IBF Light Welter Champion Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton headlines a hotly anticipated Fight Academy promotion at the Hallam FM Arena in Sheffield, England this Saturday when he faces dangerous WBA Champion Carlos Maussa. Hatton is, quite literally, boxing’s equivalent of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; a mild mannered, happy go lucky, down to earth gentleman outside of the ring who transforms into a cold-blooded, calculating, ruthless assassin inside it. Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton is a very rare breed indeed. It's not often sport produces such a dramatic contradiction of alter-ego, but in Hatton, the world of boxing has a unique exponent, a classically equipped fighting machine who incorporates respected "old school" values and morals into a persona rarely encountered in today's game.
The popularity of both the boxer and the man speaks volumes, widely regarded by many as the most exciting fighter on the planet, and with a fan base unrivaled within the sport. Ricky Hatton is redefining a new era in boxing. He is boxing’s Max Factor in every sense of the word; Hatton has the make-up of a true star, a make-up that exudes undisputed class from every single pore. He possesses two very differentiating sides of character that fuse and collaborate to produce brutal efficiency within the noble art, and an art of nobility outside it.
Adored by millions, feared by many, respected by all.
So what exactly makes this unique man tick? What goes on inside the mind of the self proclaimed Hitman? If you could ask him any question, boxing related or not, what would it be? Rick has kindly taken time out from the busy training schedule for his upcoming unification fight with WBA Champion Carlos Maussa in order to answer questions from the fans on his official website www.rickyhitmanhatton.com
James Moore: Hi Rick, how's tricks?
Ricky Hatton: "Excellent thanks Jim, how's things with you?"
JM: Its all good pal, its all good thanks. So just to explain, as you know, we have run an "Ask The Hitman" competition, in which we have given your loyal, hardcore fans from your official site www.rickyhitmanhatton.com
the opportunity to ask you their questions. Some are boxing related, some aren't, but hopefully, its something a little different to what you have been hammered with of late. Okay, on with the show ... How many times have you watched the Tszyu fight, and what did you think of your performance personally?
RH: "Well, for about two to three weeks after the fight I never had it off really. At first, the first week, due to the fact it was like the crowning moment, the fight I'm always going to be remembered by, even though there was still a lot more that I still want to do, but yeah, the first week it was because it was such a hell of an achievement from my point of view, it was just a massive buzz watching it. I mean for the first week I was just f**king filling up every time I watched it (laughs).
JM: We all were mate (bursts into uncontrollable tears like a big girl)
RH: "But yeah, after you have watched it from an enjoyment point of view, obviously you look at it and pick the points up and learn how you can improve. I haven't watched it though for a few weeks, but when I did I was just looking at what I could have done differently because one thing about making yourself a better fighter is studying how you performed and learning from it. But yeah, I thought it was a good performance, the only way I could have won the fight was fighting the way I did, I had to get on top of him, sap his strength, smother him, you know, not give him the space or leverage to get that f**king right hand in, although he did get it in a few times, which is only to be expected from someone of the caliber of Tszyu.
"You know generally, with the likes of Sharmba Mitchell, or Zab Judah, fighters like that, who like to give ground, who pull away from punches, look what happened to them. The leverage and the bite on his right hand, its a long right hand, its not a short right hand, not like maybe I would throw it, its a long right hand, so I thought, you know, the more I try to stay away, or keep back the more chance I'm gonna get collared with it like Judah and Mitchell did. I just thought, stay close, make it a rough and tumble affair, and he was waning really, so from a tactical perspective it was spot on, but obviously yeah, there is still more a lot more you can improve on, and I feel that I've improved in my training camp for this fight."
JM: Now that you have beaten Tszyu, which fighter now goes to number one on your hitlist?
RH: "I would have to say Mayweather, you know, with Mayweather being a world champion at several different weights, has made him become number one in some peoples eyes, and number one pound for pound in the world, the best in any weight division now, a few people have got him ranked at number one, but I have to admit from a ranking point of view, he wasn't the man at light welterweight, Kostya Tszyu was the man.
