"A Whirlwind of Bad Intent"
Ricky "Hitman" Hatton delivered a message to the light welterweight division by dominating a brave but outgunned Mike "No Joke" Stewart last night at Manchester's Evening News Arena. Hatton moved to 37-0 with 27 stoppages by setting a blazing pace from the opening bell that Stewart was never able come to grips with. In victory, the WBU titlist made his fifteenth successful defense and also became the new IBF #1 ranked contender at light welter. The opening round saw Hatton impose his will, often tossing Stewart into the ropes as if he were a rag doll. There was very little feeling out between the two. After trading combinations in the middle of the ring, Hatton pinned Stewart to the ropes and landed a right hook to the tight guard of the American before finishing the combination by digging a big left hook right below the elbow. The punch landed with a surprisingly loud concussive sound and Stewart crumpled to the canvas. The crowd went wild as Stewart gathered himself up by the count of eight, surprising many in attendance that anyone could get up from such a sickening blow. Shortly thereafter Hatton sent Stewart crashing down again with a full bodied straight right but again Stewart shakily made it to his feet and managed to finish out the round.
In the second, third and fourth Hatton backed off the pedal slightly, bobbing and weaving his way in to land punishing combinations to the head and body. The twenty five year old Mancunian showed tremendous variety of attack, landing lead rights, and jab-hook, jab-uppercut, triple hook combinations that shook the brave Mike Stewart. The visitor found some success, timing Hatton with the odd sharp hook or occasional power right hand but was largely forced on the defensive by the hyper aggressive Hatton.
The end came in the fifth round as the brutal level of punishment Stewart had absorbed began to take it's toll. After putting the twenty six year old from New Castle, Delaware on the ropes for the umpteenth time, Hatton landed a combination to the head that had Stewart struggling to keep his feet and clearly hurt. The WBU titlist wasted no time in landing a heavy left hook to Stewart's head and followed it with two more in quick succession. As the big hearted former USBA Champion collapsed to the floor, referee Dave Parris waved the fight off, stopping the slaughter.
Afterward at the post fight press conference, the new IBF number one ranked contender expressed his respect for the courage and toughness of Stewart and his intention to face the winner of the upcoming November 8th rematch between Kostya Tszyu and Sharmba Mitchell. Hatton's promoter and head of Sports Network, Frank Warren, said that he expects that fight to happen in the spring of next year. Hatton's trainer Billy Graham stated that he wanted his fighter back in the ring in December to insure that Hatton kept off any ring rust.
In other action, super feather Michael Gomez survived a scare and kept his WBU belt against Leva Kirakosyan as the cagey Russian was pulled from the action by his corner between rounds five and six. Gomez gradually wore his foe down but not before having been momentarily stunned by a few well timed counters in the fifth. Michael Jennings won the English title at welter and ran his record to 24-0 against game but outgunned Chris Saunders, as the 35 year old was unable to cope with the stronger, more resourceful Jennings and was stopped in the fifth. English Featherweight titlist Steve Foster Jr., hammered out a hard won victory against former British Champion Gary Thornhill as the youth and sharp left hook of Foster proved too much for the far more experienced Thornhill, who was stopped in the ninth.
Central Area Welter king Matthew Hatton kept his title, winning an eight round decision over Lee Armstrong, while showing continued improvement of form. Middleweight prospect Paul Smith proved too much for Jason Collins as the twenty one year old Liverpool lad crushed the journeyman inside of the first round. Super feather Andy Morris used sharp boxing skills to stop a game but overmatched Chris Hooper in the third round. Super feather Steven Bell overcame an unorthodox and awkward Daniel Thorpe, dropping the Barnsley man enroute to a six round decision. Light heavy Tony Quigley and Middleweight Matthew Hall were also victorious over their opponents Leigh Wicks and Howard Clarke respectively.
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