Hatton hails Mayweather impact after win

From Simon Lewis, PA
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The Independent Online

Ricky Hatton signalled his return to form with a classy 11th-round stoppage of Paulie Malignaggi and promised he can continue to improve in future fights.

Fighting for the first time since ending an 11-year training partnership with Billy Graham, Hatton showed that a 30-year-old dog could be taught new tricks.

Hatton, belying his reputation as an out and out slugger, put his seven weeks in training camp with Floyd Mayweather Sr to effective use by dominating a boxing match-up with the slick Malignaggi.

So in control was he that Malignaggi's trainer Buddy McGirt climbed onto the ring apron just 28 seconds into the 11th round and indicated to referee Kenny Bayless that the fight should be stopped on a technical knockout.

Malignaggi was angered by his corner's decision but the scorecards of all three judges indicated he had managed to win only one round in the previous 10, albeit different rounds in the minds of each official.

Regardless, the victory, which takes Hatton's record to 45-1 (32 KOs), silenced the doubters who believed the 30-year-old Englishman was past his prime following a defeat last December at welterweight to pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather Jr and a lacklustre comeback in May in his native Manchester in defeating Juan Lazcano.

"I think bearing in mind I've only done seven weeks with Floyd, I showed the changes that we've been working on," Hatton said, after defeating Malignaggi, whose record now stands at 25-2 (5 KOs).

"I don't think you've seen Ricky Hatton move his head as much or jab as much. Sometimes the red mist set in and I put my foot on the gas but Rome wasn't built in a day and I think with the changes that me and Floyd have been working on what I did tonight was quite impressive

"So I'd like to thank Floyd for bringing back my hunger for the game."

Hatton admitted that even he had had doubts about his boxing future following his performances against Mayweather Jr and Lazcano.

"This was a career-defining fight for me," Hatton said. "I think the thought going into this fight was that I was past it and to be honest, doubts began to creep into my mind.

"Have I had too many fights, have I been in too many wars, has the weight-making over all the years been like everyone was saying.

"But I think tonight I've proved myself, I showed a technical side to my game which I've been missing for maybe two, three, four fights.

"The red mist did set in at times but there was more composure overall. We've gone back to basics a little bit in the gym. I've started moving my head, started jabbing and being aware of the punches coming back at me.

"To have done so much in just seven weeks makes me very proud. I've got this fight against my nearest rival out of the way and it's all about the future now.

"I think with another training camp under our belts it can only get better."

While Hatton was taking great satisfaction in his return to form, Malignaggi was bemoaning his corner's decision to pull the plug on his effort, his first stoppage in 27 professional fights.

"I'm better than this," Malignaggi said. "They wouldn't let me continue.

"Maybe I wasn't going to win but I'm better than getting stopped.

"I saw nothing crazy out of Ricky. He had a different look, a little different training, but I couldn't get a rhythm.

"I kept my head moving but he uses his jab well and I couldn't hit him. Ricky did a good job, maybe I would have lost on points but I'm better than being stopped.

"This goes as a knockout on my record but it shouldn't be."

Malignaggi was particularly annoyed that, having lasted 12 rounds against Miguel Cotto in 2006 having suffered a fractured jaw and a broken hand midway through the fight, his corner had jumped in to stop him when he felt he was in far less trouble.

"I tip my hat to Ricky but I was worse off in the Miguel Cotto fight and they didn't stop it then, why should they stop it now?"

In the post-fight press conference, Malignaggi showed there were no hard feelings towards the victor when he presented Hatton with four bottles of "Blue Moon" beer, matching the name of the song adopted by his fellow Manchester City fans and to which he enters the ring.

Hatton paid tribute to his opponent, describing the American's style as "like when you're in the bath and you're trying to catch the soap".

"When he backs off, and with his hands and his footwork, he spins off and he stays low and he's very hard to get hold of," Hatton said.

"He's still a world champion in my eyes as he never lost his (IBF) world title in the ring and he was my nearest rival."

Hatton also thanked the estimated 6,000 fans who travelled from Britain to see him in action.

"Back in England, there's a recession on, there's a credit crunch and we've got new year coming up.

"We've had two of our other world champions, Joe Calzaghe and David Haye, fighting in the space of three weeks, so bearing all that in mind, for so many Brits to come over and support me was fantastic."