Champion Hatton willing for Tszyu rematch
MANCHESTER: Ricky Hatton is willing to face Kostya Tszyu again after forcing him to retire at the end of the 11th round to capture the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light-welterweight title here on Sunday.
Undefeated Hatton pulled off one of the biggest shocks in a British ring to win his first major world title in front of 22,000 fans at the Manchester Evening News Arena in his home city. The new champion has various options open to him including a title-unification clash with Puerto Rico’s WBO champion Miguel Cotto, yet Hatton would also be willing to again meet Australia-based Tszyu. But after the fight there still remained some doubt as to whether Tszyu, 35, would prolong his career after suffering his second defeat in 34 fights.
Hatton had made 15 defences of the fringe World Boxing Union title before taking a huge step up in class to face Tszyu, who started as a 11-8 favourite with bookmakers. Yet Hatton rose to the occasion and his sustained beating broke Tszyu, who failed to cope with the local hero’s fast pace and unerring accuracy. Trailing on points, Tszyu was left searching to uncork a knock-out blow in the latter rounds after conceding too many rounds to hungry Hatton. Instead of trying to rescue the situation in the last round, Russian-born Tszyu retired on his stool at the end of the 11th on the advice of his trainer Johnny Lewis, who has been with the former champion since he turned professional in 1992.
After being out-thought and out-fought so comprehensively by the 26-year-old challenger, whose plan it was to set a fast pace and leave the champion floundering, Tszyu may not be too keen for a return clash despite Hatton being willing. “I would fight him again,” Hatton told a news conference after the fight. “I have only just got to my peak and am only 26. I’ve had a lot of cuts but I’ve not had too many really bad ones. I’m fresh for 39 fights. “What has hurt me in the past is that people have said I didn’t want to fight this person or that person, but I will fight absolutely anybody and this has proved I will. “It was a physical fight which is right up my fight.
“My trainer Billy Graham said I needed the last round to be safe so I was really up for it. I don’t know whether Kostya sensed that and did the right thing. “I raised my game and that’s why I didn’t get hit as much. I was the underdog and had to be more cautious. I would like to fight him again but it was a tough fight. “Australia would be a bit warmer than Manchester, but my fans deserve it. “Tszyu had only fought three rounds in over two years prior to an attempted fourth defence of the IBF title in his second reign as champion after first winning the belt 10 years ago. That inactivity told as Tszyu had only limited success with his counter punching and suffered as a result of Hatton’s relentless, pressurising style which ensured the challenger landed the more punches.
But Tszyu’s promoter Vlad Warton dismissed inactivity and age as reasons for Tszyu’s surrender with Hatton ahead on points and poised to inevitably get the judges’ decision. “He’s only had three rounds in two years before this fight so he could do anything he wants,” Warton said after the fight. “He felt he allowed Ricky to fight his style of fighting. He doesn’t underestimate anybody and I don’t think it was to do with age. “They decided not to come out and if Johnny Lewis chooses to that I support him because he is one of the greatest ever Australian trainers.
“I think Kostya wanted to continue but Johnny thought it was not necessary. I thought Kostya was losing at the time and would have needed at least two knock-downs in the last round to have had a chance of winning.” He didn’t have the usual power and zest. “We’ve had a wonderful run with Kostya. He’s now 35 and has achieved more than most boxers so only he can tell. But he lost to Vince Phillips and came back stronger. “We will have to go home and think things through. We will know in the next week or so.” Tszyu, of Sydney, made an early getaway from the city centre arena back to his hotel before travelling back to Australia and assessing his future, but after the fight he said in the ring: “I’m a proud man, a very proud man. “Maybe I have finished my career, maybe not but tonight Ricky was the best fighter. I’m a very physical fighter but tonight Ricky was better than me everywhere.” afp