Hatton: Good, but nothing special
Ricky Hatton is working hard with trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. to beat Manny Pacquiao on May 2 in Las Vegas and prove his critics wrong. Photo / Chris Cozzone-FightWireImages.com
Freddie Roach was asked how he thought Ricky Hatton got into the position of making at least $12 million against the best fighter in the world, Manny Pacquiao, in by far the biggest boxing event of the year.
The trainer of Pacquiao paused, trying to make sense of it, and then said:
“I’m not sure. He got knocked out by Floyd Mayweather, I mean really knocked out. It wasn’t a controversial stoppage. He comes back and beats Juan Lazcano, who hasn’t fought in a year and a half, and then beats (Paulie) Malignaggi, who isn’t a world-class fighter in my opinion.
“He sells tickets. I guess that’s why.”
OK, Roach is biased. He’s also right.
Obviously, Hatton is a good fighter. He’s relentless and durable, possibly quicker and more skillful than some people give him credit for and he has a fine record. He’ll look back with pride on a successful career when it’s over.
That said, the fact he’s fighting Pacquiao on May 2 in Las Vegas has more to do with his fan base in England – which guarantees healthy pay-per-view sales – than his boxing ability. In other words, he might be the most-popular fighter in the world but he’s hardly its best.
“He made the most of his ability, really,” said Patrick Myler, a British boxing historian and author. “His great strength was his strength, his aggression. He doesn’t have a lot outside that. He loves to fight, loves a punch up. That sort of style gets you in trouble, though. It doesn’t bode well for a long career.
“He’s a decent fighter; make no mistake. I just wouldn’t rate him with the greats, not even among British greats.”
Hatton (45-1, 32 knockouts) has his proponents. Respected television analyst Al Bernstein, for one, believes the Manchester product is better than some believe.
Bernstein points to the most-significant victory of his career – forcing future Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu to quit after the 11th round of their 2005 fight – and his near-perfect record. Hatton hasn’t necessarily looked good in all his fights but he’s lost only once.
There’s no shame in his only setback, to the supremely talented Mayweather at a weight (147 pounds) that might’ve been too heavy for Hatton.
And he’s a crowd favorite. He’s bright and engaging outside the ring and viciously aggressive inside it, a formula that has made him an idol in Manchester and beyond in spite of any physical limitations.
“I think he’s a good fighter,” Bernstein said. “Is he great? I don’t know if I’d say great; probably not. But he’s very good. At 140, he doesn’t lose, does he? He’s had a couple of close fights but I think he’s honed his fighting style — aggressive, ripping lefts to the body, battling inside, roughing you up — very well.”
The problems are his resume and skill set.
First, the resume. Aside from Tszyu, who has he beaten?
The opponent Hatton has thrown out next is Jose Luis Castillo, who he stopped in four rounds in 2007, but the once-formidable titleholder was clearly on the decline after so many taxing brawls in his career. He now fights on small cards in Mexico.
After that, there’s a steep drop off. He has beaten nine major titleholders but only Mayweather, Tszyu and Castillo ever smelled the pound-for-pound list. The rest – Freddie Pendleton, Vince Phillips, Carlos Maussa, Luis Collazo, Juan Urango and Malignaggi – were good, but either old when Hatten met them or limited in ability.
By contrast, Pacquiao has fought four future Hall of Famers, three of them more than once.
And Hatton has often struggled. For example, against Lazcano in Manchester, he was hurt several times — once so badly it looked as if he might not survive — and looked anything but sharp. Against Urango, he faded toward the end of a fight he was dominating. And against Collazo, probably his second-biggest test after Tszyu, some thought he lost.
“On the night Hatton beat Tszyu, he was tremendous,” said Colin Hart, the dean of British boxing writers. “One great performance. He’s floundered ever since. He couldn’t put Paulie Malignaggi away. Ask yourself two questions: One, could he knockout Pacquiao? No. Two, could he beat him on points? No.
“ÔÇª Some of our critics before he fought Mayweather actually picked him to win. I just laughed.”
Some have suggested that Hatton was the victim of his former promoter’s cautious approach to matchmaking, at least for much of his career. Frank Warren is known for coddling his fighters.
Joe Calzaghe, who recently retired undefeated, had the same problem. The Welshman defended his titles almost exclusively in the UK until near the end of his career, which sullies his reputation at least somewhat.
However, Calzaghe’s skills were always more evident than Hatton’s. Calzaghe was an excellent boxer, very quick, seemingly in control at all times. He was an obvious marvel even against inferior opposition.
Hatton doesn’t dazzle anyone with his quickness or athletic ability. He can’t take you out with one punch. He isn’t even very skillful, according to many. The fact he’s only now learning some basic boxing techniques from Floyd Mayweather Sr. is a clue that he has been lacking in that department.
Again, as Bernstein said, Hatton’s style has served him well, but, honestly, when have you watched Hatton fight and thought to yourself or said, “Wow, what a great fighter!”
“I heard that Hatton said that because Manny is pound-for-pound the best, Hatton should be No. 1 if he wins. If we lose, no way he’s pound-for-pound the best. C’mon,” Roach said.
To his credit, Hatton takes such criticism in stride.
“I've come up my whole career with people thinking, well, I was just an exciting kid, I was just a brawler, I put too much weight on in between my fights, my lifestyle's going to catch up with me, you know,” Hatton said. “And Kostya Tszyu is going to flatten me. I know my first two fights in America, against Collazo and Urango didn't exactly set the world on fire. It seems like I spent my whole career with (critics) and even with this fight nobody's given me a prayer as well. And it’s those (critics) that I want to knock them on their ass May 2. ÔÇª My whole career has been about great records. Forty-five and 1, I think, four world titles. Kostya Tszyu was No. 2 pound-for-pound. I fought Mayweather. I fought welterweight for the pound-and-pound title. I'm fighting Manny Pacquiao again for the pound-for-pound title. I've been a world champion in two weight divisions and all I seem to do is get knocked and — but that's my inspiration.
“You know, it's not that I don't look at myself and see myself as a star. I just feel like sometimes, everybody just sees me as a little fat brawler. And I know I'm better than that. May 2 you'll be all taking your pens and writing something different.”
If he wins, he’ll be right about that.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]