"And you know I beat Tszyu when he was ranked number one and above Mayweather in the light welterweight rankings, so I believe that I am the number one in the division, but depending on which organisation, or how people see it, I think most people see me and Floyd as the one and two, and whichever order you wish to put us in. But he's rated so highly in the pound for pound ratings.
"My main goal was to become number one in the division, and I thought I did that when I beat Kostya Tszyu but what he's done over the years and in different weight divisions, you have to regard Floyd as one of the best, if not the best pound for pound in boxing, so obviously that would be the next, if I could get the scalp of Floyd Mayweather, I'm sure I could go to the top of the pound for pound listings. So that's got to be my incentive."
JM: Many people have your victory against Tszyu as the greatest performance ever by a British boxer. In your opinion, which performance do you rate as the greatest by another British fighter?
RH: "I would say Lloyd Honeyghan, obviously you know, Lloyd fought Donald Curry when Curry was the undisputed champion, a bit similar to when I fought Kostya really, although Kostya was regarded universally as the undisputed champ, but he only really had the IBF belt to show for it. Kostya got elevated to WBA super champ and WBC emeritus Champ, and he never lost the belts in the ring. But yeah Honeyghan beat Curry when he was in his prime, he was a dangerous champion, you know it wasn't like he was past it or anything like that, and maybe another little similarity with Tszyu. If Kostya looks back at some of the performances in his career, I think his second fight with Sharmba Mitchell would have to go down as one of his best performances, and I'm sure he'd say that himself.
"But yeah, Lloyd beat a great champion, Curry was flying in the pound for pound rankings, I think at the time he was regarded as the best pound for pound fighter on the planet, so there you go, so yeah, I'd have to say Lloyd's win over Curry. I think that's the best performance, unbelievable, nobody really gave him a chance there, and he pulled it out."
JM: Your achievements in boxing speak for themselves, but if you could achieve major honours in any other sport, which sport would it be and what honour?
RH: "I think probably scoring in the World Cup finals for your country, I mean, one of my most proudest moments still was pulling on an England shirt when I was boxing in the amateurs, well I mean when you're a professional, and your winning fights and titles, and stuff like that, its great, but when your representing your country, coming out to the national anthem, there is nothing better. So yeah, I think playing in the World Cup finals and scoring a goal, would be very, very nice, and really, really special."
JM: Who are your top 3 favourite football (soccer) players, past or present?
RH: "My top 3 favourite footballers, I like Diego Maradona, I think Maradona was probably the best ever and I think the Brazilian team that won the World Cup in the 1970 was probably the greatest team ever. Pele is another one, and it would have to be Georgie Best.
"I think they are the top 3 players of all time I would say, but I think Maradona was the best of the lot and my favourite, I think when Brazil won the World Cup in 1970, Pele had a team with so many great players, and I think that team could have beaten any team in history, but when Argentina won the World Cup, they had some excellent players, but no real superstars, and I think Maradona won that World Cup on his own, and he is definitely my favourite."
JM: What do you think of England's chances in next years World Cup?
RH: "England have got as much chance now as they will ever have I think, but I think the only problem is with England, I mean the win against Argentina on Saturday was brilliant, what a fantastic game. But England, every year, show how good we can be, we show so much promise, but for some reason, whatever, we always fall short, its a little bit like watching Manchester City in many ways, your banging your head against a brick wall, because you know the always show the promise but never quite pull it off. I think that's been the story of England over the last few years, but hopefully they will have turned the tide before the World Cup, but you know, we just seem to not quite do it when they need to, but hopefully we will rectify that this time."
JM: Outside of boxing and carpets, what other career would you have chosen?
RH: "Oh, without a doubt football, believe me, there is a hell of a lot more money to be made in football than there is in carpets, and a lot more money to be made in football than boxing if you think about it. You certainly don't get a flat nose by playing football, (laughs) so yeah, I think football I would say."
JM: What is the most exciting and rewarding aspect of boxing for you?
