Boxing: Hungry Hatton has to take the hard road

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The Independent Online

Never mind the Hay Diet. It's Kays Diet you want. That was the gastronomic tip from Ricky Hatton who last night discovered a different recipe for victory, becoming the first to stop an artful dodger from Argentina, Aldo Rios.

Challenging for Hatton's World Boxing Union light-welterweight title Rios retired on his stool at the end of nine harrowing rounds in which he had twice been floored and was given a systematic going over by the Manchester "hitman". But for the first time in his own 32-fight career Hatton had brought a dietician into his team. Kerry Kays is the man who changed his eating habits and apparently made Hatton an even leaner, meaner fighting machine.

I suppose you could say he's never looked hungrier but we're talking fights, not food here. Hatton has been devouring five meals a day, mainly consisting of what he calls "boring stuff'' like porridge, fruit and green veggies but last night he also seemed full of beans. More importantly his right eyebrow, ripped apart in his last bout six months ago by Vince Phillips remained intact.

Rios has the reputation of being a skilful defensive fighter, a ducker and a diver, whose punches would hardly crack an egg, let alone an eyebrow. This made him ideal for Hatton, who kept not only the surgery around his right eyebrow intact, but also his unbeaten record.

As usual he had the full-throated approval of another huge crowd, some 14,000 in the MEN Arena and the result was never in doubt, although there were some worrying signs. For even when dictating the fight Hatton gets hit too easily and a harder puncher than Rios might have wreaked real damage.

It seemed we were in for an early night when Rios was floored with the last of three left hooks after only 30 seconds. But he got up to make Hatton work harder than expected. The end came in dramatic fashion, another three-punch sequence putting the gasping Argentinian down, only to be saved by the bell for the end of the ninth round. It was then his corner decided he had taken enough.

Said Hatton: "It was really frustrating at times because he was so slippery and awkward but I kept up my rhythm and I feel this was one of my most satisfying wins."

Black armbands were much in evidence around the ringside as a tribute to the Sports Network matchmaker Ernie Fossey who died last week. Before the start Hatton paid a touching public tribute and at the conclusion he called for a show of support for the stricken Frank Bruno.

Bradford's Junior Witter, in the first defence of his Commonwealth light-welterweight title, went some way to restoring his credibility as a challenger to Hatton when he stopped outclassed Australian Fred Kinuthia in two rounds.

Referee Larry O'Connell declined to take up the count after Kinuthia had been floored with a left hook. As there is little love lost between Hatton and Witter it could make their eventual meeting explosive.