Boxing: Punch-perfect Hatton batters Oliveira

It took Ricky Hatton about 30 seconds to beat Ray Oliveira on Saturday night at the ExCel Centre in London's Docklands, but just for the fun of it he kept hitting him until the 10th round.

Oliveira arrived in Britain last week with a justifiable reputation for unique resilience and on Saturday night he certainly earned every cent that he was paid because from the opening seconds until he sunk to his knees after 98 seconds of round 10 he took a horrible beating.

For Hatton it was defence number 15 of his World Boxing Union light-welterweight title and it could very well be the last time that he puts the increasingly meaningless bauble on the line when he steps through the ropes. Hatton is now unbeaten in 38 fights and he knows that he has no more chances at the box office against people that are tough but have very little chance of upsetting him.

"Everybody knows that I want a real fight or one of the other world titles that are out there. And the next time I box I am confident that it will be a unification showdown,'' said Hatton. Sadly, Hatton and his promoter Frank Warren have made the same bold claim too many times during the last few years.

However, their words have not been idle threats and there is truth that both Warren and Hatton are desperately keen to end the run of entertaining but predictable fights and finally meet either the International Boxing Federation champion, Kostya Tszyu, or the World Boxing Association incumbent, Vivian Harris, early in the New Year.

The stumbling block, as it always is in this wonderful business, will be the amount of money on offer. On Saturday night over 11,000 people packed the cavernous and soulless arena to witness Hatton's often punch-perfect display against a man who in 58 previous fights had never been stopped and had only been dropped twice. Hatton added to that figure in round one by dropping Oliveira and in round 10 he dropped him again and that time the American decided to take the full count of 10 on the one knee.

There were some hardened cynics gathered at ringside that remain unconvinced about Hatton's credentials to move to a higher level and they cite his apparent susceptibility to short right-hand counters. Hatton dismisses the wary and claims that if he gets the fight he wants and the fight that would surely put 20,000 bums on seats at the MEN Arena near his house in Manchester he would not make any sloppy mistakes. He is probably right but that does not mean that either Tszyu or Harris will accept his offer.

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