By Rick Reeno
In a match-up that has "fight of the year" written all over it, undefeated Ricky "Hitman" Hatton (38-0, 28 KOs) challenges IBF junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu (31-1, 25 KOs, 1 ND) in Hatton's hometown of Manchester, England, on Saturday, June 4. A sellout crowd of over 18,000 screaming fans will be in attendance to back Ricky Hatton in the biggest bout of the young fighter's career.
Tszyu and Hatton are two out of the four recognized fighters who make up the "big four" of the junior welterweight division. The other two fighters who make up the big four, Arturo Gatti and Floyd Mayweather Jr., will battle for supremacy on June 25. The obvious direction would be for the winner of Hatton-Tszyu to meet the winner of Gatti-Mayweather down the road.
The staff of BoxingScene comes together to give their predictions and insight on the upcoming junior welterweight clash.
Ron Gallegos - We're looking at a potential candidate for fight of the year. It would have to go some to beat the recent Corrales-Castillo fight that was one for the ages. The lone obstacle will be the fact that this one will only last four or five rounds, but it will be non-stop. There will be no cries of wanting money back because of lack of action. Hatton only knows one direction, forward and Tszyu is not one to dance or box. He's a brawler when need be and for this fight he will have to return fire in kind. His arsenal packs all the tools to deal with any situation. Hatton basically has never been tested, and Tszyu is in a class of his own and this division is his. He will catch Hatton with a counter coming in and then to borrow James' name, it's "light's out." The powerful Russian will emerge victorious and the Englishman will know that he should never have strayed that far from the friendly confines of home. Look for it to end by KO in the 4th or 5th.
Steve Cummings - Kostya Tszyu just has too much power and big-fight experience to go against in this matchup. Tszyu's age, injuries and inactivity are all on the minus side for him, but nothing on Hatton's resume jumps out at me to the point where I can say Tszyu's ripe for the picking at this time. Kostya Tszyu by knockout, probably early and definitely spectacular.
Jim Amato - Kostya Tszyu is a smart guy, he knows he only has a few more years left in the sport. I'm not saying he's taking Ricky Hatton lightly but I'm sure he sees the big picture beyond this fight.
I'm assuming that Tszyu probably feels the Floyd Mayweather Jr. will defeat Arturo Gatti in their upcoming fight. If Kostya and Floyd both win, the stage is set for a mega-buck showdown. Hatton is good fighter, I just think that Kostya is better. Kostya by KO in the eighth round.
James Blears - Every time I want to access this fight, my mind re-plays Tony Sibson being savaged by Marvin Hagler in six painful rounds, all those years ago. Tony too was a decent puncher, who was an aggressive come forward fighter. But he hadn’t faced the absolute best until he collided with Marvin and came off second…or even third best.
But there are also important differences. Ricky is much better prepared, and a nutritionist has paired down his weight. He’s fighting in front of an adoring 20,000 strong Manchester crowd. I hope they all behave themselves afterwards.
Realistically, Ricky’s busy, high tempo best foot, best fist forward style will play right into Kostya Tszyu’s hands…or rather, potent right hand. Kostya has disposed of recent opponents ruthlessly, and very quickly. Fewer rounds means less wear and tear, and the fight won’t last long enough for age to be a deciding factor.
Ricky’s going to feel the power of that big right hand early on. It could well put him down, and also cut him. Then it’ll be time to dig deep. Kostya in seven or less via KO.
Andy Rivera - I give Ricky Hatton credit for going against his management’s decision in order to take on the best at 140. Although I give Hatton a chance because of his aggressive style, but I think Tszyu is too big a puncher and his power shots will get to Hatton. The crowd will juice up Hatton and he may take chances that could cost him. Hatton will have his moments, but that is until Tszyu connects in the middle rounds. Tszyu wants only big fights, after this fight he can look forward to the Mayweathers, De La Hoyas and Judahs of the world. My prediction is Tszyu by TKO.
