After Ricky Hatton’s impressive destruction of Kostya Tszyu Saturday in Manchester, England, boxing has a new junior welterweight champion.
And a new star.
And while the purists insist that there is only one “Hitman” – Thomas Hearns – Hatton served the classic moniker well in doing as his legendary namesake did almost 25 years ago against Pipino Cuevas: He dominated an established, long-reigning champion, while ushering in a new era for boxing.
Hatton displayed surprising skills, a granite chin and an intensity that is going to make him one tough nut to crack.
Everyone knew Hatton was good but, just like Hearns a quarter-century ago, no one figured he was this good.
In anticipation of a tremendous future, here is a new Hitman’s hit list.
1. Floyd Mayweather: If ever you wanted to illustrate the perfect example of boxer vs. puncher, Mayweather vs. Hatton would be it. Mayweather is the undefeated, lightning-fast boxer who is so gifted that his gutting of two divisions was almost effortless. But how would he deal with an immovable object like Hatton, whose superhuman energy and strength completely exhausted Tszyu? Right now, you’d have to give the edge to Mayweather, based on his record at the elite level. Further, Hatton has never come close to facing an opponent as talented as “Pretty Boy.” Mayweather’s speed and reflexes are the best in the game, and he has the ability to make Hatton swing at air. Conversely, Mayweather has never faced an opponent as strong and willful as Hatton, save for Jose Luis Castillo (who most experts thought beat Mayweather in ’02). And Mayweather is a natural 130-pounder, which may give Hatton an even greater edge in strength. A fascinating showdown and, maybe, the best fight in boxing.
Odds: Mayweather (2-1).
2. Arturo Gatti: Gatti has a June 25 date with Mayweather, which should further clarify the division. But a Gatti-Hatton slugfest is too mouthwatering to ignore. Besides, Gatti will likely lose to Mayweather – which would make him the perfect Hatton opponent early next year. It would represent a wad of money for Gatti in England. Matchup-wise, both are strong, and both are determined. But Hatton has a significant edge in youth. Gatti has engaged in classic brawls for the last nine years, and his body can’t possibly endure much more punishment. Hatton, meanwhile, is mountain-air fresh and six years younger. Sure, Gatti has surprised us before. But Hatton has the ability to overwhelm him.
Odds: Hatton (3-1).
3. Miguel Cotto: Cotto has a tough fight this weekend against Muhammad Abdullaev – a fighter who defeated him at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But, provided the Puerto Rican star wins, there is little doubt that fans will be calling for Hatton-Cotto. And for good reason: It’s a tremendous matchup. Cotto may be the only 140-pounder in the world capable of matching Hatton’s physical strength. Against DeMarcus Corley earlier this year, Cotto looked like a junior middleweight. And his skills are better than Hatton’s. However, how will the “future Trinidad” react when he’s met with an onrushing locomotive? Cotto had enough trouble last year with Lovemore N’dou, a strong but limited fighter. Hatton’s pressure may prove to be this fight’s most telling factor. Second, Hatton’s chin is world-class. You’d have to wonder if even a big puncher like Cotto could dent him. And what about Cotto’s chin? He was rocked by Corley, a relatively light puncher. A lot of questions may be answered this weekend against Abdullaev. But, right now, Hatton is a slight favorite based on the Tszyu victory. Cotto has yet to defeat a fighter of Kostya’s caliber.
Odds: Hatton (2-1).
4. Vivian Harris: This fight was almost made last year, before it fell through because of negotiation breakdowns. At the time, it appeared to be a fairly even matchup, as Harris had an obvious edge in experience. But the conventional wisdom on this one changed with Hatton’s taming of Tszyu. Harris is a strong, talented 140-pounder who can do some things in a boxing ring. But he has neither the speed nor the power to keep a raging Hatton off him. Last week, a good fight on paper. This week? An easy win for Hatton.
Odds: Hatton (3-1).
5. Diego Corrales: How much longer can the 6-foot “Chico” stay at 135 pounds? It’s likely a matter of time before he invades the junior welters. He is coming off his fight of the ages with Jose Luis Castillo, and it’s possible that neither fighter will be the same. But, provided Corrales remains at the elite level, he still would be at a disadvantage against the bigger, stronger Hatton. Corrales has been dropped numerous times by Mayweather, Joel Casamayor and Castillo, at both 130 and 135 pounds. His chin would likely be a liability at 140, and he probably doesn’t have the physical strength to compete with Hatton on the inside. Plus, Corrales would be moving up in weight for the third time in his career, and hitting a larger target. Result: His power would be severely lessened. Not a good plan of action for Chico, but a possible fight of the year if it ever happens.
Odds: Hatton (3-1).
6. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo, the two-time lightweight champ, has talked before about a jump to 140 pounds. That is probably not going to happen now that he has revenge on his mind courtesy of Corrales. But if Corrales-Castillo II falls through, it’s possible that a Castillo showdown with Hatton would be an option. Both are tremendously skilled infighters who rely on their physical strength and pressure to out-will their opponents. And, unlike Corrales, Castillo is a natural 135-pounder who is more equipped to move up to junior welter. But Castillo, strong as he is, would be facing a bigger version of himself in Hatton. And no one can be sure about the toll his slugfest with Corrales exacted on him. Still, this one would be a corker for as long as it lasted. Whether it’s fought in Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Manchester, the atmosphere would be electric.
Odds: Hatton (3-1).
7. Zab Judah: Poor Zab. He was just starting to be appreciated as one of boxing’s best fighters when Hatton comes along and relegates Judah to a secondary conversation again. Anyone who saw Hatton steamroll Tszyu had to be thinking that Judah would be in a great degree of difficulty against the English buzz saw. And, while styles make fights and Judah is performing very well these days, you have to wonder whether Hatton would brush aside “Super’s” newfound power and gobble him up. Further, look what Tszyu’s pressure did to Judah four years ago. Hatton is stronger and fresher than Kostya. But, Hatton would also be moving up to a new division. Seven pounds could make a big difference.
Hatton would likely be favored in five of the seven matchups – not bad for a kid who was considered green as grass just two days ago. Will he rise to the level of the fallen Tszyu, or was Saturday’s victory more of a perfect contrast in styles – a la Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera?
Luckily for us, the answer will soon be provided.