Manchester’s Hatton suffered his first defeat in 44 professional fights when he succumbed to a 10th round knockout by WBC welterweight champion Mayweather at the MGM Garden Arena in the early hours of yesterday morning. The thousands of Hatton fans that turned the 18,000-seat Las Vegas venue into a corner of England for the night were stunned as their man was caught with a crashing left hook, only to beat the count and then take two more before a straight right sent him to the canvas again as referee Joe Cortez waved the fight off a minute and 35 seconds into 10th.
Hatton, who had been cut at the corner of his right eye during the third round and docked a point in the sixth for hitting Mayweather on the back of his head, afterwards said he had not been hurt but having been behind on the three judges’ scorecards — they each only gave the Mancunian one round of the first nine — he had gone chasing a knockout and paid the price.
“I feel like more a mug for leaving myself open,” said Hatton.
Now he must decide whether to continue to fight above his natural weight at 147 pounds and take on Oscar De La Hoya next May, return to the 140-pound junior welterweight division he still dominates or quit boxing altogether, safe in the knowledge his reputation remains intact with an army of devoted followers.
Mayweather, meanwhile, his status cemented as the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer, must choose between the retirement he claims to crave or to continue with the series of megafights he embarked on in 2007.
Both fighters have rivals lining up to challenge them, some of whom were at ringside along with a plethora of celebrities, including David Beckham and Tiger Woods, to see Mayweather break out of his usual, cagey counter-punching ring persona and take the fight to Hatton with maximum effect.
Though coy when questioned afterwards , promoter De La Hoya, who was defeated by Mayweather in May in a split decision at the same arena, wants to be the next to face Hatton, his Golden Boy company having promoted Saturday’s blockbuster.
One of De La Hoya’s Golden Boy associates, ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley, made an immediate appeal to be the next person to take on Mayweather, although Miguel Cotto, who defeated Mosley a month ago in New York for the WBA welterweight title, was also ringside in Vegas and would be the dream match-up as far as fans are concerned.
Both Hatton’s camp and Mayweather said they would not rush to make any decisions. Yet, with Hatton one of the biggest draws in the sport and Mayweather the king of the ring, their presence on the calendar in 2008 alongside Felix Trinidad versus Roy Jones Jr in January, a possible clash between Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe and the potential reunification of the heavyweight division it would be hard to keep boxing out of the spotlight.
Hatton initially promised a speedy return to the ring when he issued an “I’ll be back” pledge at the post-fight press conference.
“I’ll go away and have a few months off to have a proper think about it, but don’t forget I moved up to welterweight to fight the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
“It wasn’t my night but I feel like I’m still improving. The knockout didn’t feel as bad as I thought it would and I feel like I’ve been in a lot more gruelling fights.
“Without a doubt it hurts because I thought I had the style to do it. I had a great chance and I had all the tools. But there was a time to be more subtle and I didn’t, I just went for it and set myself up like a mug.”
Billy Graham, Hatton’s trainer throughout his professional career, would not be sorry to see his man walk away from the ring and if his fellow Mancunian did decide to carry on it should be “only if he really wanted to.
“If he still wants to fight I’ll be there with him but I would be quite happy the other way,” said Graham. “I’m not telling him to quit, that’s for him to decide.”
Were Hatton to continue, however, Graham said he would want the boxer to return to his natural weight, in the 140-pound division in which he still reigns as the undisputed junior welterweight champion.
That would appear to rule out a fight with De La Hoya.
While Hatton appears to have the hunger to continue, at least at light-welterweight, motivation appears to be the sticking point as far as Mayweather is concerned. After one of the more exciting performances of his career, the brash American feels he has little else to prove after 39 victories over the likes of the late Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo (twice) Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah and De La Hoya.
“It wasn’t hard getting up for the Ricky Hatton fight. I trained my ass off,” said Mayweather. “The only thing that is hard is that used to be at the gym at three o’clock on the dot, now I get there at 3:30 and somebody has to come and wake me up.
“My house is paid for, all my cars are paid for, eight figures in the bank…it’s not hard to train but getting there is.”