Dave Selwyn - I think Tszyu is the strongest 140lb fighter on the planet. He was very impressive in his comeback victory over Mitchell. I do not think Hatton will be able to hurt Tszyu and Tszyu will KO Hatton at some point. It will be only a matter of which round. Tszyu by KO, you can bet on it.
Dave Wilcox - I don't think this fight will be as competitive as some hope. Hatton is stepping up the competition and will face a fighter like he has never seen in Tszyu. Ricky will come out strong firing shots. Tszyu will lay back and pot shot Hatton. I see Tszyu's power being the decider here. Tszyu by early knockout within 5 rounds.
Tom Donelson - Conventional wisdom has Kostya Tzzyu beating Ricky Hatton. And Conventional Wisdom has much going in it's favor. Tszyu is one of the hardest punchers pound for pound and Hatton will be sitting in harm's way of Tszyu's right hand. Hatton cuts and Tszyu's punches are sledgehammers that can open up a thin-skinned boxer. Hatton has not fought a fighter in Tszyu’s class nor in an event of this magnitude.
So why do I pick Hatton to pull off the upset of the year? Tszyu is the better fighter but Tszyu is a 35 years old fighter, who only fought 9 rounds in the last three years. He has not been in a war or in a fight that has gone the distance since he fought Ben Tackie three years ago. If Tszyu had not suffered his injuries or taken nearly two years off, Tszyu would be my favorite.
If Hatton survives the early rounds, then this fight becomes trench warfare and Hatton likes to fight in the trenches. The key to this fight is whether Tszyu stops Hatton early. Hatton has been the more active fighter and he is the kind of fighter that Tszyu has not fought- a swarmer who does not get discouraged. Hatton will not give Tszyu much breathing space. Hatton can stay inside Tszyu's power and Tszyu will not be able to extend his arm to punch.
There are those who state that Tszyu is bothered by the boxer but in his last two bouts against excellent boxers, Mitchell and Judah- he stopped them within three rounds. Tackie was Tszyu last tough fight and while Tszyu beat Tackie, so did Hatton. Hatton showed against Tackie that he could survive a war. Hatton wins a decision in his backyard (the fight being in England is another reason for the upset.) June 4th, the junior welterweight division will be turned upside down.
Robert Padilla - Ricky Hatton vs. Kosta Tszyu is probably the best fight of this year and we have had some great fights already. European fighter with a Mexican style of boxing will make for a great fight, as Hatton will have to apply the most pressure he has ever applied to any fighter in his past. The Zoo, as I call Tszyu, will be meeting a younger version of Ceasar Chavez and if Hatton can take the power of the mighty Zoo then the war is on, but if Hatton can not take the mighty Zoo's power, then it will be an early night for Hatton. If Hatton can take as good as he can give, then Hatton has a chance for a decision. The real factor is if Hatton can handle Zoo's power, a power he has never met before. Zoo by knockout.
Rusty Rubin - Tszyu by TKO midway or late in the fight. Hatton cuts, and Tszyu has the type of punch that can cut anyone.
Eric Rineer - I like the underdog, Ricky Hatton. It's going to be in Britain and the place is going to be crazy. I know that Kostya always wins the big fights, but he's got to fall eventually. Sharmba went in three so this is killing me to pick against him. But Ricky is determined inside to win. He's a very busy fighter and he's going to fight his heart out. He's going to stop Kostya in the 10th round, but not without taking a beating himself.
Dave Sauvage - Hatton is made to order for Tszyu. Hatton doesnt possess the greatest chin and he's willing to put it right out in front of you. More to the point, Hatton is taking three steps up in class, all in the same night. Easy call: Tszyu by KO in 6 (or less).
Christopher P. Cook - Tszyu will take the fight, TKO by round 5. Hatton’s face will not be able to withstand Tszyu’s power. "The Hitman" has shown several weak points in his bouts against lesser competition, if he had them with lesser; just imagine what a pound-for-pound top five fighter like Tszyu can do to him. I have tried to find some weakness in Tszyu that would be able to give Hatton a solid chance but I cannot come up with any.
