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Craig Watt
Feature Writer

Hatton delights his 56,000 fans!

May 25, 2008

By Craig Watt at ringside
Photos: Mike Cleary

IBO jr welterweight champion Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton (44-1, 31 KOs) out boxed and outworked a brave challenger in Juan Lazcano (37-5-1, 27 KOs) at the City of Manchester Stadium on Saturday night. Winning by wide score lines of 120-111, 120-108 and 118-110 he delighted his vast army of 56,000 fans. There was a carnival atmosphere outside the ring for the bout promoted as his "Homecoming" by the combined promotions of Frank Maloney, Golden Boy and Punch Promotions. With Michael Buffer at the microphone and ringside guests such as Oscar de la Hoya, Mike Tyson and Marco Antonio Barrera, it felt like Las Vegas had come to Manchester. With renditions of "Land of Hope and Glory" by opera singer Russell Watson before the first bell it was a night to remember for the fans who have supported Hatton so passionately throughout his career.

The 29-year-old IBO champion stated after the fight, "I may have come up short against the pound for pound champion Floyd Mayweather at welterweight but I have shown I am still the king at Jr-welterweight and my fans have shown that they are the best pound for pound fans in the world tonight. Lazcano was a brave challenger and this was what I needed in my comeback from my first loss as a professional. I answered all my demons about coming back in the ring. I showed heart, stamina and back to my boxing style at 140 pounds. To credit Lazcano I felt I hurt him three or four times but he was a brave and strong challenger – just what I needed."

The atmosphere of the crowd and performance of Hatton delighted ringside Oscar de la Hoya whose Golden Boy Promotions now starts a three fight contract with the Manchester fighter. He said after the fight, "Ricky Hatton showed the kind of fighter he is and also the kind of man he is. He has serious drawing power because he's a man of the people who fights with his heart on his sleeve and boxing fans respect him for this. In America, too, he is still a very marketable commodity."

Hatton showed he was still a world force in boxing despite his defeat against Floyd Mayweather in December 2007. What was visible back at 140 pounds was more speed in his combinations and crispness in his punches. Long time trainer Billy Graham had always vowed Hatton was best suited to jr welterweight and perhaps these two comparative performances in six months highlight this fact. This has not stopped talk of a re-match with Mayweather and even on the eve of the Lazcano bout talk ringside was about enquiries by Team Hatton made in Ireland to Croke Park about staging a 100,000 crowd outdoor event in the next twelve months, ideally in a re-match with Mayweather.

One things is certain however that the IBO champion is still boxing's largest live crowd puller. Even with a sell-out of 55,000, some 1,000 extra seats were added just 48 hours before the fight to meet ticket demand. Hatton's performance inside the ring did not disappoint them although the courage and bravery of Juan Lazcano prevented a stoppage victory for the perfect ending.

In terms of punch stats Hatton landed 240-110 and this indicated the higher work rate and volume of punches. Indeed at the end of the fifth round Ronnie Shields, Lazcano's trainer told his fighter, "This guy has no respect for you. You have got to make his respect you. Establish your jab."

Lazcano's success was sporadic and he enjoyed brief flurries in six of the twelve rounds but each time the 33-year-old challenger gained some advantage Hatton increased the tempo and his volume of combinations made any success short-lived. Hatton was in command and in many ways back to his best – boxing behind a snappy jab and effective combinations to head and body, often throwing double left hooks to the body that brought a compassionate grown from the crowd. What was apparent in contrast to the Mayweather defeat was that instead of moving forward when he was in close, he took a step back and was able to continue the effective combinations – not being sucked into messy in-fighting.

Hatton's performance was not faultless and Lazcano did have some success in the tenth round when three crisp left hooks caught Hatton and appeared to stumble forward. There were times when Lazcano landed his own effective punches but each time Hatton responded by throwing more punches that the preceding Lazcano advance. Any advantage Lazcano had was short lived but nevertheless his bravery and ability to take Hatton's body punches and respond were a credit to his stamina and courage. The "Hispanic Causing Panic" did have his moments but that in many respects is Hatton's attraction. He is not a "perfect ten" fighter technically, but he does create excitement and shows heart and determination. He showed more pure boxing in this bout than his previous four and this is perhaps the key to the next stage of his career.

Hatton's performance established he could maintain a high work rate over twelve rounds and he answered the post Mayweather questions about his stamina, work rate and desire. Lazcano was perhaps the ideal test as he represented the traditional Mexican culture of bravery and pride which made for a useful comeback fight and ultimately and exciting bout for the 56,000 fans.

He concluded his review of the fight by stating, "I have never been beaten now in 42 fights at 140 pounds. Tonight showed this is where my success lies and I am the linear champion at jr welterweight. I beat Kostya Tszyu who was the best at 140 pounds and no one has beaten me since. I am happy to be considered the best jr welterweight in the world."

* * *

Malignaggi Edges N’dou on Split Decision

IBF 140 pound champion Paulie Malignaggi (25-1, 5 KOs) edged brave Australian challenger Lovemore N’dou (46-10-1, 31 KOs) in the chief support fight with a split twelve round decision. Scores were 115-114 N’dou, 116-112 and 116-113 for Malignaggi. This bout was a contractually mandated rematch and much closer than their original fight in 2007.

Malignaggi seemed in control for the first half of the fight boxing behind his faster and crisper jab. The 36-year-old N’dou did land some heavier blows that caught the attention of the judges and crowd, specifically with the overhand right but each time the greater volume of punches came from the IBF champion. Some of N’dou’s shots were perhaps more eye catching due to the "hair" of Malignaggi who came into the bout with dreadlock extensions. It soon became apparent as early as the second round that this was a bad idea when they came loose. When N’dou landed an overhand right it exaggerated the effect with the movement of the extensions. It also hampered the vision of the champion who seemed to lose effectiveness as he went forward.

Despite attempts by his team to tape the extensions and referee Micky Vann picking up pieces from the canvas in between rounds, it took the eye away from the performance. Finally trainer Buddy McGirt lost his patience and cut off the offending locks between rounds eight and nine. The episode drew ridicule from the amassing Ricky Hatton fans who started a wave when the distraction drew attention away from the boxing to the hair extensions.

The second half of the fight saw Malignaggi’s lead erode away and the “Magic Man” appeared sloppy and let the challenger N’dou back into the fight. It transpired after the fight that the IBF champion had broken his right hand which hampered his work, although ringside fans felt he was faking it and making excuses for a poor performance ahead of a planned unification match with their own hero, Ricky Hatton. It did appear that Malignaggi had actually suffered major damage and this could explain the closeness in the second half of the fight. Lovemore N’dou did take advantage of the situation and the fight appeared level going into the final three rounds. To his credit, Malignaggi did take the last few rounds with higher work rate that should be respected with a painful hand injury. He outworked the challenger in the "championship Rounds."

Overall, it was a close fight and does still set up a possible unification match with IBO champion Ricky Hatton for later in 2008. Malignaggi did not appear to be at his best and won despite a bad hand injury and a distraction from his hair extensions. N’dou showed he is still a force at 140 pounds and surprised many ringside observers with his power when he counter punched the brash IBF champion from New York. He certainly performed better than in their original fight but came up short on the scorecards due to Malignaggi’s superior volume of punches, even though the Australian challenger appeared to stun and hurt the champion on more than one occasion.



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