Boxing: Hatton's hat-trick of titles comes at a price

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The Independent Online

It was not the dream fight that Ricky Hatton and the men that he listens to hoped for and it was certainly not the fight that the Manchester boxer's new backers at HBO wanted.

At the end of 12 often brutal and always ugly rounds, Hatton was a narrow and controversial points winner over American Luis Collazo on Saturday night at the TD Banknorth Arena in Boston.

Hatton made British boxing history by winning his third successive world title in as many fights but there were far more questions than answers in his performance and having the World Boxing Association welterweight belt next to his bed will be small consolation this morning.

Many in the fight game criticisedHatton's decision to fight in Boston against Collazo and as the rounds passed in the early hours of Sunday morning it became painfully obvious he was in danger of losing his unbeaten record. It is not easy to blame just one or two factors for the hard fight, but it is possible to highlight areas for change.

Collazo was an unexceptional champion but he was a decent fighter and extremely proud. He was also a lot stronger, having fought for 10 years at the welterweight limit of 10st 7lbs - a factor Hatton clearly underestimated.

It was Hatton's first move from 10st light-welterweight and even though much was said and broadcast about his ability to remain strong at the new weight and to carry the same amount of resistance it looked clear that Hatton at welterweight is most definitely not Hatton at light-welterweight.

However, on Saturday night as over 8,000 sat down to watch Hatton's big HBO American fight they had to wait less than 12 seconds before Collazo was sent to the canvas from a short left hook and tangle of feet. It looked like a fairytale but five or six rounds later it was clear it was to be a long and extremely difficult evening.

In the 12th round Hatton, who had been urged on by as many as 4,000 British fans in the arena, was caught and hurt and with his two badly swollen and bruised eyes he looked an oddly pitiful sight. Hatton has been in severe fights before but he has always had control but in this fight, for the three minutes of the last round, he came so perilously close to defeat that it will make extremely uncomfortable viewing when he finally sits down to analyse his big night in Boston.

The harsh realities are that he does not yet have the power or the resistance at the new weight and that he and the men he employs seriously underestimated Collazo's talent, heart and desire. Thankfully there are various remedies available because Hatton has not suddenly become a bad fighter.

The one problem could be the fairly lucrative three-fight deal that he has with HBO because they will be looking for a return on their investment and they are not known for their philanthropy towards their product. In short, Hatton will not have an easier test next time but is more likely to face an even more daunting opponent and that includes Collazo if there were a rematch.

A few hours earlier, Hatton's friend Clinton Woods successfully retained his International Boxing Federation light heavyweight title with a one-sided but still impressive sixth-round stoppage of Australia's Jason DeLisle at the Ponds Forge arena in Sheffield.

Hatton's world titles

* March 2001, Wembley Beat Tony Pepp (TKO fifth round) to win WBU light-welterweight title

* June 2005, Manchester Beat Kostya Tszyu (TKO 11th round) to win IBF light-welterweight title

* November 2005, Sheffield Beat Carlos Maussa (KO ninth round) to win WBA light-welterweight title

* May 2006, Boston, US Beat Luis Collazo (pts) to win WBA welterweight title