Boxing: Hatton must not take opponent lightly

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The Independent Online

One of boxing's most difficult opponents is over-confidence and tonight at the MEN Arena in Manchester Ricky Hatton must make sure he does not become its victim.

During the last two years, Hatton has established himself as the most popular fighter of his generation and eight of his last nine fights have taken place in front of crowds of over 12,000. Even tragic idol Frank Bruno lacked credentials like that.

Tonight Hatton is in a difficult position because in the opposite corner is a world class and tricky operator from Argentina, Aldo Rios, but the problem with the slick import is that all of his best fights took place in the lightweight division and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that he will be more of a test at light-welterweight.

Hatton, who is only 24, is one of the finest light-welterweights in the world and he has achieved that position through a succession of fights against a list of good opponents. Not all, however, have been world class but enough of them have been, and in the modern business of boxing Hatton's record is reasonably impressive.

In addition to attracting large crowds again and again, the Manchester fighter is popular on Sky and his few appearances on American satellite channel Showtime have received good reviews. His next fight, which he hopes will be in December, will be screened in America and it is thought that he will finally meet a high quality opponent.

Rios, 29, has twice lost in world lightweight title fights and in 38 fights he has never been stopped but then again he has never met a high-ranking light-welterweight. There is only five pounds in weight difference between the two divisions but it is a gap that has repeatedly led to the downfall of over-ambitious lighter fighters.

Back in April when Hatton last fought, Rios was actually in an adjoining changing room with his kit on and a pair of gloves laced ready for action. At the time, Hatton's original opponent, Vince Phillips, had decided to ask for more money and there was a very real risk that he would not enter the ring in front of 14,000 fans.

Rios was prepared to replace Phillips but thankfully the financial impasse was overcome and Hatton boxed brilliantly to win on points but he sustained a terrible cut above his eye and tonight is his first fight since then.

Hatton will no doubt entertain his adoring Manchester public with a quality and impressive stoppage but he knows that after this evening there exists a list of six or seven men that will stretch him if they meet and they will also enhance his reputation. Tonight's fight is about business, the future fights will be about reputations.

Meanwhile, in Colombia Belfast's Damaen Kelly fights Irene Pacheco for the International Boxing Federation flyweight title in one of the most difficult assignments ever accepted by a British fighter.

Kelly is risking all for the IBF version of the title while Hatton is taking very few risks for his own World Boxing Union title.