Britain’s Ricky Hatton has today been hailed as the biggest live attraction in British boxing as promoter Frank Warren lined up his next title defence.
Warren announced today that Hatton will make the seventh defence of his WBU world light-welterweight title at Manchester’s 20,000-capacity MEN Arena on Saturday September 28.
America’s Hector Camacho jnr and Briton Stephen Smith, holder of the IBO version of the title, are on a short-list of four opponents along with two unnamed Americans to face unbeaten Hatton.
Following the Manchester fighter’s victory over Irishman Eamonn Magee in June, Warren had no hesitation in booking the MEN Arena again.
‘‘The biggest attraction in the country, with all due respect to Lennox Lewis and Naseem Hamed, is Ricky Hatton who sells more tickets than anybody,’’ he said.
‘‘Ricky is on the verge of getting to the real big-time and I would like to see him fight on pay-per-view by the end of the year.’’
Hatton’s ultimate target is a showdown with Kostya Tszyu, regarded as the undisputed world number one since his victory over Zab Judah, but that fight will have to wait until next year at the earliest.
That suits both Warren and Hatton, who said today: ‘‘I would like to think I’ll be ready for him in the next 12 months.’’
Warren, anyway, believes the fight cannot happen before then.
‘‘Tszyu already has two fights lined up and I don’t think he will fight again this year so we are not going to get to him for some time,’’ he said.
That could work in 23-year-old Hatton’s favour.
Warren explained: ‘‘Tszyu isn’t getting any younger. The art of this game is getting your fighter his big chance at the right time.
‘‘I can make world title fights for nearly any boxer but the art is to win that world title. When we make it I want Ricky to go in as the favourite.’’
In the meantime, Hatton is unconcerned who he fights next.
Camacho would be a big attraction on ShowTime, the American TV station who show all the Manchester MEN’s fights, while Warren believes Smith would provide a competitive all-British clash.
‘‘I’m not bothered,’’ said Hatton. ‘‘I’ll deal with whoever it is on the night.’’
He has already become recognised by the American fight crowds.
Hatton admitted he was surprised at the amount of attention he attracted when he visited the States for the recent Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson and Marco Antonio Barrera-Eric Morales fights.
‘‘It was fantastic. It really surprised me. I have had a few fights on ShowTime and expected maybe a few people to recognise me but it was crazy really,’’ he added.
Chief support on the September 28 bill in Manchester will give Hatton’s gym-mate Anthony Farnell the opportunity of revenge over London-based South African Rueben Groenwald, who took a disputed points decision over him when they fought for the WBU middleweight title on the June show.
Farnell, who was deducted points for fouls, paid a heavy price for his indiscretions and Warren said: ‘‘Hopefully, it will be a cleaner fight than last time and Anthony will learn from his mistakes.’’