Hatton can give Floyd a lesson about roots

Last updated at 00:03 08 December 2007

A boxing ring and a

two-year-old boy

called Lechkie Mayweather.

Alone, the

child skips across the

canvas, shuffling his feet,

shadow boxing and occasionally

stumbling as all toddlers

do. His family, you see,

have a history of violence.

Enter, left, Ricky Hatton, for a

photo opportunity. The boy's

father Roger — uncle and trainer to

Floyd Jnr — is getting ready to

leave the MGM Grand Arena when

Hatton shouts out a good idea.

'Let's have a picture,' he says, and

before Roger Mayweather has time

to growl anything unrepeatable,

Hatton is sitting beside Lechkie on

the ring apron and making sure all

the photographers get their shots.

Roger joins them in a sitting position

and soon they are a trio. 'Keep

your dukes up,' Hatton says to the

child, and then lifts him up to the

ropes for a few more snaps. Roger's

brain might be melting by now.

Hatton has crossed the barbed wire

of Mayweather trash-talk to affirm

a child's importance in a sometimes

dark adult world. Whatever the

result of today's super-bout in Mayweather's

home town, Hatton has

already taught the champion and

his unruly clan a lesson.

Described by an American newspaper

as 'a pint-swilling Brit on his

non-training days', Hatton has

shown the fight trade here that a

taste for Guinness and raucous

comedy might actually suggest a

civilised nature, more than the toydrive

that Floyd Mayweather

undertook in a Las Vegas nightclub

on Thursday night, surrounded by

female Santas who looked as if they

had been dressed by Ann Summers.

Convention has it in these parts that if you declare a ghetto background

then all manner of obnoxious

attitudes can be excused. The

traditional fried English breakfast

was analysed in great detail by the

Los Angeles Times, as if to open a

window on the soul of our working


You can read a lot into some of

Hatton's supporters being stupidly

rowdy in Las Vegas bars, but you

can deduce more from the values

brought to the sport by the Hatton

camp, who have come to love a

dollar without losing touch with

their origins.

Mayweather enters a casino in a

human cavalcade of hired muscle of

Yes-men. Hatton ambles through

it, cracking jokes, giving his time to

people who, let's face it, would wear

most other sportsmen out with

their incessant demands for pictures,

autographs and predictions.

A while back there was a commotion

about David Beckham and

whether he would carry a belt into

the ring. When I interviewed him

recently, Hatton's answer to that

question said all you need to know about his ability to withstand the

corruptions of fame.

Hatton said:

'If anyone who's anyone starts carrying

your belt in — one minute it's

Wayne Rooney, the next it's David

— I become one of these people I

despise. I become an attention

seeker, and that's certainly not

what I am.

'They're all my friends, but people

start asking, “Is Noel Gallagher

going to carry the belt in, is David

going to carry it on?” I don't want

people saying, “Here comes Ricky,

who's carrying the belt in?” Pretension.

I hate that. I cringe when I

pick up the papers and see it so I

don't want to put myself in the

position where people are saying

that about me. But it's going to be

an absolute honour to have him at

the fight.'

Defeat is a towering possibility —

probability, even — for Hatton

tonight, but Mayweather, with his

'million-dollar smile' can't hope to

match his opponent's easy charm

and honesty.

This is the right day to declare

that Hatton is a throwback to a

time when sporting heroes were

part of the communities they

entertained. Even if he ends up flat

on his back, with revisionists trashing

his reputation, we should thank

him for reconnecting us to an era

when there were no PR fortresses

or gangs of agents behind which people who were good at sport

could hide.

Even Roger Mayweather, who

served six months for attacking a

grandmother, shifted an inch or

two from his usual truculence. At

the final press conference he said:

'When I met Ricky Hatton the

other day I had a picture taken

with him, and he seemed like a

good guy, so I don't want to say

nothing bad about him.'

This, from someone who said in

the HBO documentary 24/7: 'I'm

gonna put some seasoning on his

ass. Some salt and some pepper.

And then we're going to stick him

in the grill. Burn, baby, burn.'

Hatton has absorbed all this

abuse without surrendering his

nobility. There are no belts for that

kind of stoicism but he's guaranteed

the eternal affection of his

public. This fight might be characterised

as a Phoenix Nights

karaoke versus Philthy Rich

records. Hatton's taste in humour

is hardly highbrow but it's

equipped him with some brilliant

comic weaponry.

This is another subject that arose

in our conversation. He reeled off

his favourite names: 'Chubby

Brown, the late Bernard Manning,

Stan Boardman, Frank Carson.'

He said: 'One of the best nights I

ever had was Bernard's 70th at the

Midland Hotel in Manchester when I was sat on the table with them all.

There was Roy Walker, Mick Miller,

Chubby Brown, Frank Carson,

Stan Boardman. It was like they

were trying to out-do each other.

I was in stitches. Spending time

with those guys helps me when

I'm in positions like this (with

Mayweather). It comes across

humorously and I can keep my

dignity. Otherwise you're no better

than him.'

By his side we find trainer Billy

Graham, who was described by one

American writer as 'a bartender's

closing-time nightmare'. After the

chest-bumping incident at

Wednesday's final press gathering,

Graham said: 'I didn't see it. I

nipped out for a fag.'

Under his trademark hat, Graham

is deaf in one ear. His hands

are puffy and disfigured from holding

the pads against Hatton's

punches. The tip of his right index

finger hangs forward, as if snapped.

This is the world that Floyd Mayweather

stares into, all the while

claiming the high ground of childhood

poverty. Ray Hatton, Ricky's

father, came out of the HBO documentary

screening with his family

and said something that requires

no elaboration: 'It costs nothing to

be nice to people.'

Cashing in on the panto crown

Some readers may want this

pound-for-pound king thing


Although it's an arbitrary

designation there is no sensible

challenge to the claim that

Floyd Mayweather is top of the

current heap.

With his panto crown — yes, he

does have one — Mayweather

has been world No 1 for two

years, which places him in a

class with Marvin Hagler, Pernell

Whittaker, Julio Cesar Chavez

and Roy Jones. By winning titles

in five weight divisions he joined

the boxing aristocrats Sugar Ray

Leonard, Thomas Hearns and

Oscar De La Hoya. Logically,

Ricky Hatton will inherit the post

if his swarming style

overwhelms the best technician

of his generation.

More lucratively, a Hatton

triumph would lay the ground

for a showdown with De La

Hoya, possibly at Wembley. The

Mayweather-De La Hoya fight

generated a record 2.4million

pay-per-view sales and

$165million (£81m).

With 1.5m buys predicted this

time, Hatton can expect to take

home far in excess of his basic

$5m (£2.5m) fee.

The day is close when the main

advert on his tracksuit is not for

Ray's Carpets — his dad's firm.

It's a long-standing practical

joke in the Hatton family that

Ricky has 'free fittings'

underneath the logo.

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