Boxing: Maussa the barrier to Hatton £3m pay day

More than two months of frustration will end at about 10.15 tonight when Ricky Hatton does exactly what he does best as the first bell sounds for his 40th professional fight.

Hatton split with his promoter and one-time friend Frank Warren in early September and tonight's fight at the Sheffield Arena against Carlos Maussa, the current World Boxing Association light-welterweight champion, has been the subject of legal arguments in London and New York for 10 weeks. Seldom has a planned fight attracted so much publicity for all the wrong reasons - most of it being a distraction for Hatton - and still taken place.

Hatton will defend his International Boxing Federation light-welterweight title tonight and challenge for Maussa's bauble in the type of encounter that is increasingly rare, both in Britain and on the international scene. Both boxers have a lot to lose in defeat, but, thankfully, the flipside and glory in victory have made the unification encounter a reality, even if the lawyers tried their best to stop it happening.

Maussa is a strange fighter, with a style that defies definition and a pedigree in the ring that lacks depth, but back in June he beat the highly regarded Vivian Harris to win his WBA title. Maussa was a late, late replacement on that night and possibly caught Harris, usually such a slick and careful operator, by surprise.

Hatton has described Maussa's ugly and ungainly style as a "nightmare", but also acknowledges that the Colombian is heavy-handed and much more difficult to fight than he looks. Maussa would probably have been called "awkward" in the old days and that seems a fair description.

In the Harris fight, Maussa performed most of boxing's conventional moves incorrectly, yet still managed to dominate and win against a boxer with a textbook style. "Maussa fights like he doesn't know what he's doing. His arms and legs are all over the place, but if he starts to find his range he is clearly dangerous,'' Hatton said.

In June Hatton overcame tremendous odds to beat Kostya Tszyu to win the IBF title and finally, after 38 straight wins, including 15 now forgotten defences of his World Boxing Union title, established himself as a real fighter in America. His new standing, and the existence of two superb fighters at his weight in Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather, means he is near to a big fight and a purse of more than $5m (£2.9m) next year. He and Dennis Hobson, his new promoter, knowhow much of a risk it is to fight Maussa, but they also realise that winning the WBA belt would give Hatton an edge at the negotiating table.

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