Ricky Hatton’s Greatest Hits
Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of The Ring Magazine.
Deafening noise, violent combat and – more than likely – plenty of blood. These were the hallmarks of a Ricky Hatton fight when Manchester’s finest thrashed his way through the world level during the prime of his career. As a child, Hatton grew up in a working class family, playing soccer on the streets, but as a professional prizefighter, he sold out 20,000 seats at the Manchester Arena and took 30,000 frenzied fans to Las Vegas.
The former two-weight world champion did have his handicaps. Hatton had fragile skin around the eyes, he was lacking in terms of height and reach and he was also in the habit of going several divisions above junior welterweight when out of training. However, the high-tempo pressure-puncher made up for that with a fierce work ethic in the gym and a savage and relentless attack when the opening bell sounded.
You don’t know what you had until it’s gone, and Hatton’s departure from boxing in 2012 certainly left a void. I was in attendance the night “The Hitman” defeated Kostya Tszyu for the junior welterweight championship in June 2005 and, in my opinion, the atmosphere remains unmatched to this day. Four years later, I looked on as Hatton surrendered 140-pound dominance to Manny Pacquiao by second-round knockout in Las Vegas. The crushing defeat didn’t matter to his U.K. brethren, who continued to cheer wildly for the deposed champ long after he exited the arena.
This was a hero that fight fans could identify with, and they rewarded him with unending loyalty.
Now 39 years old, the ex-champion is a successful trainer. Hatton took Zhanat Zhakiyanov to the WBA bantamweight title in 2017, and Sergey Rabchenko claimed a European championship at junior middleweight under his guidance. Hatton also coaches his 18-year-old son, Campbell, who plans to turn professional sometime in 2019.
In an attempt to uncover the essence of Hatton’s legacy, we had him recall some memories from six of his most notable victories:
“I was cut in the first 10 seconds and I thought I’d blown it. Jon Thaxton was a very tough fighter and he was very strong. But (cutman) Mick Williamson did a fantastic job in the corner, keeping that cut closed. It was so bad, and Jon Thaxton came through a lot of punishment because my eye was almost hanging out and that spurred him on. He thought, ‘If I just stay in here a little longer, I might win this!’ Jon ended up with three cuts and it was a bloodbath. We were both getting stitched up afterwards and Jon said, ‘That was a good fight, Rick!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, brilliant, Jon.’ He said, ‘We’ll have to do it again!’ And I told him to fuck off. (laughs) Jon is one of boxing’s nice guys – he’s doing a bit of coaching now. Brilliant guy!”
Result: HATTON UD 12
“It was the first time I was ever knocked down. It was also the first time in my career that someone taunted me. Magee said, ‘You’re nothing but a kid. You’ve not fought anyone. I’m gonna knock you out,’ and he really got under my skin. And it was clear from the first bell that was his plan all along. I ran at him like a headless chicken, and he knocked me down in the first round. I wasn’t hurt; he caught me square, so it had the opposite effect and infuriated me even more. Magee then did a job on me in the second round and (trainer) Billy Graham said to me, ‘You’re not only gonna get beat, you’re gonna get knocked out if you don’t think about what you’re doing!’ I started boxing a bit after that and I won well in the end, but that fight taught me to keep my composure.”
Result: HATTON UD 12
“The one thing I’ll never forget is the low blow. Kostya caught me low twice and the referee didn’t warn him, then he went low again. In my mind, in my boxing brain, I said to myself, ‘It’s clear to see that he’s given me three low blows. If I give him one, then the referee can’t take a point off me.’ So I took a run up and gave it everything I had, and he went down. I remember Russell Crowe jumping up and throwing expletives at me, shall we say. I looked into the crowd and shouted, ‘Fuck off!’ I admit I did it deliberately, but (referee) Dave Parris was in a tricky position. He must have said to himself, ‘This crowd is gonna string me up alive if I take a point off!’ To me, though, that’s having a good boxing brain. Yes, I was a hundred miles per hour at times, but I used my common sense there.”
Result: HATTON TKO 11
“This was cuts again. Carlos Maussa was very tough and he was awkward. Normally when you see a fighter dip left, you know a left hook’s coming. When he dips right, you know a right hook’s coming. He was very unorthodox and difficult to read. Not only did I not know what he was going to throw next, I don’t think he did. He could hit hard, though, and he’d stopped Vivian Harris to win the (WBA) title. Anyway, I was winning the fight comfortably, but the two cuts I had were horrendous. I got a bit desperate, but I kept missing him with the big shot by inches. In the end, I thought, ‘Fuck it,’ and I actually took a run up, with my feet coming off the floor, and this left hook landed. It was one of the best knockouts of my career, and I think it would have knocked a horse out.”
Result: HATTON KO 9
“I always wanted to do what my heroes done and become a two-weight world champion. I was able to achieve that, but Billy Graham tried to talk me out of it because I was only 5-foot-6 and, for as long as I had a hole in my backside, I was never a welterweight. At junior welterweight, I could manhandle fighters and push them about, but it was a lot harder at 147 pounds. I got Luis down in the first 10 seconds because I was a hard-hitting light welterweight. But after that, he was able to take my best stuff and come back at me, which was something even a formidable champion like Kostya Tszyu couldn’t do. I got through it and I think I deserved to win, but it was an extremely hard fight and I think the knockdown won it for me. That was the reason I moved back down to light welter. Luis did everything except put me down in the last round.”
Result: HATTON UD 12
“A lot of people were saying Castillo had seen better days, and that was a fair shout. But in a close-quarters fight, like it was always gonna be between me and Jose, you never lose your punch and you never lose your experience. He was a body-puncher and an inside fighter of the highest level. He was keeping his elbow locked in and crossing his arms to protect his sides, and the body punch I got him with was one of the best I threw in my career. I just stepped three inches to the left so I could get in behind the elbow, and I beat him at his own game. There was talk at the press conference about Jose being past it, and Bob Arum said, ‘What a load of rubbish! That was a perfect left hook that would have floored anybody. Jose has just seen the doctor and three of his ribs are cracked!’”
Result: HATTON KO 4
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