Boxing


Sharkie's Machine: Hatton Smothers Tszyu!

06.06.06 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr.: WBU Jr. Welterweight Champion, Ricky Hatton suffocated IBF Champion Kostya Tszyu (photo: Tom Casino/Showtime) for every minute of every round forcing Tszyu to quit on his stool and surrender his Title after the eleventh round Saturday night in the MEN Arena in Manchester England, where Hatton draws much spirit from his hometown crowd.

This was one of the fastest fights I ever remember seeing. It was such a wild pace that each round seemed to fly by. It turned out to be the toughest fight of Kostya Tszyu's career.

Last November, after Kostya Tszyu (31-2-1-25 KO's) was away for two years, he came back and destroyed Sharmba Mitchell (55-4-0-30 KO's) in three rounds, proving he was still a great Champion and not to be underestimated.

Last December, Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton (39-0-0-29 KO's) beat a past his prime, Ray Oliveira (47-9-2-22 KO's) by KO 10..

Against Kostya Tszyu, Hatton fought like a man possessed. He smothered Tszyu with punches and pressure from the first bell to the last seconds of the eleventh round. When Hatton wasn't punching, he was wrestling Tszyu and forcing him to spend every ounce of energy in his 35-year old body and never gave Tszyu a chance to get his offense in gear.

Hatton kept close to Tszyu and nullified his punching power by taking away his range. Though Tszyu did win a few rounds with quality counter punching, nothing he ever did impeded the avalanche that was Ricky Hatton.

Ultimately, Hatton's pressure proved too much for Tszyu and after the eleventh round-Kostya didn't come out for the twelfth. With his face swollen to a pulp, Tszyu sat on his stool and watched Hatton raise his arms in victory, the winner by TKO 11.

I was shocked. I expected Tszyu would win in the middle rounds by KO. Having seen many of both guys' fights, I noticed that Hatton often gets careless and Tsyzu, a well-schooled, counter punching boxer with great power, would catch him with a goodnight punch. That never happened. Instead, the Tasmanian-Devil approach of Ricky Hatton proved the right recipe to defeat the great Kostya Tszyu.

Hatton's strategy was effective. He frustrated and drained Tszyu, who was breathing through his mouth after the third round. Tszyu was noticeably slowing and getting weaker as the rounds got deeper. There were times when Tszyu would catch Hatton with good shots, but Hatton would walk right through them and keep on attacking. Tszyu was completely frustrated and outworked all night.

Tszyu is known to be a slow starter, but a smart boxer, who takes note of his opponent's weaknesses and exploits them. I expected Tszyu to dictate the pace after figuring Hatton out. But there would be no figuring Hatton out. Hatton executed a brilliant strategy against Tszyu and he showed he wanted it more and used his amazing energy and stamina to force his will on one of the best fighters in the sport.

There was never a dull moment in this fight. There was a lot of rough housing, rabbit punching, low blows, pushing and heads perilously grazing each other during clinches. In the seventh round, Tszyu landed a low blow that saw Hatton fall to the canvas. It was ruled a slip since the punch that felled him was a low blow. In the eighth, Tszyu pushed Hatton out of a clinch and Hatton fell backwards into the ropes and down. That too was ruled a slip. Hatton soon retaliated with a vicious, intentional low blow that saw Tszyu fall to his knees. Dave Parris, the referee, took no point. After all, Tszyu got away with it twice. While Tszyu should have taken the full five minutes to recover, he only took about 45 seconds. That was a mistake. A little recovery time may have given him a better chance when they continued.

Hatton kept coming in like a buzz saw and then grabbing onto Tszyu every time they got close, leaning in with his head and forcing Tszyu into awkward positions that left him in poor positions from which to counter. Hatton's pressure neutralized whatever superior boxing skills Tszyu may have brought with him to the fight.

Hatton continuously smothered and bullied Tszyu, which dulled Kostya's reflexes. Tszyu was getting hit more frequently with flush shots as the rounds progressed. He had a mouse on his left eye, was breathing heavily and his whole face was blowing up by the end of the eleventh round.

After the fight, Tszyu said he thought he was at least three or four points behind and there was no way he could win. He credited Hatton as being the better man that night.

The official Judges scored it, 107-102, 106-103 and 105-104 all for Hatton. I had it 106-103 for Hatton.

* * *

As I type these words, I am still in shock. I expected Tszyu to take advantage of Hatton's wild punching and catch him with the big right uppercut that would end the fight. Ricky Hatton has proven without a doubt that he is now the man to beat at 140-pounds.

If you're a hardcore fan, you've been frustrated, waiting for Hatton to finally step up and face a top-notch fighter. Well, that day has come and Ricky showed his pedigree.

People were calling him Ricky 'Fatton,' after seeing how he ballooned in weight since last December. After the fight, a perfectly chiseled Ricky Hatton donned a black, oversized T-shirt that said, "There's only one Ricky Fatton."

Though Hatton was most gracious in the end, he did get the last laugh over those who doubted him. I expected him to give a good account of himself-but no way did I expect him to stop Kostya Tszyu.

This fight propels Hatton into the status of 'legitimate' World Champion. It has taken a good long time but Hatton finally stepped up and is the new owner of the IBF Jr. Welterweight Title. Hatton proved that all the speculation in the world means nothing until two guys step between the ropes and fight. Hatton said afterwards that he would give Tszyu a rematch if he wanted one. Tszyu said he wasn't ready to say whether he would continue to fight. He's had a hell of a career but who knows what he'll decide when he gets home and takes time to sort it all out.

Congratulations Ricky Hatton!

I'd like to see Hatton face the winner of Arturo Gatti vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. next. I can see Gatti hopping on a plane to go face Hatton in England but there's no way Floyd would go fight in England, I don't think he's that brave. Floyd is a masterful boxer but can he handle the pressure Hatton pours on? Would Hatton risk a major battle in the absence of his adoring home fans, whose cheers energize him?

Somehow, I doubt a fight with Mayweather would happen, because why would Hatton fight Mayweather in the United States when he is a much bigger draw in Manchester than Mayweather is in the USA? Money talks-but unfortunately, it don't always talk the language that makes the best match ups happen.

There's also WBA Champ, Vivian Harris and WBO Champ, Miguel Cotto. Getting a fight with either of them would be another exercise in politics that could lead to nowhere. At the high energy pace that Hatton fights, I can't see any of the top dogs in the division being able to handle the kind of pressure he applies. Beating Kostya Tszyu was HUGE.

Hatton has officially arrived.

* * *

Agree or disagree? Comments can be emailed to dshark87@hotmail.com

Article posted on 06.06.2005



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