The Excel Centre in London's waterfront East End/Docklands area may not be as familiar to Ricky Hatton as Manchester's downtown Evening News Arena, but that didn't stop the reigning WBU titlist from dominating the durable Ray Oliveira enroute to a tenth round stoppage. The Sports Network show was entertaining from start to finish as some of the promotional firm's long list of London area talent was on display in some genuinely competitive matchups. Despite the excellent support it was the northerner Hatton who provided the real fireworks as he continued his climb up the light welterweight ladder.
In a career best performance, Ricky Hatton put on an impressive show of considerable skill and power, becoming the first to stop steel tough American hardman Ray Oliveira in fifty nine professional bouts. Using a fight plan similar to the one that saw him become the first to stop Mike Stewart in his previous match, Hatton relentlessly attacked the taller Oliveira. The undefeated British fighter forced the more experienced foe out of his intended strategy of keeping "The Hitman" at the end of the jab and into a desperate attempt to outslug the raging Manchester native.
Initially the action took place in the center of the ring as Hatton made a few probing moves and traded single shots with the crafty veteran. In short order however, the longtime WBU champion slipped past the challenger's jab and launched a combination of short punches to the head and body that ended with a trademark crushing left hook to the ribs. Oliveira took a knee before rising in time to carry on. From that point on it was non stop action.
At times Oliveira found the mark first with heavy shots to Hatton's head and midsection but it was the champion who rained down hurtful punishment that freely flowed from his non stop offense. There seemed to be no end to the variety of combinations that the Mancunian launched with a high rate success. The audience in attendance reacted to every significant punch that both contestants landed and as always in Britain, mass football (soccer) chants made their way throughout the packed ExCel Arena.
This was a bruising and tangled inside affair, as both fighters weren't shy with the use of fists, shoulders, elbows and head. Many times Hatton would put Oliveira in what was amounted to a wrestler's hold while the American would whale away at the British fighter's sides in retaliation with his free arm. At one point Oliveira showed his frustration with being headlocked by picking Hatton off the floor but stopped short of body slamming the shorter man.
By the later rounds the visitor began to show the signs of a significant beating. Lacerations to both eyes caused Oliveira to slow down significantly in returning fire but he still continued to use his vast experience to try and nullify the punches he could. Several industry insiders at ringside remarked their astonishment that Oliveira could keep going through such withering fire. Hatton continued to hurl shot after shot into the brave opponent until a hard right hook to the ear sent the challenger to the canvas for the second time in the contest. While the New Englander was again on a knee he looked up at his trainer, Libby Medieros in the far corner, and winked while shaking his head. Micky Vann, the referee, saw the signal and immediately waved off the action.
An elated Hatton, now 38-0 (28) jumped into the arms of his trainer Billy Graham as the London audience went mad. The victor then addressed the audience through ring announcer Michael Pass' microphone. He greeted the fans and let them know how happy he was to be fighting in England's capital city for the first time in three years. Hatton then went on to ask those in attendance to give a warm round of applause to Oliveira. The audience responded with hearty appreciation that reflected the esteem and respect in which they held the cagey, granite jawed veteran.
At the press conference afterward both principles agreed that this was the toughest fight of each of their careers. Oliveira, 47-10-2 (22), commented on how he simply couldn't believe how strong and skilled Hatton was, saying the twenty six year old would only get better and in his opinion was ready to fight anyone in the light welter division. The undefeated Hatton gave Oliveira the credit of being the best fighter he'd ever shared the ring with once again stated his desire to face IBF Champion Kostya Tszyu in the spring.
In the chief support bout, Mark Krence won a controversial points decision over "Big Bad" John McDermott to take the vacant English heavyweight crown. The heavier McDermott used his strength advantage to good effect, wearing down Krence by leaning on the lighter man in the clinch filled contest. McDermott did use a surprisingly good jab to control much of the action and had his opponent in tough situations several times when landing heavy hooks to the sides. It wasn't enough in the referee's opinion as the bout was scored in the taller, more active Krence's, 21-2 (6), favor. The crowd lustily booed the decision and many at ringside wondered how McDermott, now 18-2 (12) could have lost the fight.
Former European Light Middle and current WBU titlist Wayne Alexander continued his comeback as he bested tough journeyman Delroy Mellis over the course of a ten round non-title bout. Early on Alexander, 22-2 (17), stalked the opponent with lunging jabs between sweeping roundhouse punches that Mellis largely ducked via his Pernell Whitaker-like ultra low dips. Alexander may have been wary due to his being stopped by Mellis, 10-21-1(10), a year ago and after the middle rounds seemed content to just get the ringtime under his belt.
Unbeaten bantamweight Martin Power survived a scare against spoiler Shinny Bayaar to take the decision in a ferocious ten round scrap. Bayaar, who had previously bested such prospects as Reider Walstad, certainly came with the intention of doing the same to Power. The local London fighter staved off that unpleasant distinction by relying on his superior technique and quickness against Bayaar's sheer toughness and determination. In gaining the victory Power goes to 16-0 (7) while Bayaar sees his record fall to 6-4 (2).
One of the more entertaining of the undercard fights was a wild four round shootout between a highly touted local, the unbeaten twenty year old Kevin Mitchell and Welsh tough guy journeyman Henry Janes. Despite possessing some of the slickest boxing skills in Britain, Mitchell chose to slug it out with the willful Janes, 6-12 (1), particularly after the Welshman appeared to have deliberately head butted the hot prospect during a brawling first round. After co-manager and cornerman Frank Maloney settled him down between rounds, Mitchell applied his superior skills, dramatically snapping back the opponent's head with a sharp series of jabs before periodically being goaded into back into the trenches by Janes. Mitchell was declared the winner after four rounds to move to 12-0 (9).
In other action -
Bradley Pryce stopped Sergey Styopkin in ten Martin Conception finished Bertrand Souleyras in the first Lee Beavis stopped Chris McDonagh in the sixth Gokhan Kazaz drew with Darren McDermott Matthew Marsh outpointed Abdul Mougharbel over four Gary Woolcombe decisioned Peter Dunn in four
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