Boxing: Hatton's earbashing for US and the world

Ricky Hatton likes being called the Hitman. And man, can he hit, as Ray Oliveira found out at London's ExCel Centre last night as the British light-welterweight defended his World Boxing Union title for the 15th time inside 10 bloody and brutal rounds.

Ricky Hatton likes being called the Hitman. And man, can he hit, as Ray Oliveira found out at London's ExCel Centre last night as the British light-welterweight defended his World Boxing Union title for the 15th time inside 10 bloody and brutal rounds.

Hatton has made a career of putting bums on seats and last night was no exception as he filled the new venue in his first visit to London in three years. Oliveira himself is no bum, building a reputation as being one of the most durable fighters in the game over a 14-year, 58-bout career. He had never been stopped before, but Hatton changed that, a right hand to the left ear dropping the American in a painful heap. Referee Micky Vann completed the count 1min 38sec into the 10th round, with Oliveira on one knee.

It was the second knockdown of the one-sided contest. The first had come two minutes 15 seconds into the opening round, Oliveira dropped by a right hand to the head.

That opening onslaught had been expected from Hatton, who had to look good to press claims for a showdown with the undisputed 10-stone champion, Kostya Tszyu. However, the sheer ferocity stunned Oliveira. Left hooks off the jab were finding the target with sickening monotony as the Manchester fighter switched from body to head.

Hatton's gameplan was to engage in telephone-booth warfare and through the second, third and fourth rounds he got in close enough to land heavily. Sporadic counters were coming from Oliveira but his will was being systematically broken down.

Oliveira was being bullied back into the ropes as the fight moved into the middle rounds. Occasionally, he would try to rough up Hatton but the British buzzsaw simply walked through everything that was thrown his way.

By the seventh round Hatton's upper torso was covered in blood - not his, mind you, damaging combinations having left the American's face a mask of pain. The end looked nigh at the bell of the seventh round, but Oliveira was digging deep in an attempt to last the distance. It was not to be. He did not win a round, only plenty of praise for a courageous, but losing, effort.

The fight was beamed live on pay-per-view to a US audience which is still to be sold on Hatton's talents, despite his crowd-pleasing style. Last night surely changed that. With Oliveira having gone the way of all of Hatton's previous 37 opponents, the British fighter can look forward to a tear-up with the Russian-Australian Tszyu. It is a contest that promoter Frank Warren must make happen, and he'll be hopeful of putting it on in front of an English crowd, perhaps as early as next spring.

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