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Hatton Puts Manchester on the Map

It hasn't been the greatest year for Manchester sport. United finished third, lost a penalty shoot out for the FA cup and were bought by a pennyless leprechaun, City missed a Uefa cup place and sacked their manager......And then, at 3am on Sunday morning,

Published on June 6th 2005.

Hatton Puts Manchester on the Map

It hasn't been the greatest year for Manchester sport. United finished third, lost a penalty shoot out for the FA cup and were bought by a pennyless leprechaun, City missed a Uefa cup place and sacked their manager......And then, at 3am on Sunday morning, everything changed!

It is impossible to overstate the importance of Ricky Hatton’s win against Kostya Tszyu for the IBF light Welterweight title. Not since the Commonwealth Games has Manchester enjoyed such an important moment in Global terms.

The Scale

The fight, from a jam packed MEN arena (and yes 22,000 is packed), was screened across 70 countries. The reason for the 2am start was the screening of the fight, by Showtime - Americas premier pay per view boxing channel - as their Saturday night main event. This meant that ALL the important fight fans worldwide were watching. This kudos has never been conferred on a British fighter before.

Manchester Airport landed a succession of private jets, filled with Boxing world champions, throughout Saturday from LA and Vegas. Russell Crowe even put in an appearance to show his support for his fellow Australian – Kostya Tszyu.

The Build Up

The reason for the blanket coverage, and the visiting luminaries, was the quality of Hatton's opponent and the growing status that Hatton enjoys worldwide. Tszyu defected to Australia from his native Russia, where he was brought up in the shadow of the trans-Siberian railroad. Famously, his Siberian upbringing involved regular beatings, (Rocky-like) bare foot running on snow and the push ups on broken glass that are supposed to have made him a champion.

Tszyu is regarded by many as the world’s greatest 'pound for pound' boxer. In real terms, if all fighters were an equal size, this means that he would be the hardest man on earth. His record was not only exemplary, but the quality of the opponents that this brave man chose to face during his career was unparalleled. In short, he was a true champion - he had tested himself against the best and come out on top. Hatton was the challenger, unbeaten in 39 fights, but consistently avoided by the higher class of world boxers. The fight against Tszyu was therefore his chance - and it speaks volumes of Tszyu that he would offer Hatton the chance to take his title.

Hatton came into the ring to his traditional Blue Moon soundtrack wearing his Manchester City colours. Tszyu wore black and entered the ring to a soundtrack announcing to Hatton how he would 'knock him out'. This in fact was the only banter in what had been an entirely civilised build up with both fighters treating each other with respect. Following the national anthems and announcements into the ring, at about 2.45, the fight got underway.

The Fight

Following the bell, Hatton immediately walked into Tszyu's right arm - this was the pattern for the fight. Each round Hatton came out and took one of Tszyu's famous punches without a flicker - this in itself probably shook the champions resolve. 'The Hitman' dominated the first two rounds by crowding Tszyu's body and stopping him using his range of punches. Tszyu then took the next two rounds using a range of punches and creating angles from his body that had all the boxing afficionados in raptures.

The next two rounds were split pretty evenly with Hatton reaching the half way point of the fight pretty much level with the champion. This was better than many had hoped and fitted the perfect scenario envisaged by his long-time trainer Billy Graham. During the second half of the fight Hatton's age advantage - he's 26 to Tszyu's 35 - started to tell. By my reckoning, they shared the spoils of round 7 before Hatton moved into top gear. Hatton landed some of his best punches in the 8th round and the crowd started to sense that they would see the upset that many had never even dreamed of. In the 9th the pair traded low blows that saw both fighters warned (and Tszyu seeking a couple of minutes respite from one of a punch that landed firmly on the sports protection and had everyone’s eyes watering). Hatton really moved up a gear in rounds ten and 11 and looked to me to have gained an unassailable 4 round lead.

The Victory

Hatton’s trainer, Billy Graham had predicted all week that if the fight was going Hatton’s way, Tszyu's trainer - the legendary Johnny Lewis - would pull his fighter out of the contest. He was proved right. Just as Hatton was about to come out for that last round Graham was shouting 'he's not come out, he's not come out!' and Hatton was twice world champion and the conqueror of 'hall of famer' Tszyu.

Hatton said, "I found a way to win, not necessarily boxing ability, but with my boxing brain between my ears, I was clever and smart and it worked. I drained him of his strength, I think the last five rounds I went like a Trojan and he couldn't keep me off." Hatton dedicated the win to the amazing Mancunian support "The crowd were unbelievable, it makes you so proud."

And Now....

To sum up his achievement, Hatton’s victory was the biggest by a British boxer - in global terms - since Barry McGuigan became world champion in the eighties. The win will propel him to untold fame and fortune both here and in America. Potentially he could earn £3million or more. More importantly he can now claim to be one of the best fighters in the world, and Manchester can lay claim to be one the worlds truly great 'fight cities'.

Expect to see the MEN arena as a future venue for many world title fights, and plenty more private jets.

You never know, if you're in Panacea you might even bump into a film star or two - if they can get in that is...

Mark Unwin

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