Boxing: Hatton stands out to make short work of stand-in

Ricky Hatton's multitude of vociferous fans can hardly be accused of being fickle. It doesn't seem to matter who he meets - as long as their hero gives them a good hiding. "I could box Mr Bean and they would still turn up and watch me,'' he says.

Ricky Hatton's multitude of vociferous fans can hardly be accused of being fickle. It doesn't seem to matter who he meets - as long as their hero gives them a good hiding. "I could box Mr Bean and they would still turn up and watch me,'' he says.

So it was in Manchester last night when in the absence of no-show Brazilian Kelson Pinto, the 25-year-old "Hit Man" dealt brutally with short notice substitute Dennis Holbaek Pedersen, stopping him in six rounds in the 12th successive defence of his World Boxing Union light-welterweight title.

For all the 14,000 crowd cared the Dane with the triple-barrelled name could have been Hans Christian Anderson. Or Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Pedersen, a former European super-featherweight champion had never stepped into the same ring as Hatton at light-welterweight and the tremendous reception Hatton received must have been unnerving.

But not as unnerving as the thudding borderline body shots which twice dropped him for counts of nine in the fourth round. Hatton may have been having trouble with bruised ribs in training but it was the Dane's ribs which needed medical attention after breathtaking punches which left him winded and distressed. He did well to survive until the sixth, when a right uppercut buckled his knees and the referee, Dave Parris, wisely decided that he had suffered enough.

Hatton, now unbeaten in 35 bouts had trained for a taller, rangier opponent than the man from Kolding where they call him Dennis the Menace. With a creditable record of 42 wins in 44 fights - although he has been relatively inactive in the last two years - the 29-year-old Pedersen was no Danish patsy, but he did have a somewhat soft centre with a porous defence.

Hatton explored this ruthlessly, yet while there may not have been too much menace from Dennis there was plenty of spirit. He came to fight not to fold. Last time out against Ben Tackie, Hatton hardly put a punch wrong. Last night he admitted he found it difficult to adjust his technique in the early rounds against Pedersen's stiff, upright style. But the Dane could not keep off his swarming punches for long.

He managed to counter spasmodically and stopped the stalking Hatton in his track with one good overhand right. But in the end it was one-way traffic and the Dane's face suggested he had been in a road accident. Afterwards Hatton saluted the fans: "It has been a hell of a week with a change of opponent but no matter who I fight you were always with me and I'm proud of you," he told them.

Ideally Hatton's next fight - unless Pinto can be persuaded to re-book his flight - should be against Sharmba Mitchell. Last night the 33-year-old southpaw from Washington impressively defended his International Boxing Federation title with a points victory over fellow American Michael Stewart. Mitchell's promoter Gary Shaw has offered Hatton a 5 June date, which he is considering but it would have to be in the United States. This is the sort of route Hatton must travel if he is to achieve the undisputed world recognition for which he craves, but the cute Mitchell has an explosive left hook of his own which felled Stewart three times. He would really test the Mancunian's mettle.

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