Ricky Hatton returns to the ring this Saturday in an exhibition bout against legendary three-weight world champion Marco Antonio Barrera. Returning to the scene of many of his greatest nights, ‘The Hitman’ will step into the squared circle at the Manchester Arena once again.
These exhibition bouts have had varied results, from the nostalgic fun of Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr to the brutal and unnecessary Evander Holyfield vs Vitor Belfort. But given their similar ages and styles, Hatton vs Barrera looks set to be a fun match-up. These exhibitions tend to do well when they are composed of two evenly-matched boxers rather than an ageing pugilist facing someone trying to make a name for themselves as Belfort did.
With that in mind, allow The Sportsman to whet your appetite for the sort-of-return of one of the greatest champions Britain has ever produced. Here are five of the best victories by the unforgettable Ricky Hatton.
Jon Thaxton, 21st October 2000, London
Coming off a fifth-round stoppage of skilled European campaigner Giuseppe Lauri, Hatton was ready for a step-up. Ricky was matched with teak-tough Jon Thaxton for the vacant British super lightweight title. What transpired was something of a hidden gem of the domestic boxing scene.
Hatton was cut and roughed up considerably by the Norwich southpaw but, importantly for a young fighter, he held his nerve. Fighting his way back into proceedings, Hatton’s pressure proved too much for Thaxton. The points decision, and the iconic Lonsdale belt, belonged to Hatton.
Kostya Tsyzu, 4th June 2005, Manchester
The quintessential Hatton performance. Tsyzu was the most feared 140-pounder on the planet, having laid waste to a Hall of Fame’s worth of top talent on the way to the undisputed title. Zab Judah, Sharmba Mitchell, Julio Cesar Chavez and Jesse James Leija were just some of the scalps mounted on the wall of ‘The Thunder From Down Under’.
But Hatton wasn’t daunted like the rest. Roared on by a deeply partisan Manchester Arena, the challenger to Tsyzu’s IBF title matched the champion punch-for-punch. So relentless was his assault that he broke the Australian’s spirit. Tsyzu quit on his stool at the conclusion of the 11th round, unable to take any more of Hatton’s swarm of thudding shots to head and body. Britain had a new world champion.
Jose Luis Castillo, 23rd June 2007, Las Vegas
Hatton had long felt kinship with Mexican fighters. Like the greats from south of the border, he was hot-tempered and quick to go to war in the ring. It felt appropriate that he would meet a warrior like Jose Luis Castillo. ‘El Terrible’ was best known for taking Floyd Mayweather to the limit and contesting perhaps the greatest fight of all time with Diego Corrales.
Many fans expected this to be the sort of back-and-forth slugfest both were known for. But Hatton seized the initiative from the word go, pouring pressure on Castillo. The end came with perhaps the best body shot Hatton ever threw, digging a left underneath the Mexican’s rib cage to end the fight in the fourth.
Juan Lazcano, 24th May 2008, Manchester
Hatton was coming off a brave defeat to Floyd Mayweather the previous year. His career reset would take the form of a grand homecoming, fighting at what is now known as the Etihad Stadium, home of his beloved Manchester City.
Juan Lazcano was the challenger for Ricky’s The Ring, IBO and lineal 140lb titles on a cold night up north. The fight was a thriller, perhaps even moreso than Hatton would have liked. The Brit was rocked by ‘The Hispanic Causing Panic’, but recovered well to take an exhilarating unanimous decision. Looking back, this fight feels like the end of ‘Hattonmania’ on these shores. He would never win in his home country again.
Paulie Malignaggi, 22nd November 2008, Las Vegas
The final victory in the career of Ricky Hatton was one that seemed to hint at a bright future. With the Mayweather reverse firmly behind him, a fight with gifted former IBF champion Paulie Malignaggi was a fine test of his skills.
Hatton passed the test with flying colours, outboxing the consummate boxer before dragging him into the trenches. Malignaggi’s only previous defeat had seen him take Miguel Cotto the distance with a broken orbital bone and a fractured jaw. But Hatton succeeded where the Puerto Rican failed, taking out the New Yorker in round eleven. For one final time, ‘The Hitman’ showed why he is one of the great super lightweights.
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