Ricky Hatton has captured the imagination of American boxing fans in the last two years. With a total of 46 fights, Hatton has fought five of his last six in the United States, winning five total. He's proven his courage and will by fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr. and challenging the winner to the Pacquiao-De La Hoya fight.
Unfortunately, rumors state the winner, Manny Pacquiao, may be facing the likes of current retired boxer Mayweather Jr. This leaves Hatton fight-less at the moment unless he wants to fight somebody else until he gets his chance against Pacquiao.
Rumors also state that Hatton's camp is talking of a possible fight against Zab Judah, which I believe would be an unproductive bout before facing Pacquiao. Judah, although an ex-champion, would only give Hatton the experience against a southpaw-style fighter.
Hatton will need an opponent that can apply pressure, not just fancy foot movement, and fast hands. Also, I was under the impression that Judah suffered cuts over both eyes that could put him on an extensive layoff from the ring.
However, a preparation fight for Manny Pacquiao is going to be very important, and Hatton and camp should pick someone different in my opinion. Here are five fighters I believe would be a productive fight, as well as a great achievement if he was to get a victory.
1. Juan Manuel Marquez (49-4-1)
Although Marquez is scheduled to fight Juan Diaz, he is a fellow Golden Boy fighter like Ricky Hatton, and like Ricky, he wants to get the Pacman in the ring.
Fans would love to see JMM fight his way to a rematch with Pacquiao, and you can't deny it would be an explosive fight against the two. Golden Boy can make it happen.
2. Joshua Clottey (35-2)
Hatton hasn't been very sharp-looking at 147 pounds, but if he wants to face a welterweight with speed and great combination punching, Clottey would be a strong opponent.
Clottey only suffered two defeats—one by champion Margarito in which he wanted a rematch, and a unification bout that got pushed to the side.
3. Nate Campbell (32-5-1)
Nate Campbell has a mandatory fight against Ali Funeka, but he has until the end of '09 to make it happen. Campbell would give Hatton the chance to face a fighter that has the in and out style like Pacquiao. Campbell would rush in with three to four punches, and Hitman would need to learn how to stop those from connecting.
4. Kendall Holt (24-2)
Holt successfully defended his title against last minute replacement Demetrius Hopkins and proved that he is a worthy champion and is ready to be known as such against big name opponents.
5. Joel Casamayor (36-4-1)
If Hatton's camp is searching for a fighter that isn't going to cause a huge threat, but gives enough of a battle to make Hatton work, I would go with Casamayor.
A fight with Casamayor is going to give you experience with speed, and he will go toe to toe when you step in. He punches well with both hands and comes from different angles. This would be the safe pick, yet more productive.
Ricky Hatton needs to pick a fighter that is going to show him pressure and angles in the ring. Hatton will need to work on his defense and jab, as we all know he has the habit of standing square and being the pressure fighter.
Against Pacquiao, Hatton will need to be the one stepping to the side away from the power punch. If he steps forward, Pacman won't go anywhere, and if he steps back he's going to trap himself. He will also need to focus on counter punching and four-punch combinations involving the body.
Any fight involving Hatton is interesting, and I'm ready to see where he goes from here.