Boxing: Hatton can make history against Collazo

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The Independent Online

Hatton has tried his best to stay calm and gain the extra 7lb needed for his move from light welterweight to welterweight, but the endless months of uncertainty, debate and legal dispute have without doubt undermined what is, in many ways, a bold and brilliant move on his part.

Last June, Hatton won the International Boxing Federation light welterweight title with one of the finest performances by a British boxer in years, forcing Australia's idol Kostya Tszyu to quit at the end of an 11th bruising round.

Five months later, Hatton added the WBA version at the weight to his collection when he knocked out Carlos Maussa in round nine of a bloody and entertaining brawl in Sheffield. At the time, Hatton was the undisputed light welterweight champion of the world and seemingly untouchable, but he quickly started to suffer defeat away from the ring ­ in the US courtrooms and, far more importantly, in the offices of the sport's governing bodies.

It was inevitable that Hatton would not be able to keep everybody happy and because of his bitter relationship with his former promoter, Frank Warren, there was always the risk of something serious going wrong at some point.

Several fights against high-profile boxers were mentioned but it is now clear that nobody in America was serious about risking their titles or reputations against Hatton.

Fighters only take risks if the men behind them have secured an awful lot of money and clearly Hatton's minders were not throwing anywhere near enough money at the men their boxer wanted to fight. However, Collazo was found and is an ideal opponent for a boxer switching to a heavier division. In 27 fights, the New Yorker has stopped 12 opponents and lost just once and he brings to the ring tonight a meaningful belt.

Securing the right to fight for it has been excessively difficult. Hatton was forced to relinquish his IBF and WBA belts at light welterweight because he sensibly refused to go ahead with mandatory defences against decent but relatively unknown fighters.

Once it was clear that Hatton wanted Collazo, another problem emerged, when the German Otkay Urkal demanded his mandatory right to challenge Collazo. A deal was finally struck which guarantees Urkal a fight against the winner of tonight's bout inside the next 120 days. Hatton has also had to agree to meet his new ­ assuming he wins ­ mandatory challenger by the February 2007.

No wonder Hatton has finally looked relaxed and comfortable this week in Boston, knowing that the difficult days when he would often wake up not knowing where or when or who he was fighting are over. Hatton is unbeaten in 40 fights and is likely to be unbeaten in 41 after tonight, and that would be a magnificent achievement for a British boxer fighting in America.

A few hours before Hatton steps into the ring to attempt to make history by becoming the first British boxer to win three different world titles in three successive fights, Clinton Woods will defend his IBF light heavyweight title against Australia's Jason De Lisle. Woods, unlike Hatton, will have the advantage of home-town support when he enters the ring, for his second fight against De Lisle, at the Ponds Forge Arena in Sheffield.

The pair met in October 2004 in an eliminator for the IBF title and on that occasion Woods was dropped in the first round of a very difficult fight. It finally ended with De Lisle on his feet but in no state to continue in the 12th round.

Woods added: "I'm not going to make the same mistakes this time. Winning hard fights is not a sensible move for any boxer."

Meanwhile, the British light welterweight title, which Hatton held in 2000 and 2001, was won by Lenny Daws late last night at York Hall in London. Daws won at least nine of the 12 rounds against Nigel Wright and was a clear points winner.