Great Britain’s Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton finally hits American shores when he meets WBA welterweight titleholder Luis Collazo of New York for his title at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston tonight.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Hatton said during a press conference.

Hatton (40-0, 30 KOs), the IBF and WBA junior welterweight titleholder, was last seen crushing two venerable opponents in Carlos Maussa and Kostya Tszyu. Now he’s moving up in weight and plans to make Collazo the next victim before moving on to bigger things. The fight will be shown on HBO.

“He can’t overlook me,” Collazo (26-1, 12 KOs) said.

The slick fighting Collazo surprised some people when he took the title from Jose Antonio Rivera a year ago. Now people are beginning to notice him.

“I only had two weeks notice for that fight,” said Collazo about meeting Rivera last April in a contest he won by split-decision in that fighter’s hometown.

Hatton has run over 40 consecutive opponents with most of his bouts taking place in front of boisterous British fans in Manchester, England.

Much earlier in his career he did take part in three prizefights in this country and all ended in knockout victory. But they all came before he became the Hitman.
American fight fans don’t believe in things they can’t see.

“The next move is to become as popular in the United States,” Hatton said. “If topping the bill in the United States wasn’t a big enough challenge, I’m attempting to be world champion to boot. This shows you what type of fights I am really all about.”

It was almost a year ago that Hatton and Tszyu met in Manchester to unify the junior welterweight division. Most expected Tszyu to walk through Hatton’s punches and pulverize him the way he had eradicated other contenders. Instead Hatton walked through Tszyu’s constant fire and emerged the victor when the great Siberian fighter quit on his stool with the winner still in question in the 11th round.

That win woke up fight fans everywhere and Hatton was voted Fighter of the Year by numerous boxing publications.

“I consider it a massive honor,” said Hatton upon learning he was dubbed Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writer’s Association of America last week.

The square-jawed Hatton hopes that a solid victory over Collazo can transition into a possible mega bout with a number of American fighters like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Antonio Margarito or even Oscar De La Hoya.

“That would be absolutely fantastic,” Hatton said about any of those match ups.

Collazo, a proud Puerto Rican fighter out of Brooklyn, said it’s to be expected of Hatton talking about future bouts with superstar boxers like Mayweather.

“It’s a big money fight, I don’t blame him,” said Collazo. “I’m always the underdog.”

The New York native hopes he can enter that level of prizefight and fully understands a win over Hatton put s pretty noticeable notch in his belt.

“I don’t worry about no other fights right now,” Collazo said. “Back home they call me the showstopper because I’m always ruining shows.

Right now he’s hoping to ruin the Hitman’s show.

If Hatton Wins:

The Hitman has an opportunity to make a bundle and could possibly face Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Zab Judah, Carlos Baldomir, Arturo Gatti, Antonio Margarito, or Jose Luis Castillo.

If Collazo wins:

The fleet footed Puerto Rican doesn’t have the same opportunities as Hatton, but he could face Antonio Margarito, Jose Luis Castillo, Carlos Baldomir, Zab Judah, Miguel Cotto, or the winner of the WBA elimination tournament that will pit Paul Williams, Walter Matthysse, Joel Julio and Carlos Quintana.

Because few in the boxing world know Collazo, the chances are he must face the fires before getting an opportunity against the likes of Mayweather or De La Hoya if he doesn’t retire.

Collazo has the perfect style to beat Hatton, but does he have enough experience to keep the British juggernaut from pinning him on the ropes as he did against Kostya Tszyu. We’ll see.