The Demise Ricky Hatton’s

08/12/2009 12:52

The Demise Ricky Hatton’s
By Jeff Stoyanoff-December 8, 2009

There is always context to consider in any decision. After watching Manny Pacquiao manhandle a tremendous welterweight in Miguel Cotto, the loss that Ricky Hatton suffered at the hands of Pacquiao may no longer seem so troublesome. At this point, it doesn’t seem as though anyone has any answers for the combination of speed, power, and aggressiveness of Pacquiao, even top welters. So, Hatton making a comeback shouldn’t seem like such a stretch. Surely losing to the two best fighters of his generation shouldn’t be the end of a career for Hatton. Yet, those losses mean precisely that. Ricky Hatton’s career is over. It isn’t what happened in those fights that spell the end for Hatton as anyone can lose to a truly great fighter. Rather, it’s a trio of other fights that tell the tale of his diminishing skills in the ring.

The greatness of Mayweather and Pacquiao has blinded us to the noticeable slippage that has already occurred with Hatton. Floyd and Manny would have almost certainly handled Hatton regardless of when those fights occurred, so focusing on those fights doesn’t always provide the best insight into Hatton’s demise. Rather, one might take a look at some of Hatton’s other recent fights which took place against men who are not destined to be remembered as all time greats. By all rights, Hatton was beaten by Luis Collazo in May of 2006. Hatton gutted out a unanimous decision, but Collazo was very effective. Hatton was never really able to back up Collazo and by the second half of the fight it was Collazo who was clearly roughing up Hatton. Hatton remained aggressive throughout, but it was more and more ineffective aggression as the fight wore on. This fight should have provided a glimpse of Hatton’s eventual showdown with Mayweather as Floyd seem to dissect and eventually manhandle Hatton in a similar and decidedly more efficient manner when they met 19 months later. Hatton’s fight with Collazo was at 147 pounds which was a weight that Hatton never carried well. As such, his ineffectiveness might have been mitigated by that fact alone. Still, Hatton was starting slip and the Collazo fight provided the first look at Hatton’s fall. Collazo, the bigger man, made Hatton look slow and plodding for much of the fight particularly in the later rounds as Hatton wore down trying to impose his will on a bigger man. More and more Hatton took to simply walking straight in and Collazo predictably had little trouble landing. Nonetheless after the close win over Collazo, Hatton came back to score solid wins over Juan Urango and Jose Luis Castillo before dropping his eventual showdown with Mayweather. The Collazo fight was just the beginning of Hatton’s fall.

After losing to Mayweather, Hatton returned to the Junior Welterweight Division where he struggled to get passed Juan Lazcano. Although the scorecards would show a wide decision for Hatton, the bout itself would tell a vastly different story. Hatton struggled throughout and in round 10 Hatton was clearly dazed by a Lazcano left hook. With Hatton clearly still hurt, the referee elected to halt the action to allow Hatton to tie his shoes. It was beyond fortuitous for Hatton who survived the round and went on to win the fight. Lazcano was a text book example of the kind of solid fighter on which Hatton had built his stellar career. Lazcano could fight but he wasn’t a truly great fighter by any stretch. Fighters like that had always been relatively easy prey for Hatton. Even a cursory look at his record will show a multitude of solid fighters who had suffered one sided losses in their encounters with Hatton. With the exception of Kostya Tszyu, Hatton may not have had a long list of career defining great wins, but he had always given strong performances in many fights against good, solid fighters. That is until he faced Lazcano. What was just beginning to show against Collazo was now becoming more pronounced against Lazcano as Hatton seemed slower both in terms of movement and hand speed. The decline was in full effect.

In Hatton’s next fight he took on Paulie Malignaggi. Going in to that fight, Malignaggi had recorded 5 KO’s in 26 fights with his last one coming over five years previous. That very well may have been the most telling dynamic in the fight. Hatton did seem to be more effective offensively as he chased Malignaggi relentlessly utilizing his recently rediscovered jab to break down his man and gain the 11th round stoppage. However, Hatton was countered all night by Malignaggi who had little difficulty finding the range against Hatton’s ever more suspect defense. The reality is, had Malignaggi possessed more power it might have been a vastly more competitive fight. Hatton was now simply walking straight in much of the time, but this time his opponent could not make him pay. His next opponent could as we all saw firsthand.

One can never know if Hatton ever could have been more competitive against Mayweather and Pacquiao, perhaps yes, probably no. What seems less debatable is that Hatton should have performed better against Collazo, Lazcano, and Malignaggi. These fights give the greatest evidence of his decline. Yet, the reason that Hatton should pass on the idea of continuing his career has less to do with the slippage itself and more to do with the reasons for that slippage. Hatton has fallen off and he is not coming back. Here are some things to consider.