RH: "Well, obviously my last fight against Kostya Tszyu, when you first start boxing at ten o'clock, ten o'clock ? ( laughs) I mean, when you first start boxing at 10 years old (laughs) ) you always want to be the number one in the world and the champion, you know so, that was, that night was just, well, it was just a dream that I'll just never wake up from. But yeah, you know, in boxing a very close second is the respect I get off the fans.
"I think the fans turn out, sometimes in the past we have had big names linked up to fight, and right at the last minute, they have not come off, my opponents have pulled out, and as much as I've been pissed off, I know the fans have been pissed off and they have still turned out in the thousands to support me, I not underplaying my fighting style, I know they know I'm just one of the lads, and no different to the man in the street or the man in the stands really, and it means a big deal to me when the fans come out and give me the support. And you know its like, even when I'm walking in the street, just the opinion that people have of me is like winning a world title in itself."
JM: As a fight fan, what's the most exciting fight you have ever seen?
RH: "The most exciting fight I've ever seen ? That's a tough one, as there are so many, but I think I'd have to go with Hearns and Hagler. You know, it was only three rounds, but it was absolutely fantastic, they only had one thing on their minds and that was to knock each other out, that was something else."
JM: How did you come up with the name "Hitman"?
RH: "The name was given to me by my first amateur coach really, Ted Peat. Its funny really, it was the first day I ever went to the boxing gym, he just give me some gloves and said go and hit that bag, I mean it was my first day really, and I thought, I'm not going to go that mad, he just said have a go on the bags and see how you like it. I mean I've always been quite aggressive, even from the early days really. I think Ted just looked over and said 'He's a bloody little animal him (laughs ), he's a little Hitman' and obviously ‘animal’ didn't really go with Hatton, but Hitman did, so it basically just stuck from there."
JM: If a movie was to be made about your rise to greatness, which actor would you want to play Ricky Hatton?
RH: (laughs) "There would have to be two actors I think to cover both sides of me, (laughs). I think the first one would have to be Colin Farrell for when I'm slim and on the weight, and then I think they'd have to get someone like f**king Bob Hoskins when I've put a few pounds on (laughs) . But I'm not really sure to be honest, don't really know what to say about that one. One of my favourite actors is Robert De Niro, he was brilliant in Raging Bull, but I expect that he's probably a little bit past it now for that role to be honest."
JM: What's the best advice you have ever been given in boxing?
RH: "Best piece of advice given in boxing? That's a tough one that really, but I guess basically just to work hard, you only get out of boxing what you put in it, but I don't think that just stands for boxing, it stands for the same in life really, but more importantly, in boxing you cant cut no corners, if you skimp in your training it will come back to haunt you, you cant bring on any substitutes, you can't come off if it isn't going well, you know, you don't have another ten team mates to help you out, you have got to do it all on your own really."
JM: Has anyone ever advised you to use the modest approach? For example Naseem Hamed used the Ali tip to great effect, but you're the exact opposite.
RH: "No not at all, I don't really need a gimmick, what you see is what you get. I mean coming through I looked up to Naz, but we went through a period when fighters were saying the same old stuff, saying they were going to do this and that, they were going to knock their opponent out when this bomb lands, and the fight will be over, but I think, and no disrespect to any other boxer, I'm friends with Naz, but in general, after Naz I think it got a little old hat, and I think I was the refreshing change, and I just got on with it. I think people like me not only for my style but for my personality, the ‘jack the lad’ personality; I'm just like one of the fans."
JM: Have you ever during any fight had a non-boxing thought pop into your head, and if so, what was it?
RH: "No not really, I think during a fight, one good thing about me is that my focus, and something I needed more than anything against Kostya Tszyu, you know, one punch and it would have been over. So, no, there was nothing really popping into my head, but I must admit during the Kostya Tszyu fight, you know, once we got to rounds 9,10,11, I started thinking to myself, how much has he got left? I was thinking can I knock him out, but apart from that, no other thought, other than trying to finish my opponent. Your just thinking about your opponent all the time really. "
JM: What do you have planned for your son Campbell's main Christmas present this year?
