Boxing: Working-class hero topples ageing king of the money mountain

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The Independent Online

In the entirely legitimate euphoria of Ricky Hatton's Saturday night and Sunday morning - no other hard-living, hard-working young Mancunian surely ever had such a one - a puzzling question wouldn't go away.

In the entirely legitimate euphoria of Ricky Hatton's Saturday night and Sunday morning - no other hard-living, hard-working young Mancunian surely ever had such a one - a puzzling question wouldn't go away.

Why did Kostya Tszyu, widely acknowledged as one of the great world champions, commit the unpardonable crime of his breed? Why did he quit on his stool? Was it simply that Hatton sickened him with his relentless, perfectly realised pressure, and that with 35 years on the clock, and the money with which the promoter Frank Warren had seduced him away from wealthy retirement in Australia safely banked, the man born in the foothills of the Urals simply decided it was time to come down from the mountain top?

Don Majeski, match-maker and one of the few American fight men who gave Hatton a serious chance of upsetting the odds, had an intriguing theory.

"Maybe there is a bit of pattern here with fighters who grew up under the old communist system. They get to the top, they earn their money and then they reach a point where they don't feel they have anything more to prove," Majeski said.

"Andrei Golota [from Poland] wrecked the career of Riddick Bowe, then threw everything away when he walked out of a fight with a Mike Tyson so long past his best. Vitali Klitschko [from the Ukraine] quit against Chris Byrd. Now Tszyu refuses to be carried out on his shield.

"The fact is Warren winkled him out of what Tszyu had almost certainly settled in his mind as retirement. It's that classic situation - a guy is retired until you offer him enough money to change his mind. None of this, though, alters the fact that Hatton still had to beat a technically terrific fighter and so now he's a star in a great division. There's some great fights out there for him now and he will no doubt command a lot of attention if he comes to fight in America."

If he does so, it will be as a man of solid achievement rather than skilfully applied hype. Hatton handled his great triumph with impressive dignity - and humility. He said he would be pleased if he ever won half the champion's glory of the man he had just worn down.

The prospects of an outstanding light-welterweight division will continue to unfold over the next few weeks when Miguel Cotto, the beautifully rhythmic contender from Puerto Rico, seeks to build on his rocketing reputation against Muhammad Abduliev at Madison Square Garden next Saturday night - and Floyd Mayweather, the cognoscenti's pick as the top man, goes against the ageing but still fierce warrior Arturo Gatti a week later.

It is to this impressive company Hatton has now elected himself with such fierce commitment and intelligent use of his relatively modest talent. What distinguished his finest moments in the ring was the certainty of his ambition, despite Tszyu's threat to take over the fight in the middle rounds. Tszyu's punching was always the more clinical, even when Hatton rode a tide of victory that by the decisive 11th round had drained the last of his opponent's resolve.

Hatton's honesty, both as a fighter and a man, glowed, when he admitted that all his hopes had been predicated on his ability to take the best shots of a superior talent. He knew that the prize demanded more than just a little pain and suffering - and he was prepared to pay it.

Some have already argued that Hatton's triumph was also another tribute to the match-making opportunism of Warren. However, the latter would no doubt be the first to say that even the promoter who got David and Goliath together would have been powerless without a contender who had a genuine fighting heart.

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