Sammy Rozenberg - Tszyu by KO within 6 rounds. Hatton has never faced a fighter on Tszyu's level, too much of a step up in class.
Lucian Parfitt - I expect Hatton to use essentially the same gameplan as he did verses Ben Tackie. Hatton will give Tszyu more movement and angles. This style will cause Tszyu problems and I expect Hatton to be ahead in the early going. However with Tszyu it only takes one right right hand. I expect Hatton to get caught by something big at the midway point and go into survival mode until Tszyu puts him to bed, late.
Rick Reeno - Rick Reeno - Hatton has the heart, the skill and the determination of a winner. The problem for Hatton is that his style of fighting is tailor made for Tszyu. Hatton gets hit way too often in his fights and Tszyu hits too hard. Unlike his fights with Tackie and Phillips, Hatton will not be able to stand and take flush shots from Kostya Tszyu without getting seriously hurt. Hatton only knows one way to fight, come forward and slug. Look for Hatton take the fight to Tszyu from the start of the first round. Tszyu will pick his spots and should stop Hatton midway through the fight. Tszyu by TKO within 6.
Johnny Ortiz - I am of course, picking Kostya to win. It may or not be a walk in the park; Ricky is prepared to go out on his shield. He thinks the pace of the fight will have a lot to do with the outcome. Ricky believes that because Kostya has ended a lot of his fights inside four rounds and hasn’t engaged in that many bouts in the last four years, mostly due to injuries that caused long layoffs, it could come back to haunt Kostya. He was stripped of his WBC/WBA belts due to inactivity. Ricky is fully aware of Kostya’s thunderbolt right hand, but figures if he can hang with Kostya for at least four or five rounds, the pace of the fight will swing in his favor. I believe that Sharmba Mitchell thought along the same lines. Ricky may be forgetting that Kostya Tszyu is well known in boxing circles for his unbelievable training methods; he seems to get stronger as the fight goes on. That, and the fact that he is one of the most intelligent fighters in the ring today, Ricky had better not put to much stock in the fight swinging his way unless Kostya has a complete breakdown. The latter is not very likely to happen, if Ricky is to win, he will have to do it on his own merits. I cannot, and will not, pick against an all time great. If he were to lose, it would come as a shock, until that time, Kostya is my guy!
T.K. Stewart - I think this is one of the top two or three match-ups that could have been made in boxing today. With the standing room only crowd at the MEN Arena, it really should be an electrifying experience, particularly for the fighters.
I've been back and forth on my pick on this one for a while now. There are three things about Kostya Tszyu that bother me. Tszyu has been relatively inactive due to injuries over the course of the past few years and his age may also come into play as he is nearing 36 years old. I also still see the same hole in his defense that Vince Phillips exposed in 1997, he is painfully easy to hit with overhand rights.
I have some worries with Ricky Hatton as well. Number one is his chin,
Hatton has never really faced a puncher as dangerous as Tszyu. While the knockdown he suffered in the first round against Eamonn Magee may have been an aberration, we still really don't know the true quality of Ricky's chin because the quality of his opposition has not been top flight. The other thing about Hatton that concerns me and could become a factor is cuts. No question that Hatton's facial skin is thin , but the Brits are less likely to stop the fight at the sight of blood than if the fight was staged in America so maybe it won't become a factor.
At the end of the day I think Tszyu is the better overall fighter with more refined skills, greater experience and a little more to offer. The only way I think Tszyu can be beaten is to be overwhelmed and I just don't think Hatton has the muster to do that. Hatton's fight is going to be on the inside, but Tszyu is a master there as well and he will be physically stronger than Hatton. I see a sloppy, clinching, wild fight early on and maybe a clash of heads. But by the 11th or 12th round, Tszyu's more precise and heavier punches will begin to take a toll on Hatton. I like Tszyu by stoppage after the tenth.