Murder Isn't All She Wrote-The Spirit of Ricky Hatton survives killing fields of Manchester

By Michael Katz


Murder Isn't All She Wrote-The Spirit of Ricky Hatton survives killing fields of Manchester

The Hattersley Estate is another of those dark blotches on the human condition one sees around the world, clusters of row houses lining foreboding streets of violence and despair. This one is attached to Manchester, England, and until Ricky Hatton it was probably best known for serial murder.

It's the neighborhood where also lived Myra Hindley and Ian Bray, the Moor Murderers, who in the 1960's would abduct children and sexually abuse them before gruesomely killing them. They dumped four of the five bodies in nearby moors. Hindley died of heart failure in 2002 at the age of 60. Bray is still in prison, still one of the most reviled characters in the long history of England.

Then, down the road in Hyde, “about five minutes away,” said Hatton, there was Dr. Death, the most prolific serial killer in British history. His victims were mainly old ladies that he treated as their physician. They were mostly in good health until his lethal injections of morphine. “Hundreds,” said Hatton, “he'd treat them nice, get named in their wills and then he'd knock them off.” Investigations have put the number anywhere between 215 and 500. Dr. Harold Frederick Shipman - “Fred” or “Freddy” to friends and family - refused to cooperate. He committed suicide in his jail cell three years ago Saturday so the full extent of his carnage may never be known.

There's the fair share of “normal” crime, too, for the poor working-class district, “it's known for a lot of misery,” said Hatton. But Richard Hatton, who spent his formative years living in pubs (“mum and dad owned five,” though one at a time), is another example of the triumph of the human spirit. There'll be a fair share of Hattersley residents in the Paris Hotel and Casino arena next Saturday night when the undefeated Hitman brings his never-say-die ring attitude to Las Vegas. There will be thousands of his countrymen in the crowd when he challenges the undefeated-but-once-tied Juan Urango of Colombia for one of the alphabet 140-pound titles he surrendered last year when he moved up to welterweight for one bout and captured an alphabet title at 147.
Hatton is as popular in England as a pint or two at the local pub. He said “my all-out style” accounts for much of the attraction. But he added it was “my personality, more than anything,” that makes him King Richard.

Spending his formative years in pubs helped form his outgoing personality. “You meet a lot of entertainers on the other side of the bar,” he said in an interview the other day. “You meet a lot of characters, too.”

He saw people at their most social. There were times, he said, he saw them at their worst, too. But even when he started getting acclaim as a successful fighter - 41-0 with 30 knockouts - he said he never turned into “Charlie Bigtime.”

“I'm very, very approachable,” he said. “I like people.”

He said “you can't put a price on the loyalty of the fans,” and while he may be, along with Joe Calzaghe, the best of British boxing, he wants to conquer new worlds, and markets, in the United States. That's why he's here again.

He had an early bout in Detroit, but his American TV debut was last year when he beat Luis Collazo for one of those alphabet welterweight titles in a disappointing performance. He gained a unanimous decision, but it was close enough for many fans to question the verdict. He was wobbled in the final round, but most of all, he was flat against a sly and slippery southpaw.

He had been hoping to defend his undisputed junior welterweight title, but when Juan Lazcano came up lame and there were no other 140-pounders to satisfy HBO, he agreed to move up seven pounds and challenge Collazo. Now he says he had only seven, eight weeks to bulk himself up, he ate some inappropriate foods, as usual, and besides, Collazo is hardly a bum, as Sugar Shane Mosley will discover Feb. 10. Think of it: Mosley struggled a bit when he moved up to welterweight and he and Floyd Mayweather Jr. didn't make their debuts in that division against a world title-holder.

Now he's back at 140, still having trouble making weight, another product of his publican upbringing, as well as a proficiency at darts. “I like food,” he said. “You look at pictures of me when I was four, five years old, you can see I was always a chubby kid.” He also likes Guinness. “It's very easy for me to put on weight,” he said. The critics call him “Fatton,” but he has long figured out that where other fighters might need eight or nine weeks to train, he'll work 13 or 14. “It's not easy (making 140), it's never been easy,” he said.

But he said he could still do it, unlike Miguel Cotto “who HAD to move up.”

Sooner or later, he will have to move back to 147. Besides, that's where the big money has gone - Mayweather, Mosley, Cotto, Antonio Margarito.

There are still a lot of good matches for him at 140. Urango, 17-0-1 with perhaps the draw with Mike Aranoutis doing more to define him than any of his victories, is no walkover. He is a left-hander with real sock. Hatton said the Colombian was “a big puncher, muscular and strong.” Urango, unlike Collazo, does not figure to keep at a distance; he too likes to pressure opponents.

“I don't think I'll have any trouble finding him,” said Hatton.

