James Lawton: Hatton is open about his failings as the door of history closes

The Mancunian warrior proved his courage and grace but his night of nights produced only the dawning of one of boxing's oldest truths. James Lawton reflects on that painful reality

Though it was a never a reproach against the heart of the man at the centre of it all, there was always a fear that could never be detached from each swirl of hype gathering around the head of Ricky Hatton.

It was that as a fighter he just wasn't good or naturally big enough. As it unfolded in the early hours of yesterday morning, the doubts were confirmed on both counts. As Hatton himself said, with infinitely resigned sadness, Floyd Mayweather was physically too big, too hard to handle, still less subdue. He also happened to live on an infinitely classier street.

In the first shock of Hatton's defeat, many who had argued that his destiny, for reasons which were never explained with anything like forensic clarity, was to win, to out-hustle, the best pound-for-pound fighter on earth, claimed that the referee, Joe Cortez, had been part of a conspiracy to frustrate and ultimately disable the man from Manchester. To his great credit, Hatton made little of such claims. He owned up, as an honest fighter must, that Mayweather had the beating of him however the action developed. Mayweather was as effective inside as he was out, as he had promised to be, and long before the final, decisive punches were thrown in the 10th round the result had become a formality.

This is the harsh but most uncomplicated glory of the ring. You can bombard the ropes with a thousand theories and hunches; you can still argue long after the fight is over. But it is in the ring where reality, one that will last forever, is imposed. Mayweather did it with a clinical efficiency that, it has to be said, was rarely truly tested and Hatton, again with a formidable and becoming detachment conceded the point. "I could have been better," he said before apologising to the great legion of British fans who perhaps had a more pressing reason for atonement after their boorish, if predictable booing of the American national anthem.

If Hatton felt he had to apologise, it was to himself for a failure to produce the fight of his dreams. But he should not be too hard on himself. They were dreams, after all, that Mayweather rendered into fantasy soon enough.

It was an absorbing fight but it lacked the promised drama because after Hatton's early efforts to dominate, to bend Mayweather into the pattern that gave him his only chance to triumph, there was no serious question about the outcome. Hatton came with a plan but its irredeemable flaw was that it depended on the compliance of an opponent about as eager to co-operate as a one-armed bandit.

Mayweather made light of the doubts that had been piled up against his status as a master of boxing, the best around at this point in the sport's troubled history and one who would have acquitted himself well in more fertile epochs. His appetite, along with his hands were questioned, but had he been equipped with a knife and fork rather than gloves you had to fancy he might have cleared a banqueting table.

In the end there was nothing for Hatton to do but subside, and that he did it with courage and, finally, much grace, was in the end no more surprising than Mayweather's ability to inflict himself most persuasively on every phase of the fight. A Hatton jab did once cause him to stumble off balance, but it was the briefest punctuation mark in a story of one man's seamless ascendancy.

Historically, the precedents Hatton most needed to follow had been set by the great lightweight champion Roberto Duran, who had overwhelmed arguably Britain's finest post-war boxer, Kenny Buchanan, in Madison Square Garden and then, as a welterweight in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, waged such effective psychological warfare on the hitherto luminous Sugar Ray Leonard that the man of much greater natural talent found himself fighting another man's fight.

That was Hatton's hope in his remorseless pre-fight questioning of the durability of Mayweather's will.

Unfortunately, there was a missing element; Duran not only talked like a demon, with insults which went to Leonard's very marrow, he also fought like one. When he went into the ring in New York and in Montreal his dark eyes burned like well-lit coals. When Hatton walked to the ring his eyes were pools of something less than conviction; not the outright apprehension that gripped Frank Bruno when he went in against Mike Tyson for a second time, nor that which grew in the much ballyhooed Naseem Hamed when he felt the force and the speed and the sheer determination of his first truly serious opponent, Marco Antonio Barrera, but a dawning of the fact that he had talked his way into something far, far more challenging than anything he had ever faced before.

When Leonard raised his arms, optimistically, in Montreal, Duran was outraged to the point of aiming a kick at his backside. This was a man who had, according to Panamanian legend, once felled a mule with one punch, whose favourite pet was a lion cub, who had persuaded himself he had the measure of the dazzling Sugarman. Hatton made a similar case for himself in regard to Mayweather, but as fight time drew near the difficulties of prosecuting the argument seemed to be written on his face.

Hatton insists he will fight on, probably at light-welterweight, where he will feel more secure in his powers and where he knows he will not encounter a force as mature and formidable as the one released by Floyd Mayweather.

The American's post-fight charm offensive was a routine provocation to the inevitably high percentage of cynics who regularly populate ringside as opposed to those who flock like lemmings when the celebrity count is high enough but there was no reason to second guess his respect for a fellow fighting man.

Mayweather and his camp had called the fight with indisputable prescience. They said that Hatton lacked authority in his jab and his ringcraft but they never cast a shadow over his fighting heart. They were vindicated in just about every aspect of their fight analysis, and when the conqueror embraced his victim there was classic respect for one fighter from another.

This is the main comfort Ricky Hatton can draw from his night of maximum exposure. When the tickets were sold, when the need for hype had gone, he was honest about his limitations, candid about the fact that he was always involved, behind the bullish talk and the optimistic body language, in a reach of faith. "I could have been better," he said sadly, but then had he been so, who is to say that Mayweather would not, as casually as he might turn a tap, have adjusted to another level?

Home Box Office's television's wily boxing analyst, Larry Merchant, perhaps a little optimistically so soon after the heat of battle, attempted to coax Mayweather into talk of a fight with the Puerto Rican, Miguel Cotto, but he was told of other plans, maybe for promotion, but certainly the ambition that he would retire from boxing rather than have boxing retire him.

Everyone says that and it is also true that Mayweather's latest performance will trigger fresh hopes for another superfight. Cotto has long promised the highest level of performance, and has sometimes produced it. He has a fine technique and a warring spirit and it is not easy to imagine the eloquence of some big money talk.

For Hatton, financially secure for life, the future for the moment at least is not so star-spangled or cash-laden. No doubt his marketability, at least in Britain, remains high, but as he felt the full, deflating rush of defeat, there was surely the dawning of one of boxing's oldest truths.

It is that all of your career can lead you to one night of nights, once chance to take yourself into an entirely different category. That night came in the big showroom of the MGM Grand and now it is over. The certainty is that it can never be reproduced. It is Hatton's pain and boxing's rough way of imposing an unwelcome reality. In Las Vegas, Ricky Hatton could be proud that he didn't lose his courage. What went missing was his mystique, and hardly a fighter who ever lived left the ring with that possession unscathed. This is especially true if, as in the case of Hatton, the fighter had the courage to face, and accept the consequences, of meeting the toughest challenge in all of boxing. That, beyond all doubt now, was what Floyd Mayweather represented in the wee, dispiriting hours of Sunday morning.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Sivero in Goodfellas; Simpsons' wise guy Louie

The sound of Goodfellas mafioso Frankie Carbone demanding $250m in “damages” would be chilling enough on film, let alone in real life.

News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

Year 3 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 Teachers - Chelm...

ABAP Developer

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: SAP ABAP Developer - Rugb...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?