The Decline of The Hitman

Hatton is not only on the decline, but it is steep and irreversible. At first glance, it might appear as though Hatton has a long way to go in his career at the tender age of 31. However, Hatton is an ancient fighter at 31. It is widely known that Hatton has a penchant for packing on the weight between fights. Obviously, that is his prerogative and nobody can blame him for that decision. Who doesn’t like beer and fried food? Still, Ricky Hatton makes his living as an athlete and he is an exceptional one which is why he was able to overcome such a destructive pattern for so long. Constantly putting on weight and then taking it off to make an unnatural weight (as any weight in boxing is) will ultimately weaken anyone’s body, especially that of a top athlete. The difference between peak condition and being a little slower might only take the form of a split second decline in reaction speed. But, how long do you think it takes for a Manny Pacquiao right hand to get to your chin? When we talk about getting into the ring with professional fighters we are dealing in split seconds. Hatton has abused his body and it has taken a toll on his quickness and reflexes in the ring. Hatton’s reflexes have slipped, but even worse is the undeniable fact that Hatton’s reflexes won’t be returning.

Furthermore, Hatton is a consummate pressure fighter. Although Hatton is thought of as a bull at 140 pounds, he is actually quite average in size, even a little small. Hatton’s reach is a modest 65 inches. That short reach is part of the reason that he was such an effective fighter on the inside for much of his career. However, it also made it imperative that he get on the inside in order to be effective. This is the area where one can see the steepest decline in Hatton. A few years ago, Hatton had all of his natural quickness. It was that quickness rather than well honed defensive skills that allowed Hatton to close the gap on his opponents without absorbing too much damage. Getting on top of his opponents so quickly in turn drove Hatton’s offensive pressure in the ring. In the past couple of years, Hatton has clearly lost a measure of that quickness. Ricky Hatton’s hold on success in the ring was real, but ultimately tenuous. The loss of that quickness exposed his deficiencies on defense causing him to absorb more clean shots. As Hatton began to take more punches he was unable to close the distance as effectively as before which naturally stifled his offensive attack.

It isn’t that Hatton has no skills in the ring. One can’t win as many fights as he has without solid skills in the ring. However, like many pressure fighters, Hatton employed a physical style whose success was incumbent in large part upon his physical gifts. Once again, don’t look so much at the fights with Mayweather and Pacquiao as their greatness is a variable which cannot be defined in this problem. Rather, look at Collazo, Lazcano, and Malignaggi and then consider Hatton’s previous record. These were the kinds of guys against whom he had had success for his entire career. Should Hatton have eaten so many shots against those guys? Clearly, he was not the same fighter. Once again, the news is bad for Hatton. The quickness is not coming back. From this point on, it’s less head movement and fewer angles with more walking straight in, slowly. He can’t simply will his gifts to return.

Finally, consider that Hatton is only going to return against a top opponent. Jack Dempsey was once accosted as he came out of his restaurant in New York. Two men came up and demanded Dempsey’s wallet. Dempsey went into his crouch and a few seconds later both men were on the ground from a couple of shots to the body by Dempsey. Both men refused to get up until the police arrived. The story is hardly shocking until you consider that Dempsey was in his seventies when this happened. Ricky Hatton will always know how to fight, but right now he is not dealing with just some guy off the street, he is considering a fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez is not Mayweather or Pacquiao, but he is a hall of fame fighter. Hatton, clearly diminished by a grueling career, will simply not have the defense to contend with the punches that will be coming from Marquez. This is a case of split seconds and the decline of Hatton will be the story. If Hatton is absorbing numerous shots from the types of guys he used to beat, and horrible, one sided beatings from great fighters, then one can only surmise that the result here will be at least somewhere in between, and unfortunately all of the above results are bad for Hatton.

History and The Hitman

Right now, Hatton’s stature in boxing is a little down. His two one sided losses in his biggest fights are burned in our minds and it makes it hard to realize how good he was. Hatton was clearly overmatched by both Mayweather and Pacquiao, but consider this. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao are incredible fighters and quite possibly the two best fighters of their generation regardless of weight. There are a ridiculous amount of truly exceptional fighters in a given generation and these two might be the best, and they fought Hatton at their absolute best, when they were in the prime of their careers. Conversely, Hatton fought one fight at Welterweight which was always a bad weight for him and the other fight when he was definitely passed his prime. Would the results have been different? Considering the pedigree of Mayweather and Pacquiao, it would be hard to imagine that the outcomes would have changed, but under different circumstances, Hatton being more competitive should not represent a considerable strain on the imagination of an objective boxing fan.

In time, these facts will return to us and when we consider Hatton we will remember that he went 45-0 against a number of good, solid fighters and that he suffered two losses to all time greats who were fighting at their peak when they entered the ring against him. Ricky Hatton is contending with something that most of us can scarcely imagine as he contemplates a life without boxing. It must be hard to walk away from a place where one has enjoyed so much success, but Hatton is already gone. Every punch he takes now is not just dangerous and unnecessary. Every needless punch he takes now makes it harder for all of us to remember what a special fighter he was then.