Boxing: Hatton looks to vent fury on Maussa
Acrimonious split with Warren overshadows preparations to build on the Tszyu spectacular
Sunday 20 November 2005
No doubt he will be able to chew the fat, so to speak, with another like-minded former world champion, Naseem Hamed, should they meet up at the Sheffield Arena ringside on Saturday to watch Ricky Hatton's world light-welterweight title "unification" bout with the gangling, long-armed Colombian Carlos Maussa.
Tyson says he will carry Hatton's International Boxing Federation belt into the ring, while Naseem has promised a rare public appearance in his home town to support the young "Hit-man" whose epic victory over Kostya Tszyu four months ago, Naseem claims, has inspired him to end his own fistic hiber-nation. According to Hatton's estranged promoter Frank Warren, who met Naz last week, he is "deadly serious" about his comeback. Not that they will continue their conversation in Sheffield, because for the first time since he signed Hatton as an 18-year-old, Warren won't be with him. Their split after the Tszyu bout was acrimonious.
The question is how much the fights in the ring with Tszyu and outside it with Warren have taken out of Hatton. After what he says is a one-off deal with Sheffield's ambitious promoters Fight Academy, he faces a High Court battle with Warren, who alleges breach of contract.
Hatton says he has found it fazing. "This has been the most difficult time of my career. Things have got very personal with Frank and some of the hurtful things that have been said have really got my back up. I made myself ill with frustration and had to take a couple of days out of the gym.
"My training has been affected but my performance won't be. It has made me all the more determined to go out there and unleash the fury I've got in me."
It is possible Hatton peaked against Tszyu, one of the world's outstanding fighters, and may now hit his pugilistic plateau. This is his 40th fight. Still unbeaten, he believes he will get even better. "When you beat someone like Tszyu, every fight after that is something of a comedown, but my new goal is to climb even higher. There are still other belts out there I want to get my hands on. And I want to make my name in America. My dream is topping the bill at Madison Square Garden or in Las Vegas against the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto."
He settles for Sheffield and Maussa, an awkward if not awesome fighter. The 5ft 10in South American has a four-inch height and 10-inch reach advantage over the 27-year-old Mancunian. He likes to throw big, looping shots and can be a heavy hitter, as his last opponent, Vivian Harris, whom he relieved of the World Boxing Association title in seven rounds, will painfully testify.
Hatton, who watched Maussa beat hot favourite Harris in Atlantic City, describes him as "a bit erky-jerky. There's not a lot of rhythm about him and I don't think he's as polished as me."
Maussa, 34, has won all but two of his 22 bouts, 18 inside the distance. He has been stopped once, by Cotto, the World Boxing Council champion, and he may well be again by Hatton late in the fight. But as Hatton admits, it is not a foregone conclusion, for he has had much weighing on his mind of late as well as, worryingly, around his middle.
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THE HOW AND WHY OF HATTON'S SUCCESS
Sharp as a tack, the Hitman talks as fluently as he fights, and has a boxing brain which enables him to switch tactics mid-round. No longer troubled by eye injuries after surgery earlier in his career. Good chin, but gets hit too often.
Suffers from midriff bulge, and admits to being a bit of a binge drinker between bouts. The worry is that constantly having to shed excess weight could eventually affect his stamina. But works closely with a dietician.
These give him his strength. An old-fashioned, two-fisted body-puncher, he has prodigious power in the clinches and hits with the force of a middleweight. Needs to mix his fabled hooks with uppercuts against the taller Colombian.
Has inherited short footballer's legs from his father, once a Manchester City midfielder. Rarely takes a backwards step and uses his quick feet to position himself within short-punching distance of even the most elusive opponent.
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