Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton wanted to make an impression on American fight fans with his biggest fight on U.S. soil to date. The unbeaten boxer from Manchester, England had the Thomas & Mack Center rocking in Las Vegas Saturday night, as an estimated 11,000 British fans flew in for his 140-pound title defense against Jose Luis Castillo. He did not disappoint.
The 33-year-old Castillo was regarded as one of the better pound-for-pound fighters in the world entering the bout. He’s best known for his loss to Diego “Chico” Corrales in one of the greatest fights in boxing history on May 7, 2005. It was Hatton’s biggest test since he beat the previously unbeaten Kostya Tszyu in June 2005. He made it look easy by dominating the early rounds and finally knocking Castillo out with a well placed body shot in the fourth round.
Hatton (43-0, 31 KO’s) used unleashed his relentless style and pressed Castillo (55-8-1, 47 KO’s)from the outset, forcing the Mexican brawler to fight closely inside. Hatton won the first two rounds by simply out-landing Castillo in limited exchanges, as the two leaned and pushed on each other. I gave the third round to Castillo for his well placed uppercuts and the job he did blocking Hatton’s hooks to the head. Truthfully it could have gone either way.
The fourth round started ominously for Castillo. He had a point taken away for a low blow, on a questionable call by referee Joe Cortez. Then, Hatton managed to work his way inside and snuck a left hook to the body just behind Castillo’s right elbow. Castillo crumpled to the canvas and did not even attempt to get up. With that, Hatton notched his second biggest win to date, with a knockout at 2:10 in the fourth round.
My analysis of this fight is simple: Castillo looked like a tired, old fighter who simply does not have it anymore. Hatton, at 28-years-old, was too young, too fast and too determined for him. Castillo didn’t seem to want to get up, after taking Hatton’s powerful shot to the liver.
So what’s next for the unbeaten Hitman? Despite being a British fighter, his appeal is universal. Americans love an action fighter and Hatton certainly fits that mold. Manchester’s finest would love a shot at pound-for-pound king, Floyd Mayweather. After the fight he did all he could to taunt the alternately boring and exciting champion. Hatton said, “There was more action in the four rounds of this fight than Floyd has shown in his whole career.” Sadly, he’s probably right.
I don’t think Mayweather would take a fight with Hatton because it is too big a risk for him. He wouldn’t be able to run away the way he did against De La Hoya, and if forced to trade with him, “Pretty Boy” could be in trouble. Plus, Hatton’s only trip up to the 147-pound welterweight class was a disappointing win over Luis Collazo in May 2006. He needs to move up to 147 to get bigger fights, as the division is over-stocked with the likes of Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Kermit Cintron, Paul Williams and the aforementioned Mayweather.
Hatton should be able to write his own ticket (other than a Mayweather fight) because of his worldwide popularity. He’s probably England’s biggest star other than David Beckham, and as his entourage showed – Manchester United star Wayne Rooney and legendary Mexican champ Marco Antonio Barrera were present – he can appeal to anyone, once they are made aware of him. I’d love to see him fight Cotto or the winner of Margarito/Williams on July 14th. But it looks like Cotto will fight the winner of that bout and Hatton will be left searching for someone to battle with. That is, unless Mayweather decides to give the fans what they want (for once). Don’t hold your breath.