News of Diego Corrales’ demise as a Lightweight champion last weekend opened up a host of possibilities at Light Welterweight for the elongated American. His defeat in the ring to veteran Cuban Joel Casamayor following a knockout loss to the weighing scales that demands he leaves the Lightweight division behind.
The irony of Corrales’ troubles making weight won’t be lost on him or former nemesis Jose Luis Castillo, to whom he suffered a knockout defeat when officially outweighed by the Mexican late last year.
Castillo’s failure to make weight for their proposed rubber match led to his own admission that making the 135-pound Lightweight limit was a memory his body simply couldn’t summon. The ‘drying out’ both men endured to prolong their stay within the division could promote the assumption the higher classes lacked appeal or reward. Over the past three or four years, nothing could be further from the truth.
Although thinned, competition including Ricky Hatton surely dispels that theory, and whilst the two generated heat, interest and money during their time in the classic division – they create a host of equally mouth-watering matchups at Light Welterweight. Hatton vs. Corrales, Corrales vs. Castillo III and Hatton vs. Castillo wouldn’t need selling. All three are guaranteed classics.
Indeed, Castillo’s second fight following the cancellation of Corrales III is against Vivian Harris and suggests the veteran is eager to mix with the elite and feels few concerns acclimatising to the new weight. Corrales, meanwhile, still raw from his narrow loss to Casamayor, implied retirement was a possibility but the lucrative options available at Junior Welter will surely implore him to persist.
All of which should be music to the ears of Britain’s unbeaten Ricky Hatton, a fighter increasingly in need of a high profile fight. Or will it? It’s certainly been a peculiar and circuitous route back to contender at 140 lbs. for the “Hitman.” A popular and pulsating victory over Kostya Tszyu and an escape from the supposedly asphyxiating grip of promoter Frank Warren was meant to lead to a catalogue of big fights. To date, that promise hasn’t been fulfilled and with little known Juan Urango next on the horizon on January 9th it will be close to two years on from Tszyu before the Mancunian candidate has the opportunity to substantiate his claim for pound-for-pound recognition.
Fans are beginning to ask, does Ricky really want the super-fights?
Messages from the Hatton camp, whether via his father Ray or promoter Dennis Hobson on the direction and aspirations for Ricky’s career have been mixed, causing some observers to question whether a direction or plan actually exists.
Annexing the WBA belt from Carlos Maussa represented a logical next step following the intensity of the Kostya Tszyu win. Ricky deserved an easier fight and with Maussa gaining disproportionate credibility by virtue of the WBA belt he secured beating Vivian Harris it was an obvious route to take.
However, from the springboard of unifying two belts and his stature as consensus champion at the weight it was presumed high-profile clashes with Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto or Arturo Gatti would soon materialise – ensuring Hatton capitalized financially and competitively on the youth that fuels the intensity, stamina and strength he demonstrated beating the will out of Kostya Tszyu. A feeling corroborated by Hatton’s publicised angst at the stagnation of his career in 2004.
In the aftermath of that victory and his acrimonious split from Frank Warren, new promoters Fight Academy produced update after update, name-checking Gatti, Corrales, Freitas and Castillo. Despite the releases, none moved closer to fruition to the extent that halfway through 12 weeks of preparation for an unconfirmed opponent at 140 lbs., Hatton learned he was stepping up to 147 to tackle tricky but unheralded southpaw Luis Collazo for the WBA belt. This despite public misgivings expressed by long-time trainer Billy Graham.
Depending on your perspective and, seemingly, which side of the Atlantic you inhabit, the Collazo performance represented (1) an exciting, brave and dramatic performance by Ricky on his televised American debut or (2) a heavy, unmotivated showing in a division that reduces his competitive advantages.
Personally, I’m somewhere between the two schools of thought but one undeniable truth is the move to 147 lbs. failed to facilitate bigger fights with Mayweather, Judah or Baldomir – although it is hard to know how hard anyone tried – and Ricky’s imminent return to Junior-Welter serves to underline this bitter reality.
Suddenly, the ‘party line’ from Team Hatton has flipped; the lighter division is now where all the fights are they claim, despite Miguel Cotto’s simultaneous move to Welterweight and Floyd Mayweather’s continued preference for the heavier division.
Perhaps the arrival of Castillo and the possibility of Corrales continuing his own career at 140 lbs. provide timely validation and the frustration fans and writers are expressing about Ricky’s progress and his level of competition will prove hasty and short-lived. One theory suggests Castillo, should he prevail versus Harris, will face Hatton in the spring – though sceptics already suggest Corrales vs. Castillo III is infinitely more likely given their history.
But whatever the future held for Hatton the past 18 months, and particularly the voyage into the Welterweight division, delivered little beyond securing another belt he hasn’t kept and risks he didn’t need.
After all, Castillo, Corrales, Witter and Harris – the fights Hatton will presumably now pursue – haven’t really gone anywhere in the interim.