Ricky Hatton edged closer to a dream showdown with Floyd Mayweather yesterday when his promoter, Frank Warren, confirmed that television commitments were no obstacle to the fight being made.
Warren will sit down with Hatton this week to discuss an opponent for the first defence of his International Boxing Federation light-welterweight title in the autumn. And while a bout with Mayweather, the new World Boxing Council champion, is further down the road, Warren is confident that a deal could be struck for a contest which would attract unprecedented attention on both sides of the Atlantic.
Mayweather looked devastating on Saturday night in Atlantic City when he forced the champion, Arturo Gatti, to retire at the end of round six. And Warren confirmed that there is no problem over television issues, with Hatton contracted on a fight-by-fight basis with Showtime and Mayweather on the same deal with Home Box Office.
"We don't have any contractual commitments to any television networks," said Warren, "and I will sit down with Ricky and his dad soon to discuss where we go from here."
Hatton was ringside in America to watch Mayweather overwhelm Gatti, who came in for some criticism from Warren for the manner of his performance. Warren added: "I thought Mayweather looked really sharp and threw great punches but I thought Gatti looked terrible. He was just basically walking forward and I don't think he got over that first round when he stopped and looked at the referee for some infringement or other.
"Mayweather hit Gatti with some cracking shots but he couldn't finish him and he didn't look like a big puncher for me."
The unbeaten Mayweather proved in outclassing Gatti that he is the leading contender for Hatton's No 1 status in the division. Mayweather is a notorious negotiator and has already intimated he would not be willing to come to Manchester. But the fight would be huge in the States and sure to elevate Hatton to true superstardom. If they both keep winning the clamour will grow for this clash and there is no reason why it cannot happen by the end of next year.
"I'll leave it up to my promoters who I fight next, but if me and Ricky Hatton could get it on at Madison Square Garden, that's what I'd like to do," said Mayweather after taking his pro record to 34-0. Hatton's trainer, Billy Graham, rose to the challenge by saying: "We have talked about Floyd Mayweather for the last couple of years and nothing has changed," he said. "Ricky Hatton isn't Arturo Gatti. I know what to do to beat Mayweather. Ricky has got the tools."