Usually Mexico’s Jose Luis Castillo would have the fan advantage whenever he fights in Las Vegas, but this time he’s fighting England’s Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton and his fans are legion.
“I expect a wild crowd like those you get for a soccer game,” said Castillo. “A lot of chanting and screaming.”
Just eliminate the other 10 guys from a soccer team and you have England’s and Mexico’s best fighter ready to contend for Hatton’s IBO junior welterweight title at the Thomas and Mack Center on Saturday June 23. The fight will be shown on HBO pay-per-view.
Few boxing fans are as maniacal as the British and Mexican. When it comes to the term fanatical, that best expresses the rabid following fighters from those countries enjoy.
“Ricky Hatton’s fans are just incredible,” said Bob Arum of Top Rank Promotions.
The last time Hatton (42-0, 30 KOs) fought in Las Vegas you would have thought the fight was in Piccadilly Circus, there were that many chanting Brits with their red white and blue t-shirts and flags.
Does that scare Castillo?
“I know he has a very big following and the arena will be full of British fans, but I also expect that there will be many Mexican fans in the stands to support me,” said Castillo (55-7-1, 47 KOs).
Fans aside, now the world of boxing can witness the two very best junior welterweights in the world.
Hatton represents the true king of the junior welterweights. Who can forget his stirring ramrod punching over Kostya Tszyu who had reigned as the prior lord of the 140-pounders for nearly a decade. Now comes Castillo whose never-go-backwards style has seldom been solved.
“Castillo, I think, will be a similar fight to the Tszyu fight,” said Hatton during a telephone conference call.
During that fight Hatton attacked the Siberian boxer with his British brand of legal mugging that Tszyu had never encountered before. Battered and swollen, Tszyu relinquished his title on the stool though he still had another round to try and retain his world championship.
“Tszyu did give ground to try and walk me on to that big right hand,” said Hatton describing his fight against Tszyu in June 2005. “But I think Castillo will hold his ground a bit more.”
Castillo and most Mexican fighters prefer to move forward, never backward. They see retreat as a form of surrender. A good example of Castillo’s style was seen against the late Diego Corrales two years ago. Neither fighter moved backward though each fired brain-wracking punches for 10 rounds.
“Castillo-Corrales is a fight that people will be watching in year’s time,” said Hatton. “I want people talking about fights like that about Ricky Hatton in a few years time.”
The pugnacious-looking Hatton fights like he looks. He prefers to engage his up-in-your face style that seldom leaves opponents enough room to breathe. Sometimes it includes hugging and holding if the referee allows it.
“Hatton is a good fighter and likes to fight,” said Castillo, no shrinking violet himself. “I’m hoping I see the early version of Hatton and not the one that holds, clinches and hits.”
In Hatton’s last match that took place in Las Vegas against Juan Urango of Colombia, the Hitman was more the holding man who grabbed and clinched his opponent for the last four rounds.
Hatton said that was an aberration due to a head cold suffered before due to the air conditioning in Las Vegas.
“It brought out a head cold in me the week of the fight,” Hatton said. “I think I run out of steam a bit.”
Castillo, who prides himself on fighting toe-to-toe, relishes a passionate fight to the end kind of slugfest that brings out the fans. He loves throwing left hooks to the body and head and daring opponent’s to crack his granite chin.
“If he (Hatton) fights like he usually does, I expect a brawl in the middle of the ring just like Corrales and I had in the first one,” said Castillo. “It would be like two trains colliding.”
On Saturday, England and Mexico’s two human freight trains are colliding and boxing fans expect international impact like Castillo’s fight with Corrales in 2005.
“Castillo’s fight against Diego Corrales was one of the fights of the century,” said Hatton. “I want to be able to be in one of them fights.”