Boxing: Turpin's example can help Hatton stand and deliver

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The Independent Online

This weekend's dust-up in Manchester that will see Ricky Hatton challenge for the International Boxing Federation light-welterweight championship held by the Russian-Australian Kostya Tszyu, a tough cookie in any language, recalls some stirring post-war occasions when British hopefuls got into the ring with outstanding boxers from abroad.

This weekend's dust-up in Manchester that will see Ricky Hatton challenge for the International Boxing Federation light-welterweight championship held by the Russian-Australian Kostya Tszyu, a tough cookie in any language, recalls some stirring post-war occasions when British hopefuls got into the ring with outstanding boxers from abroad.

Since Tszyu is at odds-on to beat our man, who, perhaps significantly, is not inclined to a spartan existence between contests, a loose comparison can be drawn with Randolph Turpin when he fought the great Sugar Ray Robinson for the undisputed middleweight championship in London on 10 July 1951.

Fascinated by Europe and to meet tax demands, Robinson lined up seven fights between 21 May and 10 July in Paris, Zurich, Antwerp, Liège, Berlin, Turin and London, aiming to round off the tour with an undemanding defence against the British champion. Although not in the best of shape, Robinson did not regard Turpin as a threat and accepted £28,000 (Tsyzu is getting £2m), protecting himself with a 64-day return clause - a wise move given what occurred.

Unable to fathom Turpin's peculiar "lean-back-then-lunge" style, Robinson lost a 15-round decision to a man who had travelled to the arena on the Tube.

Turpin's glory was short-lived - he held the title for just 64 days, the shortest reign in the division's history. In the rematch at the Polo Grounds in New York, Turpin was holding his own until Robinson, with one eye badly cut, unleashed a frenzied assault that led to a stoppage seconds before the end of the 10th round.

Many British boxers have tried and failed against top-class foreign opposition. In 1946, although weak at the weight, Ike Williams of the United States stopped the British lightweight champion Ronnie James in nine rounds in Cardiff. In September 1964, Emile Griffith retained the world welterweight title against Brian Curvis, handing the Welshman such a beating to the body that he was urinating blood for two weeks. Dave Charnley failed in two attempts to wrest the undisputed lightweight championship from Joe Brown.

Boxing is such a dangerous sport that there is plenty of sympathy here with the proposition that fighters are not obliged to be crowd pleasers, but there is something in the view that risk is central to a lasting reputation. So far Hatton, despite an eagerness to be matched against the best in his division, has been carefully nurtured. But there comes a time in every career when a chance has to be taken.

Thirty years ago, following Roberto Duran's decision to vacate the lightweight championship, Jim Watt was steered to top contender status by his astute manager Terry Lawless and the London matchmaker-promoter Mickey Duff. Watt stopped Alfredo Pitalua of Colombia for the WBC title and made four successful defences in Glasgow before running into Alex Arguello at the Wembley Arena. Watt, by then 33, was taken apart by the Nicaraguan.

After outpointing Vito Antuofermo for the undisputed middleweight title, Alan Minter defended it in a return but was beaten in three rounds by the great Marvin Hagler, who also stopped Tony Sibson in six rounds. After a string of victories against carefully chosen opponents Naseem Hamed's bright star was snuffed out when he was outclassed by Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas.

Barry McGuigan's great chance came in June 1985 when he met the WBA featherweight champion Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road. McGuigan made no mistake, ending the seven-year reign of the Panamanian with a 15-rounds points victory. McGuigan then lost his title in the searing heat of Las Vegas, outpointed by a substitute, Steve Cruz.

Even allowing for Lloyd Honeyghan's shock defeat of Donald Curry in Atlantic City, no post-war British fighter has fought more convincingly than Ken Buchanan. In September 1970, undeterred by heat, a hostile crowd and sinister messages delivered to his dressing-room, Buchanan outpointed Ismael Laguna in Puerto Rico to become Britain's first world lightweight champion since Freddie Welsh. In September 1971, following a successful defence against Ramon Navarro in Los Angeles, the Scot survived a badly cut eye to outpoint Laguna at Madison Square Garden.

As for Hatton's task in the early hours of Sunday morning, it strikes me as significant that not a murmur of protest was raised by Tszyu and his associates when Dave Parris, an Englishman, was named as referee. You probably know the old line - "as long as he can count to 10".

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