It should be like a buzz saw meeting a bull. The result should be chopped meat. Hatton, simply, is that good. He is one of the ten best in the world, pound for pound. Like many skeptics, I thought his erstwhile promoter, Frank Warren, was protecting him. “What does Frank know that we don't?” I kept asking myself. I now believe that Warren's reticence to match Hatton tough was simply a cautious attitude toward a big money winner.

Hatton said he thought his domination of the then-still dangerous Ben Tackie at the end of 2003 would convince Warren to let him in against the big boys. It didn't. He had to threaten Warren's first-born to finally get a shot at the undisputed king of the junior welterweights, Kostya Tszyu, in 2005.

“I showed my boxing ability in that one, showed I was a good jabber against Tackie,” said Hatton. “I thought it would be a springboard.”

He threatened to leave Britain's most powerful promoter unless he was given “meaningful” matches. Even after the Tszyu challenge was made, Hatton said Warren kept arguing “you don't have to fight Kostya Tszyu” and suggested Vivian Harris, who then had a 140-pound belt, instead.

But Hatton and his father/manager, Ray, insisted on Tszyu and came out with what Ricky called “one of the greatest wins in British boxing history.”

Okay, Tszyu was 35 years old. Maybe he had over-trained. But when he's 65, he'll probably be able to get out of bed in the morning and still land his right hand. What impressed me about Hatton in that fight 19 months ago was not only his ability to take a punch, the No. 1 prerequisite for greatness in my unwritten book, but his smarts.

He doesn't look like a smart fighter, rushing at opponents, sometimes on a straight line. But he knows, for example, against Urango, he'll “need to use more angles” than he did against even Tszyu. The Russian, he pointed out, was less of a danger when fought up close, those big right hands needed to be thrown from “medium to long range” to be effective. His short rights “lost their bite.”

The Hitman was willing to take some hits against Tszyu. “My chin has always been one of my assets,” he said. “It's not something you want to rely on, but it comes in handy.”

In the opening round, he got hit with a jab. “Hell, if that's the jab, what happens when the right comes?”

He found out. “It hurt me,” he said. “I was really shaken, my legs did a little bit of a dance.”

But then he showed those smart. “I literally dropped my hands as if to say it hardly hurt,” said Hatton, “and he was looking at me, he had just landed the same punch he landed against Sharmba Mitchell, and I know dropping my hands must have affected him.”

He patiently worked Tszyu's body at every chance and before long, the impossible happened. The Russian quit on his stool. He was saying “Nyet mas.” Coincidentally, Hatton's ring idol was Roberto Duran.

He said against Urango he'll need “more subtle movements,” especially with his feet, than he showed against Tszyu or even Collazo. “Subtle” is not the first word that one would use to describe Hatton's style. But just because it is “all-out” does not mean there is no malice aforethought involved. Another of his favorite fighters was Jose Napoles, old smooth-as-butter Mantequilla.

“Duran was clever, a master of defense as well as a great puncher,” said Hatton. “Napoles, what great movement he had.”

He appreciates great boxing, gives all props to perhaps his No. 1 goal in the game, Floyd Mayweather Jr. He said Mayweather was unquestionably the No. 1 boxer pound for pound today. But he does offer a bit of criticism.

“All his fights are the same to me,” said Hatton. “He's not the most exciting fighter in the world. If you've seen one fight, you've seen them all. They look more like chess matches than fights.”

He knows he'll have to weight until he returns fulltime to 147 pounds before he has a chance at Mayweather or Miguel Cotto, another of his goals. Hatton does not disparage future opponents. He said Cotto's struggles at 140 pounds were obviously caused by his struggle to MAKE 140 pounds, that as soon as he moved up to 147 to knock out Carlos Quintana, “he's never looked as good.”

In the HBO semifinal from the Paris Las Vegas, his future after Urango, Jose Luis Castillo, faces unbeaten Herman Ngoudjo, who is from the Cameroons and now lives in Montreal, which means his ring ability is probably better than his French accent.

Castillo, said Hatton, first has to show he can make 140 pounds. The former lightweight champion, in two nonappearances against Diego Corrales, left no doubt he can make 135. If Hatton and Castillo win this Saturday, the plan is for them to face each other in June.

Corrales is another potential big fight at 140. Maybe Manny Pacquiao would move up another ten pounds if the money was right. Just about any big name between Marco Antonio Barrera and Winky Wright could be in the mix with Hatton. He's a pleasure to listen to and I would venture to guess an impressive drinking partner.

PENTHOUSE: Teddy Atlas, for no particular reason except he's a good guy with a good heart.

HALFWAY HOUSE OR REHAB CENTER: Please, that's where Mike Tyson belongs. Going to prison again won't cure his addictions.


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