Boxing: Hatton must jump credibility queue

It has taken Ricky Hatton more than six years to reach the first real hurdle of his career and tonight, in front of 16,000 people at the MEN Arena in Manchester, he risks everything.

Hatton, 25, is officially the best ticket-seller in British boxing history with an unbeaten record of 33 fights, including 25 stoppages, and 11 successful World Boxing Union light-welterweight wins under his belt, but tonight he meets Ben Tackie, of Ghana, in an extremely difficult fight.

Tackie is world class, fine at the weight, not too old and he has not been stopped, which makes him close to unique as a challenger in Great Britain.

It will be a tremendous test and if Hatton can win he will jump the credibility queue and launch himself head first into an American market that remains unconvinced by British fighters. If Tackie wins, there will be a chorus of cynics claiming that once again an over-protected domestic fighter has predictably fallen short. Hatton is more than an ordinary domestic fighter and tonight he will have to prove that.

"I realise that everything I have achieved so far will go out of the window if I'm beaten but I have been calling for a test for a long time and nobody is happier than me that I finally have a very hard fight,'' Hatton said.

Tackie has lost four times during his nine-year career but every loss has been against a reigning world champion or former world champion and the quartet that managed to defeat him are truly impressive. Tackie survived the distance with all four and that puts extra pressure on Hatton.

If the fight follows the predictable pattern of Hatton's previous encounters against quality fighters, and there have been a few of them, then he will box far more cautiously, and he will need to do so because Tackie will simply not stop coming forward. Hatton can win but it will be difficult, extremely hard and an enormous shock if it does not go 12 rounds.

At the same time that Hatton and Tackie meet in Manchester, Runcorn's Robin Reid, who trains in Manchester and lives in Bolton, will try and win the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation super-middleweight title in Nuremberg, Germany, when he fights Sven Ottke.

More than six years ago, Reid won the World Boxing Council title in Milan when he stopped Vincenzo Nardiello to silence nearly 18,000 Milanese fans. He has to pull off an even bigger shock in front of an even bigger crowd as 20,000 are expected for Ottke's latest defence. The German is a truly ugly fighter to watch, but he is technically brilliant and remains, at 36, unbeaten after 32 fights. But surprisingly he has only stopped six opponents and lacks punching power.

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