RH: "I don't know, he's got bleeding everything, I'm not to sure at the moment, what with all the training and everything, you see I'm hoping to do all my Christmas shopping the minute the fight is finished, its going to be another last minute one like per usual I think. I always get him a load of Manchester City clobber, you know, I've got to drill that into him at an early age, (laughs) important part of his upbringing that, he's got to follow the right footsteps. But yeah, I haven't really give it much thought really, you know he's getting to the age where he can be having a Playstation or computer. He'll turn 5 in January, I think before he's been a little bit too young for a computer, but now he maybe ready.
"Also maybe a train set, things like that, but to be honest he gets spoilt rotten, not only from my side of the family but from his mums as well, either way I'm pretty sure Santa will be leaving him a load of pressies, but what with the fight I'm still not to sure yet as its been a very busy time with me lately, not only with the training for the fight, but with things outside the ring as well, but the minute the fights over I'll concentrate on what I'm going to get him, but it will be a good Christmas for him that's for sure. "
JG: What music are you into and what are your favourite bands?
RH: "I like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis, James, you know that kind of stuff, The Stereophonics, all that kind of music really, but basically whatever is in the charts, they might be a good tune in the charts that I fancy, you know, I listen to most stuff that's on the radio, all the top tunes of the week. I do like Rock as well, I tend to put a lot of Rock on in the changing room before a fight, I think the beat gets me pumped up and fired up. But yeah mainly what I've mentioned there, Happy Mondays also, the Manchester stuff, that's what I'm into, I like the golden oldies as well, Motown and all that so, just whatever tune takes my fancy."
JG: What was your best "lad's" holiday; where did you go and who were you with?
RH: Oh, I had a few of them! (laughs) I like to go to Tenerife a lot because I've got a few pals over there, I also go to Marbella. But yeah, generally, we tend to go to Tenerife every year with the lads from the gym around about June time, and its brilliant really, because you know generally I tend to fight around about May/June and then maybe in December. So every year, the lads, everybody from the gym; my brother Matt, Belly, Matt Macklin, Si, and a load of others usually go to Tenerife. It's great when you have all been training, and working hard for the fight, and the minute you've won you can go have a week abroad and celebrate. And to be honest the holidays with the lads are sometimes just as tough as the fights ( laughs) , but yeah, going away with the lads from the gym is brilliant.
"I've had some great holidays, another one I went to was when I went to see Manchester City play in Thailand on a preseason tour with a couple of pals, and that was a great time. And Vegas, that's always a good one. I'm going to Vegas to watch the Hopkins/Taylor fight as its going to be the week after mine, so I can have a bit of a holiday and watch the boxing as well. But yeah, there are too many to mention really, but when I go with the lads is when I have my best times, like my mates are all my good mates and have been there since day one, and they are very important to me, and my family; the cruises that we have every January is another great holiday as well."
JM: You are know for your sharp wit and sense of humour, out of all the other boxers you know, who would you say is the funniest you have met?
RH: "The funniest I've met ? Billy Schwer is quite witty, I always get a good laugh out of Billy Schwer, and Colin Dunne, I've always liked Colin Dunne, he's a Scouser that lives in London now and I cant make my mind up whether he is talking Cockney or Scouse, (laughs) he's always funny.
"I also met and had a few good drinks and laughs with Jake LaMotta at a few sportsman's dinners, he's been married about 22 times I think or some thing like that, and its the little stories he tells me about certain things, he said, “I've been married however many times Ricky and I wont stop until I get the job right” (laughs) you know its little things like that, but you know a lot of boxers are characters. I think John Conteh is one of the funniest men I've ever seen, at after dinner speaking, he is fantastic. There are not many boxers that are really on the dull side, they always tend to be characters, its that kind of sport, I think you have to have a slate loose (laughs) to do it at times, you know most boxers are usually pretty good with their personality, except one, which I don't really think I need to mention his name. (laughs all around)
JM: What's your favourite episode of the classic television show "Only Fools and Horses"?
