Ricky Hatton’s Hit at Welterweight

BY Bill Knight ON May 14, 2006
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Maybe. Maybe not.

Ricky Hatton’s journey had answers. But it also left questions. His journey to the United States, his journey to the welterweight division was a success Saturday night in Boston.

But ...

Hatton is always a man to be respected. He is fierce, fearless, relentless. While his style may not be a thing of beauty, it is always a joy to watch a man maximize his talents. But are those talents suited for 147 pounds?

Hatton smothered Luis Collazo early, not allowing the WBA champion to get off ... barely letting him breathe. But Collazo begin to step back, find his range and unload. He scored well in the middle rounds of the fight.

It was an intriguing war, complete with the voice of Don King in the background, booming, “Americans don’t quit. We beat ‘em in 1776 and we’re gonna beat ‘em again.” You always have to give King style points for comic relief. But this was a war between two men, a war inside the squared off jungle that is a boxing ring; not a revolution.

And Collazo would not win this war. He would fight well. He would scare Hatton’s fans. He would come close. But he would not win.

This one had more plot twists than the latest reality series or any of your prime time soap operas. Hatton had it early. Then came Collazo. Then Hatton again. And then Collazo finished with some pop.

The final verdict was close. It was a very, very difficult fight to score. Sometimes these decisions depend on the judge’s preference. Does he like the aggressor? Does he appreciate a counterpuncher? The final verdict was 115-112, 115-112, 114-113 ... all for the Hitman. But Hatton’s victory left questions.

Of course, every fighter is better in his own venue. Who wouldn’t gain a much needed adrenaline rush from his tremendous, adoring, singing crowd in Manchester? But Hatton is fine away from home. He can fight. He can and will apply his fierce pressure — in Manchester or Milwaukee. He comes in and comes in and comes in, all fists and arms and shoulders and head. He comes to fight and he comes to win and his body knows no reverse.

But seven pounds is a big jump.

Can he dance with the welterweights? Or should he drift back to 140 pounds, where he might just be unbeatable? Was Collazo just a tough cookie to make his 147-pound debut against? Or is 147 too much poundage, too much strength? Hatton normally wears down an opponent at 140, offering that relentless style and simply suffocating them off their feet. Eventually, they just succumb; 40 times they have succumbed.

Granted, Collazo is a southpaw. Granted, he is a good fighter. Granted, he is a natural welterweight.

Hatton told HBO’s Larry Merchant that is was a tough night. Did he expect the night to be this tough?

“Yes and no. He’s (Collazo) a naturally bigger man, a stronger man, being a natural welterweight. I think I showed I was stronger. But, yeah, I did notice the difference in the way he hit. He hit very hard.”

There was that whole left-handed issue, too. Hatton said he has not faced a southpaw in “three or four years” and then added that “it was a bit tricky.”

Everything from here on out, though, might be a bit tricky. As Hatton and almost everyone acknowledges, all the big fights are at welterweight.

“If I’m going to stay at welterweight I need to grow into the weight,” Hatton told Merchant.

Collazo certainly had his moments, certainly landed his shots, certainly opened the door for more paydays. He even appeared to have Hatton in trouble in the 12th round. But Hatton said no.

“I had to cover up and be smart,” he admitted. “He never made me wobble or shook me up but he did hurt me several times; yeah.”

Collazo told Merchant, “He didn’t do nothing to me, Larry. I’m a natural 147 pounds and he’s moving up.”

The questions remain. Was this just a strong natural welterweight? It was, though, a man who has only 12 knockouts in his career. Was it the tricky southpaw situation and the adjustment to that style?

There are big fights out there. But can the Hitman “grow into the weight?”

Emmanuel Steward, always a voice to be heard and heeded, thinks Hatton will be OK:

“Ricky is very rough as a fighter. These other guys (like Mayweather) are moving up from junior welterweight and the lightweight division. His strength and aggressiveness will be much more effective with the smaller guys who are just moving up, as opposed to Collazo.”

Of course, Mayweather will bring his speed with him. Will Hatton “grow into the weight” and bring his bull strength? No question he will bring his heart, his stamina, his endurance, his rough and tumble style.

The questions remain. Unfortunately, we will all have to fall back on that tried and true source of information, the only true source — Father Time. Time, indeed, will tell. Until that time ... well ...

Maybe. Maybe not.

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