On June 4, 2005, at 38-0 (26 KOs), Ricky Hatton stepped into the ring for the biggest challenge of his then-young career. Hatton was matching up against Kostya Tszyu, 31-1 (25 KOs).
Tszyu was, and is still, regarded as one of the greatest fighters to ever lace up the gloves in the light welterweight division, and was deservedly a big favorite in the fight.
With Tszyu, there's just nothing that he couldn't do well in the ring. He had well above average hand and foot speed, and excellent balance and coordination. He could defend well and he had terrific punching power. He was essentially a perfect all-around boxer that could punch.
No glaring weaknesses emerged when looking at him.
And going into the Hatton fight, he had a near-perfect record. He hadn't lost in eight years. To put it bluntly, if this fight was fought on paper, Tszyu would win 100/100 times. He's just the better overall fighter.
In Ricky Hatton, you have a brawling, wrestling fighter who loves to mix it up and fight on the inside. Hatton's mauling style is designed to wear his opponents down. That, along with his debilitating body punching, had allowed him to overwhelm all 38 opponents that he'd faced up to that point in his pro career.
Hatton doesn't have the prettiest style, but it's effective—particularly if the referee allows him to use his tactics and doesn't break the fighters excessively fast, as was the case when Ricky Hatton fought Floyd Mayweather in 2007, when Joe Cortez broke the fighters before they'd even clinch.
Anyway, the stage was set for the Tszyu-Hatton showdown for 140-pound supremacy at a totally sold-out M.E.N. Arena, with over 22,000 people in attendance, most there to cheer Hatton on.
Just for the record, in a poll taken by Boxingscene.com before the fight, out of 18 experts, only two picked Hatton.
Most of those picking Tszyu picked him by KO.
When the fight finally got started in front of the raucous crowd, Hatton got off to a good start, getting inside and roughing his opponent up. But as the fight approached the middle rounds, Tszyu looked to be getting more comfortable, and could possibly be cruising to a nice victory, as most had predicted.
However, after the fourth round, the tide started to turn, as Hatton started to come on stronger. He was able to get to Tszyu's body and began to tire the great champion down. After 10 rounds, many, including myself, had the fight even at five rounds apiece.
These two rounds would determine the winner. Whoever wanted it more was going to win the title.
That man was Hatton. In the 11th round, he pounded Tszyu and clearly took the frame. Tszyu looked exhausted. Like he had nothing left.
And he didn't. Before the bell for the 12th, Tszyu told his corner he was finished and retired on his stool.
Ricky Hatton was now the light welterweight champion of the world, in front of a huge crowd of his own fans. It was an awesome sight to see, as Hatton jumped out of the ring and ran into the crowd to hug his family, before addressing the crowd directly, telling them how much he appreciated their support.
It was a great night of boxing in Manchester, and it was a memorable one as well. It was the best night of Ricky Hatton's career and he deserved his victory.
He may not have been the better fighter over the course of his career and he certainly didn't have Tszyu's level of talent, but on the night, he just wanted it more and fought the best fight he could. That was enough to pull off the improbable upset.
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