RH: (laughs ) "It's got to be the Batman and Robin one and also the one with the chandelier, they crack me up all the time, I must have watched them a million times, brilliant, absolutely fantastic." (laughs)
JM: It would be fair to say that your left hook to the body is the punch you are best know for, but in your opinion, what is your most improved shot?
RH: "My most improved shot I think is my right cross, its been working a treat in sparring, particularly for this fight, but yeah, I mean everybody has their favourite punch, every single boxer, has their favourite punch. Larry Holmes was his jab, a great jab, Tommy Hearns was his right cross, so you know everybody has their favourite punch, but you have got to try and make yourself the all round package, and that is important to me, everybody expects the left hook to the body, but if you notice against Tony Pepp, John Bailey, and a few others along the way, you know, Mike Stewart, I nailed him with a right cross. But I've tried to add as much to my game as possible, my left hook to the body will still be the same, that will be the one I'll always favour, but don't watch my left hook to the body too much, as I feel I'm improving all the time."
JM: What aspect of training do you most enjoy, and which part do you most dislike?
RH: "I most enjoy the body-belt, obviously you need your sparring, that is where you get your timing, and you have to get your sparring partners in the mirror image of your opponent, that's a vital part of your training. But I do love the body-belt, 15 rounds on the body-belt, the pace that I go at is absolutely ferocious, and the minute I've done that I know, from a stamina point of view and a conditioning point of view I don't need to worry, you know so that's probably the best part of my training. I think the worst part of my training is the running, because its basically boring really, you find yourself going on different runs to make it a bit more exciting but it never tends to work, your bored to tears, especially for the last fight against Kostya Tszyu, when your doing that at f**king two in the morning (laughs) , and there is nothing out there, I mean there is no cars, no traffic, f**king bats flying out of the trees, I thought that was a bit scary, but yeah, the roadwork is definitely the worst part, and making the weight, the dieting, because I love my food, and that's pretty clear to see at times (laughs).
JM: Boxing politics and contractual issues aside, hypothetically speaking, if you could only have three fights before you retire, and you were looking to cement your legacy as a true great, which three opponents would you choose to fight from the very rich 140lbs – 147lbs pool?
RH: "I would say Floyd Mayweather, no first probably Miguel Cotto, or Mayweather actually, whatever order, but yeah I'd have to do Mayweather and Cotto to clear up at light welterweight, and that would make me the undisputed champion. I know I'm regarded as the undisputed in many ways, but obviously I'd have all the belts to prove it, and then I think I'd try and move up and fight Zab Judah, and if I could beat Zab Judah then I'd be an undefeated, double weight, undisputed world champion, I think that would be something else." ( laughs )
The Quick-Fire 20 Punch Hitman Combination
1. Marmite: yes or no? "No."
2. Cheese and Onion or Salt and Vinegar? "Cheese and Onion."
3. Carling or Stella? "Carling extra cold."
4. Guinness or Dom Perignon? "Guinness."
5. Chinese or Indian? "Can't pick, I love them both."
6. Blonde or Brunette? "Blonde."
7. Christina or Britney? "Britney."
8. Boobs or Bums? "Both" ( laughs)
9. Bernard Manning or Chubby Brown? "Bernard Manning."
10. Match of the day or Soccer Am? "Soccer Am."
11. Rocket or Sheephead? (laughs ) "Sheephead."
12. Stone Roses or Oasis? "Oasis."
13. Morning Glory or Definitely Maybe? "Definitely Maybe."
14. Michael Buffer or Jimmy Lennon Jnr? "Michael Buffer."
15. Ronaldo or Ronaldinho? "Is it the Ronaldo from Utd JG?" Nope, the Brazilian. "Ronaldinho. " (laughs)
16. Ewe Rossler or Niall Quinn? "Niall Quinn."
17. Eastlands or Maine Road? "Eastlands."
18. Georgie Kinkladze or Shaun Wright-Phillips? "Tough one, but Kinkladze."
19. Hearns or Duran? "Duran."
20. Cotto or Mayweather? "Cotto."
JM: Cheers Rick, I have one word for that interview pal, "Legendary."
RH: "Cheers Jimmy, anytime pal."