Hatton: 'I took care of business!'
On Malignaggi: “It was like when you are in the buff in the shower and trying to grab the soap.”
Report by Andreas Hale
Photos by Chris Cozzone
Most fighters have a hard time returning to the scene that delivered their most heartbreaking loss.
Ricky Hatton was soundly pummeled and knocked out by Floyd Mayweather Jr. just one year ago at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. After the beating, questions arose of Hatton’s status in the boxing world. Some said he was simply overrated while others stated he was nearing the end of his rope. Judging by Saturday night’s brilliant performance back at the MGM against the No. 2 junior welterweight in the world, Paulie Malignaggi, the naysayers may have been a bit premature in their assumptions.
Hatton improved to 45-1 (32 KOs) as he out slugged, mugged and worked Malignaggi en route to an 11th round TKO when Buddy McGirt could take no more of “The Magic Man” getting beat and threw in the towel. It was a brilliant performance that brought back memories of Hatton’s career defining beatdown of Kostya Tszyu.
“The last fight I fell short from becoming the best pound for pound fighter in the world,” Hatton said during the post-fight conference as he reminisced about his last trip to Vegas. “I came back to Vegas – the scene of the crime - and took care of business.”
Hatton needed this fight badly. After being soundly thumped by Mayweather, Hatton bounced back and defeated Juan Lazcano in May but turned in a lackluster performance that had boxing pundits and fans questioning his future.
“I think it was a defining fight for me,” when asked about his performance on Saturday night. “I don’t think I got that performance against Lazcano.”
It can be argued that Hatton has not looked this sharp in several years. One can point in the direction of his corner for a reason why - the replacing of Billy Graham for Floyd Mayweather Sr.
“I think I needed to go back to the basics,” Hatton said of the trainer swap. “I was watching myself on tape a few months ago and thought to myself ‘Ricky if you carry on like this you’ll be finished in six months.’”
The changes that Mayweather implemented in Hatton’s style were subtle yet pronounced. A jab punctuated Hatton’s attack while head movement kept Malignaggi off balance.
“They say zebras don’t change their stripes but this zebra looked like a friggin’ racehorse,” Malignaggi’s promoter Lou DiBella said regarding the changes implemented in Hatton’s style.
“I think you’ll agree with me that Ricky Hatton looked absolutely spectacular tonight,” Golden Boy’s CEO Richard Schaefer echoed.
Hatton explained that Malignaggi was no walk in the park in true Hatton style.
“Paulie is a great fighter. The best way to describe him is like when you are in the buff in the shower and trying to grab the soap,” Hatton joked when discussing Malignaggi’s slipperiness. “He has great hand speed and footwork and presented me some problems.”
While the tossing in of the towel may have been viewed as controversial, DiBella and McGirt could see no other way Malignaggi – who fell to 25-2 (5 KOs) - could win the fight.
“It was a bit of a hard decision to make. I told the corner I didn’t think it should go on any longer and they agreed. By round 11 the decision was made so Paulie can live on to fight another day.”
“Tonight you saw a great champion in a dominant performance,” DiBella continued. “He was great tonight. Probably better than I’ve seen him in years.”
“I’m not gonna harp on the stoppage, he fought a great fight,” an emotional Malignaggi said with his eyes hidden behind dark shades. “He surprised me with a couple of things.”
“I used to say ‘Damn man it must suck to get your ass kicked and have to fly home and everyone sees you,’” the Brooklyn fighter said. “Now I have to do that tomorrow.”
But in a notion of friendship and how fighters are only true enemies in the ring, Malignaggi recalls a moment in training camp when he thought of Ricky Hatton.
“I was in the Poconos, eating at a diner and I saw something that reminded me of Ricky so I went and bought it,” Malignaggi said. Usually when a boxer purchases something for another fighter, it tends to be something to insult his opponent. But for Malignaggi, this gesture was purely in good faith. “I didn’t want to give it to him before the fight because I didn’t want to get too friendly.”
Malignaggi reaches in his bag and pulls out Hatton’s drink of choice – a beer.
“It’s Blue Moon beer,” Malignaggi said as he shows the media the bottle with the name of Hatton’s ring entrance music blazoned across the front. The Magic Man then passes Hatton four bottles as Hatton smiles and welcomes the gift.
“It started as a six pack but I’m still trying to find the culprits who drank the other two,” Malignaggi joked.
For Malignaggi, the future is up in the air. But judging by his magical mouth, there may always be a future in boxing as a commentator if he ever decides to hang his gloves up. Moments such as this are the ones that are truly memorable and prove that boxers are human too.
Although the skies are cloudy for Malignaggi, the future is looking mighty bright for Hatton.
“It’s all about the future now,” Hatton stated. When asked about taking on the winner of the De La Hoya/Pacquiao showdown, Hatton welcomes both fighters. “If its Pacquiao we can do it at 140.”
Hatton expresses no real desire to fight anyone else at junior welterweight and who can blame him? While a Pacquiao/Hatton showdown looks mighty tasty, a De La Hoya/Hatton treat could hit boxing fans just right as well - unless you are Floyd Mayweather Sr who trains both fighters.
“Would I want to see Ricky fight Oscar? Not really,” Mayweather said.
But the idea of the two getting it on brings a broad smile across Richard Schaefer’s face.
“I would love to see Ricky fight Oscar (De La Hoya) and I’m sure Oscar would love to fight Ricky too,” Schaefer says at the prospect of another huge payday for De La Hoya.
For Hatton, it doesn’t really matter which of the two he fights. He just has one thing on his mind at the moment.
“I’ll be back in Vegas for the De La Hoya fight so if anyone wants to buy me a Guinness …”
Good ol’ Hatton, up to his old tricks again.