Ricky Hatton is unbeaten. He is the new WBA welterweight champion. Hatton is also the last person to claim the WBA and IBF junior welterweight titles.
He is clearly in the driver’s seat.
Saturday night in Boston, Massachusetts “The Hitman” added another title belt to his collection with a unanimous decision win over tough Luis Collazo in a tightly contested bout. Opening as a -450 betting favorite to win the bout, many felt that Hatton would have an easy time of it against the relatively unknown New York native Collazo. Hatton was bet as high as a -550 favorite in some places, but the fight was never going to be that easy.
Perhaps the image of Hatton bullying Kostya Tszyu around a Manchester arena last year was still fresh in the minds of many, when “The Hitman” lived up to this moniker and punished the former champ for eleven rounds. That bout of course was at the junior welterweight limit and Tszyu perhaps had a more accommodating style than that offered by the southpaw welterweight champion Collazo. The fight this weekend never looked like it would be one to save and watch over again or to be used as a shining example of what a great fight looks like. Hatton fought his fight – meaning he came forward pressing the pace – and kept coming regardless of the return fire that the 26-2 Collazo answered with.
Opposing a man with a three-inch advantage in height and coming from a lefty stance meant that the challenger from Manchester, England would have his work cut out for him in his North American debut. And he did.
In the end, however, Hatton managed to outland Collazo and won enough rounds early to take a close unanimous decision which was aided by a flash knockdown in the opening seconds of the bout. At times Hatton looked to be in control of the fight yet the defending champion certainly had his moments and in the last round the Englishman appeared on the verge of going down himself. It was a fight where either man could have won, Hatton did, and a rematch is a possibility. That, however, all depends on where Ricky “The Hitman” wants to go now.
The new WBA welterweight champion is now 41-0 with 30 fights won by knockout. He successfully defended his WBA and IBF junior welterweight titles in November of last year when he stopped Carlos Maussa in the ninth round and now has added the WBA 147-pound strap to his collection. At junior welterweight, which Hatton claims he can still make without much trouble, Miguel Cotto seems to be the top prospect while a rematch with Tszyu, should he return to the ring, or an all-British battle versus Junior Witter are options. Beyond that the talent at junior welter falls off to tough veterans such as Joel Casamayor and Juan Lazcano, and then off further to a handful of prospects. Both Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales are also possible opponents as each struggle to make the lightweight limit – the winner of their third fight in June could be on Hatton’s hit list.
But the real tests ahead for Ricky Hatton seem to reside above 140-pounds. Currently the best fighter in the world, “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather, calls the welterweight division his, as does tough puncher turned boxer Arturo Gatti. Let’s not forget that Carlos Baldomir is the WBC champion at 147 off his upset win over Zab Judah, and the fighter that nobody seems to want to fight or even mention, WBO champ Antonio Margarito.
At the post fight press conference Saturday, Hatton was open and honest about the events that had just transpired. First off, “The Hitman” appeared before the media minus the big dark sunglasses. Fighters always seem to feel the need to hide their battle wounds but bruised and swollen Hatton took the podium and put his best face forward. He admitted that this was one of his toughest fights – giving his opponent credit while underlining the fact that the move up in weight to face a champion in his first bout at welterweight was a tough test. The twelfth round was Collazo’s best as he tagged his opponent several times with clean shots that found their mark and Hatton was quite forthright in suggesting that is wasn’t just the shots in the last round that hurt, he was hurt several times. Fighters often shake off the suggestion that they actually get hit and hurt during fights, it was refreshing to hear Hatton, his bruised swollen face out there for the world see, tell it like it is.
Hatton confessed that he still thinks of himself as a junior welterweight, and that may give us a glimpse of what move he makes next. A rematch against Luis Collazo was talked about if he stays at welterweight but the swarms of fans that Hatton brings to arenas in England were not to be found stateside as plenty of seats at the TD Banknorth Garden were vacant. A rematch would seem to make financial sense only in Britain as neither Hatton nor Collazo command enough attention in the US to fill a venue.
Options abound for Hatton, who surrendered his two belts at junior welterweight in order to capture the WBA welterweight title on Saturday. As an undefeated fighter with a title belt he is in a fortunate position to call the shots. The better fighters seem to be hovering at the welterweight limit and those fighters are likely to bring a greater financial return but at a higher risk.
One question answered during the fight Saturday night was how the added weight would affect “The Hitman.” We learnt that a “bigger” Ricky Hatton doesn’t necessarily mean a “better” one.