight category is beginning toset a higher standard in boxing, just as Middleweight and Light-heavyweight divisions have.

With the Heavyweight divisonstill looking mediocre (despite Lamon Brewster's annihilation of Andrew Golota and the annual Mike Tyson comeback) it's inthe lighter weights that the really exciting action has taken place and is scheduled to take place in 2005. With boxing's baby-face Floyd Mayweather to face his stiffest test yet later in the month against the highly regarded Arturo Gatti, in whatcould be a signature win for either fighter, and Britain's Ricky Hatton stepping up against the world class Kostya Tszyu, theLight-Welterweight division is about to be set alight over the coming 21 days.

What's really exciting about Kostya Tszyu against Ricky Hatton, however, is that the fight is very much a pick 'em fight, something that's rare in these days of over-protected hometown fighters facing journeymen fighters (who, of course, are always hand picked to be as easy a fight as possible without looking farcical). Because, let's face it, none of us would realistically be surprised by either fighter winning.

Ricky Hatton isn't a name that immediately springs to mind when talking about world class fighters, and that's because Ricky Hatton is not a world class fighter. He has world class potential, but a combination of poor promotion and relatively little amateur experience has resulted in Hatton getting to 38 and 0, but still not having anything that will raise most fan's
eyebrows. The fact that Ricky Hatton's title, the WBU light-welterweight title, is commonly regarded as a belt that would be more fitting for Mickey Mouse than a world class fighter doesn't exactly help Hatton's case either.

Hatton simply lacks experience at the top level, and we've seen in Eastman-Hopkins just what can happen when an inexperienced fighter steps it up against the cream of the division. In addition Hatton hasn't yet shone in the ring (his basic gameplan is a standard brawl-until-they-fall style, with little in the way of defensive talent) and is at a stylistic disadvantage against the heavy-hitting Tszyu.

But you can't talk about the difficulties that Hatton is facing without mentioning the man he is facing in front of him. Simply put, Tszyu is one of the great fighters of our time. Not necessarily an all-time great fighter, but certainly he's been pretty amazing over the last twelve years. Just look at him stealing the legs away from the highly regarded Zab Judah, or more recently annihilation the veteran Sharmba Mitchell in just three rounds.

This is a man who has knocked out figher after fighter on his way to the top, and has only lost once since getting there (and that was the better part of a decade ago.) Tszyu is an amazingly formidable fighter- his right hand is one of the hardest pound for pound punches today, and his defense, while a little unorthodox, hasn't prevented him doing the job in 31/32 fights. Add to this the fact that Tszyu hasn't exactly got Pernell Whitaker to aim at, and you have to wonder why I'm calling this a pick 'em fight.

The key thing Hatton has going for him is that he is probably going to be the more fighting-fit (to borrow a phrase from Archie Moore) than Tszyu. Tszyu is a great fighter, but he's nearly a decade older that Hatton, and will therefore have less hard rounds left in the tank than the younger Hatton, and this will be a factor in the brawl that everyone expects this fight to be. Further symptoms of a possible stamina problem for Tszyu can be seen in the fact that he has fought less than half an hour since the start of 2003 (!) and has had difficulty making the weight, and you can feel that there just might be a chance to Hatton to beat Tszyu through sheer force of will. This could well be the toughest fight Tszyu ever faces.

It all depends, as I see it, on how Hatton deals with Tszyu's feared right hand. If Hatton can either somehow avoid it (unlikely), withstand it (possible), or do a combination of the two (which isn't out of the question) then he stands a chance at wearing out Tszyu and out-pointing him in the later rounds, or even scoring a late stoppage. But it has to be accepted that Hatton's style isn't going to do him any favours against Tszyu, and that while Tszyu is a proven top fighter, Hatton won't be proven or disproven until after June the 4rth.

My personal pick has to be Tszyu, because I know he can deliver the goods at a top level, but Hatton has a fighting chance. It's this fighting chance that makes this fight, and the Light-Welterweight division so exciting, and distinguishes it from the scandals and farces of too much of boxing.

Article posted on 03.06.2005

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