Boxing: Hatton's fourth world title claims reward of £2.8m for Castillo fight
Monday 22 January 2007
Twelve rounds, no cuts, few bruises, over £1m in the bank and a genuine world championship sounds like a good night's work for any boxer.
It certainly was for Ricky Hatton, who seldom put a foot wrong during his Las Vegas debut on Saturday night at the Paris casino complex here. But those in the audience of 6,379 expecting to see a dumb slugger probably filed away unhappy. Hatton was calculating and often brilliant, even if his points victory over Juan Urango for the International Boxing Federation light-welterweight title was not a classic. That is, it was not classic Hatton because the two-fisted puncher limited his work to single pops of weighted and measured punches like he has never done before.
All three of the wise men at ringside decided that Urango won one round, but the truth is that Hatton was in control throughout the gripping affair: a shut-out is a fairer assessment. It is true that in round five Urango caught Hatton low and then threw several more borderline punches that clearly hurt the Manchester boxer.
However, after Urango's five or so crude swings Hatton was able to move, pick his way to safety and land far more punches, even if his work lacked his usual clinical urgency. Hatton was not setting his feet and looking for a knockout and there were moments when he was clearly not too keen on getting caught by any of Urango's swings.
In the end, Hatton simply knew far too much for Urango, who was having just his 19th fight compared to Hatton's 42nd, and decided to stay mobile and pick and grab his way to his fourth respectable world title in consecutive fights. It was the performance that his trainer, Billy Graham, planned but not necessarily the one that the fans and his prospective future bosses in Las Vegas wanted to witness, and that is because the right tactics are not what people want to see.
"I hit Juan with some good shots and his expression never changed one bit," said Hatton. "I could tell from the first round just how tough he was and he never gave me much of a target; that is why I had to show a different Ricky Hatton tonight." Thankfully there was still enough of the other Hatton to keep the 3,000 British fans in the ballroom content.
There was a moment of genuine concern in the 11th round when Urango's oddly shaped head caught Hatton flush on the jaw. The referee jumped in as Hatton's knees sagged and both boxers were given a few seconds to recover. Hatton's front teeth had come loose in the clash and he was spitting out dark blood and, more alarmingly, he looked dangerously confused.
In the corner at the end of round 11 Graham was screaming at Hatton in an attempt to be heard above the roar of the crowd and telling him not to worry about a knockout, and to just get through. Graham and Hatton's father and business manager, Ray, were both concerned, but in the last round Hatton floated easily to the bell.
An hour after the final bell Hatton and his people officially announced his next fight in Las Vegas on 23 June at the Thomas and Mack centre, which has a capacity of over 19,000, against Jose Luis Castillo. It is the fight that everybody was expecting but Castillo, something of a legend in Las Vegas, had won a tricky 12-round undercard fight against the novice Herman Ngoudjo, of Cameroon, and he looked slightly subdued.
"Tonight we both [Castillo and Hatton] had to think a bit and move but that is not going to happen when we get in the ring," claimed Hatton. "If you want to watch two fighters knocking the shit out of each other, then this fight is for you."
Hatton is guaranteed a £2.8m purse for the Castillo fight and that figure could easily be doubled when the pay-per-view numbers are calculated. However, the figure is put into harsh perspective when compared with the £50m that Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya could share in May.
But for Castillo, who has twice lost decisions over 12 rounds to Mayweather, there is no other comparison. He said: "Our fight is a better fight. Not only for me, but also for the fans - I think people would rather see me fight Hatton than me fight Mayweather or anybody fight Mayweather."
On Saturday night, in London, Junior Witter, who has been chasing Hatton for five years, retained his World Boxing Council light-welterweight title when he stopped Mexico's Arturo Morua in round nine. Witter could now face Ngoudjo in his next defence, as the African's fight with Castillo was a WBC final eliminator.
In Basle, the Russian Nikolai Valuev retained his World Boxing Association heavyweight championship on Saturday after his American challenger Jameel McCline retired with a knee injury after the third round.
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