Boxing: Hatton in great shape to pull off major upset

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The Independent Online

Tonight's International Boxing Federation light-welterweight title fight between the holder Kostya Tszyu and Ricky Hatton has been compared to far too many major world title fights involving British boxers but the truth is that it is a unique event in the history of the sport.

Tonight's International Boxing Federation light-welterweight title fight between the holder Kostya Tszyu and Ricky Hatton has been compared to far too many major world title fights involving British boxers but the truth is that it is a unique event in the history of the sport.

More than 22,000 tickets were sold in one hour, 58 minutes and the cheapest seats are exchanging hands on the black market for prices in excess of £300. There has been talk that the best seats are going for £2,000 but the ticket situation alone is not what makes tonight's fight a one-off.

Tszyu, the Russian-born but naturalised Australian who is 35 and claims to feel more like 25, is one of the world's finest boxers and there are no real signs that he is any way past his best. And Hatton, who is unbeaten in 38 fights, has already established himself as the most popular fighter in British boxing history, having been responsible for selling more tickets for more fights than anybody else.

Hatton is the first fighter to develop a national following after fighting exclusively on Sky television, something that many experts believe could never be done. The irony of the situation is that after 10 years of loyalty to Sky, Hatton's promoter Frank Warren will return to ITV and terrestrial television audiences for a series of planned Saturday night fights before the end of the year.

This fight even has some of the ingredients that previous monumental encounters involving British fighters against foreign champions lacked. There have been a handful of major fights during the past 40-odd years where the British underdogs managed to pull off surprise wins but in all of the instances, circumstances emerged that took the shine off victory. There are no flaws in Tszyu, no problems with his age and certainly no suggestion that he has taken his unbeaten rival for granted.

Hatton claims it is the night he has been dreaming of since he first walked through the doors at a local gym nearly 15 years ago. It is also a fight that requires him to take the type of leap of faith that so few of boxing's too numerous champions are prepared to make: put simply, Hatton is taking a massive risk and that is rare indeed.

Tszyu's strength is that he can take a man out with just one punch and because of his fantastic amateur career as a Russian idol, he has the mental control not to rush or get excited during the most torrid of moments in the ring.

There appear to be few weaknesses for Hatton to exploit in a fight that so few people believe he can win. Tszyu is recognised as the sport's best finisher. However, Tszyu has been relatively inactive and Hatton has a far better boxing brain than most critics are prepared to give him credit for. A combination of the two could in theory lead to what would be the greatest upset in British boxing history.

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