LAS VEGAS— Ricky Hatton returned home to Manchester mania, unconcerned about less than sterling reviews for the performance against Juan Urango in his Sin City debut at Paris Casino’s expanded ballroom.
Whatever tussling type transgressions occurred in aesthetic categories of customer satisfaction didn’t sour fans’ appetites for a contest with Jose Luis Castillo, who also underperformed, against Herman Ngoudjo, during Castillo’s part of the co-featured commercial prelude.
Now comes word, quite possibly farfetched, that the encounter announced for June 2nd at the Thomas and Mack Center may not come off without further hitches.
It would be a shame if anything did occur that threatened a potential early summer spectacular.
Hatton’s first professional foray into Vegas was an overall success. The house was almost fully packed with a lively audience (around 7,000), and apparently deeper liquor sales than usual. Around 3,000 loyal Hatton supporters from England made the Glam Paris interior seem like it should have been renamed Manchester for the weekend.
Despite anti-climactic boxing action, the event generated positive buzz anticipating Hatton – Castillo. Fans and working stiffs alike appreciated that Ngoudjo and Urango showed up ready to win. In Ngoudjo’s case, many ringsiders felt he did win.
On the morning of the fight, Hatton and a half dozen teammates strolled around in the rarified, cold dawn air at the corner of Bellagio and Caesars, remarking on the sights. Silly and serious, they looked like almost any other group of early bird tourists except that they weren’t chugging from Eiffel Tower replica drink carafes.
It wasn’t a bad night of boxing, but elements were in place for another Pacquaio – Morales type scene, where a rollicking crowd was almost as entertaining as a great fight. Hatton’s fans were there for the party but didn’t get to go nuts.
It looked like there was more bang for the buck in one those rolling dollhouse parties one might encounter at 7 am along the strip. A sparkling, moist pearl white SUV limo pulls up next to you. Deep tinted windows roll down as nasty angels coo a sirens’ soliciting song. More of a danger zone than what Hatton created against Urango.
Parisis a senic venue with tradition, having hosted the first Ruiz – Holyfield bout. The swarm made it a happening place.
An enthusiastic early audience was on hand for an undercard broadcast to European networks. The large contingent of European media cheered throughout for their countrymen, different from local etiquette where wiseass observations and informal scoring are non-partisan and more subdued.
It was Hatton’s crowd, but it was another of the Queen’s finest who got the gallery psyched.
Light heavyweight Jon Ibbotson of Sheffield turned the stateside trick to rousing cheers and scored a stoppage over Shannon Anderson as the “here we go” chorus came to vivid vocal life.
Hatton’s look-alike younger brother, Mathew, 30-3-1, almost stole the show winning a fringe welterweight belt by stoppage.
Meanwhile, brother Ricky is still trying to prove the Tszyu fight was the rule not the exception, and talks like he’s been chasing Floyd Mayweather Jr. for pound-for-pound honors.
Anyone who believes Mayweather is worried about Hatton or that Hatton is currently among the best of the best better stay away from sports book wagering areas and women with too much eyeliner on.
The only concern Mayweather has is whether or not it’s worth stepping into the ring again after meeting Oscar de la Hoya. Hatton isn’t a blip on Mayweather’s radar yet, nor should he be.
That’s not to say Hatton won’t scale the ultimate heights. He certainly isn’t there just yet.
Besides, there’s no guarantee Hatton gets by Castillo.
After the fights, specifically separated press conferences were held for postfight data, then a Castillo – Hatton preview.
Waiting off to the side after his initial Q and A, unassuming Castillo hung out with his son, conducting various interviews and video bites. As he swayed on the young boy’s shoulders, Castillo surveyed the larger than usual amount of international TV crews, and listened to various accents from stylish entourages.
Castillo stayed nondescript off to the side, but measured the entire room.
Training had started already.
They shared center stage for publicity poses after polite predictions of a fine June engagement. Maybe it was simply Hatton enhancing his everyman image, but he looked ready to celebrate his journey already.
Vegas can be a harsh and fun place at the same time. You live high on the house, sometimes the tab comes back heavy.
Hatton is around a 3 to 1 favorite, but remember, Castillo has proved he can get up for the big ones. It may come down to whether or not he has another big effort left.
When Hatton returns, he’ll find a different town waiting.
Pariswas a ballroom in a controlled, upscale environment. Thomas and Mack is a rocking, rapping basketball pit.
Mexico, Castillo and Latino passion will be represented stronger than just the solo hombre who tried in vain to get the crowd to join his cheers during Castillo – Ngoudjo. Castillo should give that yelling amigo a free ticket next time.
When Lennox Lewis fought Evander Holyfield the second time, Thomas and Mack was patrolled by stumbling visitors in beer soaked Union Jack capes. Some of those blokes got pretty belligerent by the closing bell.
When Julio Cesar Chavez spanked Hector Camacho, the capes were just as soaked, but the flags were Mexican.
Sad to say, odds on brawls in the Hatton – Castillo grandstands, just from alcohol prices frustration alone, are high.
Bienvenidos Las Vegas, old boy.