Boxing: Hatton seeks meaningful contest against Pedersen

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The Independent Online

After seven days of secret negotiations and confusion Ricky Hatton will finally climb through the ropes this evening for a fight that could in theory damage his career. This time last week Hatton, unbeaten in 34 fights, was due to meet Brazil's Kelson Pinto for the World Boxing Organisation's interim light-welterweight title. But on Wednesday that fight was scrapped.

At the time of Pinto's disappearance Hatton was nursing a sore rib and the promoter Frank Warren was looking at a disaster, because over 14,000 tickets had been sold for the MEN Arena in Hatton's home town of Manchester. To add to the intrigue Warren's television backers, Sky and Showtime, were understandably nervous at the prospect of their top British attraction not fighting. Warren, however, is the most resourceful man in European boxing and within 24 hours a replacement had been found in Denmark's Dennis Holbaek Pedersen.

There were more secret negotiations on Thursday before Pedersen's name was given to the press, and then there were more rumours that again threatened to stop the fight. Thankfully, by Friday afternoon it appeared a fight would take place tonight involving Hatton in defence of his World Boxing Union light-welterweight title.

However, Pedersen has never fought at light-welterweight at this level. If Hatton stops him in one or two rounds he will be criticised, and if he goes the full 12 rounds he will be criticised. Hatton will be deeply hurt if, for the first time in his career, he leaves the ring to boos. The loyal Manchester crowd is devoted but not stupid and most bought tickets to see Hatton meet Pinto in a contest between world-class boxers.

Pedersen has lost twice in 46 fights and that does not compare favourably with Pinto's record of 20 wins, 18 by stoppage, and 15 of those in either the first or second round. Hatton will win easily tonight but he has to make sure that he does not lose the crown.

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