Hatton's world falls apart
Monday 10 December 2007
The big fight in Las Vegas on Saturday night was over long before the last slick sequence of punches helped Ricky Hatton tumble to the canvas at the feet of Floyd Mayweather.
No amount of travelling brass bands, tears from family and loved ones and howling fans could reverse the final terrifying moments of Saturday's World Boxing Council welterweight fight at the MGM.
A few seconds before the end Hatton had charged wildly at Mayweather and rushed on to a perfect left hook that dropped him flat on his back. There was an argument right then to call the fight off but the British boxer regained his feet, the crowd was on theirs and the band got to play on for another few seconds. However, instinct had replaced his senses and he never recovered from the brilliant first knockdown.
Time moved slowly and painfully for Hatton in the Las Vegas ring as he tried to fight his way out of a lost cause, but he was caught easily and moved back to the ropes by Mayweather's fists. He fell for the second and final time and, as the referee was waving the fight off, a towel of surrender was thrown from Hatton's corner. The record books will say 1min 35sec of round 10 but they will not tell the story of this truly remarkable fight and they will fall desperately short of explaining exactly what went wrong.
It was never going to be an easy night for the British boxing idol, but the ending was as spectacular as it was sickening. It was also a shock because during the months of talk and preparation there was never a moment of dark thinking that included a one-sided beating as an outcome.
Hatton lost for the first time as a professional and he managed to get almost every single aspect of his night in the ring with Mayweather wrong. The Mayweathers had joked and boasted that Hatton was one-dimensional, predictable and too easy to hit and on the night, under the lights and living with the pressure, Hatton was the fighter they claimed he was.
However, he is a much better fighter than the brave one who relentlessly chased and threw clubbing left hooks at the retreating shadow of Mayweather here on Saturday night. The inquest into his performance and to be brutally honest it was not a good performance will drag on but Hatton will not and will never make excuses. He is not that type of man and the weight issue, the referee and his stupidly long days of interviews will not form a wall of denial.
It went wrong early in a fight that even Mayweather's most lucid and rabid fans thought would be harder for their beloved leader. In victory, the American displayed impeccable manners and praised Hatton, his family and the fans who had jeered both him and the American national anthem.
Hatton was honest and, after the obligatory joke, his choked voice could not conceal the hurt he was experiencing. "Richard feels that he has let everybody down but I told him he hasn't," said his mother, Carol. She is right but perhaps Hatton will sit and reflect, thinking that he has let himself down because boxing is a sport where the men who fight each other are their own harshest critics. Hatton understands the fight game and he will not enjoy watching his latest appearance.
"I was doing OK until I slipped," Hatton said. "I went for him and left myself open. It's what happens in boxing I just wish it hadn't happened to me!"
Billy Graham, his trainer, admitted that the fight was always moving out of their control and sadly it was. On Saturday, as the Mayweather duo of Floyd and his uncle and trainer, Roger, had predicted, Hatton never had an alternative. Strangely, he lacked the mobility in front of a static Mayweather that he had spoken about because he has known for a long time that brawn alone would not defeat the American. He knew it would take brain, ingenuity and clever pressure to win and he will not fail to notice the trio missing when he sits down with the remote.
Everybody knew that the ring was big, that Mayweather slides and throws unconventional shots and everybody knew that the key to penetrating the defence and pushing Mayweather back is controlled aggression. Instead, Hatton lost control early, and I hate even to bring it up but it looked like the weeks on the road, in the gym and the punishing long days of mayhem in this city had taken their toll. He lacked a speed that years at ringside have taught me to look for. It is not something scientific but when you see a fighter for a second or two it is possible to work out if he has it. Hatton never had it on Saturday night.
Mayweather was so much faster and perhaps that forced Hatton to rush and swing and chase instead of moving his feet and only throwing punches when there was a chance they would connect. On the night, and I am talking about from the opening bell, he charged in straight lines and his sweeping lead left hooks barely required Mayweather to move his neck a centimetre to guarantee that they missed. Perhaps Mayweather is just that good and can make all fighters perform his dance. Perhaps. I think he is exceptional but Hatton also had a bad, bad night.
Hatton is, however, competitive and he forced the early rounds and made them close. At the end of round five I had the score at three rounds to Mayweather and two to Hatton but in round four there had been a vicious warning of the pain to follow. Mayweather stepped close, moving his back off the ropes, and caught Hatton with perfect straight rights and short left hooks that could be felt in the press seats. Hatton did come back to win round five on all three scorecards but his heart has never been in doubt.
However, that was it and from the bell at the end of five, until the towel came in, the fight for Hatton was over. Mayweather watched and waited and before too long he saw some light and it ended with a perfect punch. It was a punch that had no apology, a punch so sweet that it was almost a fitting end to the first part of Hatton's remarkable career.
Round by round: Hitman misses as Pretty Boy shows a champion's true face
* ROUND ONE
Hatton starts the fight in typical style but finds himself being picked off by Mayweather. However, a superb jab wobbles the champion.
* ROUND TWO
Hatton enjoys a better round, cutting the ring off effectively but still open to Mayweather's counter-punching.
* ROUND THREE
Referee Joe Cortez, keen to part the fighters at close quarters, seems intent on spoiling the fight. Hatton lands a decent left-right combination and single right but finishes with small cut to right eyebrow.
* ROUND FOUR
Hatton nightmare. Mayweather dodges Manc, landing venomous rights.
* ROUND FIVE
Mayweather's questionable use of the forearm and elbow, grinding it into Hatton's face, continues to go unpunished by the hapless Cortez. A better round for Hatton.
* ROUND SIX
Hatton deducted a point for hitting the back of Mayweather's head as champion turns his back.
* ROUND SEVEN
Hatton continues as the aggressor without managing to pin down the elusive Mayweather. Hatton's lack of body shots is surprising and makes him look one-dimensional.
* ROUND EIGHT
Flurry of Mayweather punches almost results in a stoppage. A 10-8 round for the 'Pretty Boy'.
* ROUND NINE
Mayweather's sublime skills come to the fore as Hatton runs out of ideas and the fight starts slipping away from his grasp.
* ROUND 10
A great left hook by Mayweather sends Hatton flying to the canvas. Hatton gets up but, in the process of being floored again, Cortez waves the fight off.
'Ricky brought out the best in Mayweather': The Boxing fraternity have their say
"If it were me, unless I felt I could come back and actually beat Mayweather, then I would retire. He can say he tried his best but Floyd was the better man on the night." - Lennox Lewis
"I think Mayweather could have held his own against pretty much anyone." - Sugar Ray Leonard
"I'm sure I speak on his behalf when I say he is hoping to fight in England where it all started probably, I would say, around May. Wembley would be fantastic." - Hatton's mother, Carol
"[The referee] Joe Cortez was very biased, I thought... he never really allowed Ricky to fight his style of fight ... Of course he should continue. It's much too soon for him to retire." - Barry McGuigan
"He's unfortunate that he has come up in an era where he is fighting with Mayweather, an outstanding world champion. It was the same thing in my day, with Muhammad Ali. We're both unfortunate to have a great champion around when we were trying to win the title." - Sir Henry Cooper
"The point [deduction] didn't do him any favours, obviously, but it wouldn't have changed anything really. Mayweather has done this to 38 other guys previously. He always finds a way to win. The bigger the opportunity, the better he fights. Ricky brought out the best in Floyd Mayweather." - Duke McKenzie
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