By Sammy Rozenberg
The Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas was transformed into Manchester, England as thousands of English boxing fans made the trip to support Ricky "Hitman" Hatton (43-0, 31 KOs) as he knocked out two-time lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo (55-8-1, 47 KOs) in the fourth round.
Castillo had the appearance of a shot fighter from the start. He was slower, getting hit often and missing most of his counters. Hatton was much quicker with his punches and pushed Castillo back with solid combinations. He used his strategy of landing punches and clinching before Castillo could ever get a chance to counter. Hatton's hand speed advantage was just too much for Castillo.
In the fourth round, referee Joe Cortez deducted a point from Castillo for low blows. Moments later, a left hook to the liver sent Castillo down. He took the full count, showing no urgency to get to his feet and the crowd filled with Hatton fans were in shock. Castillo, regarded as a deadly body puncher, was crippled by his own poison.
Castillo needs to rethink his boxing future, because of his last two performances indicate a significant decline in his physical skills. It's the smart thing to do for Castillo's health, but don't expect him to retire. The financial problems that are hovering over his head will force him to continue fighting.
In four rounds of action, Hatton landed 76 of his 201 thrown punches and Castillo was only able to land 47 of 151.
Last weekend at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Connecticut, Paulie Malignaggi captured the IBF's version of the junior welterweight title by dominating Lovemore N'dou for twelve rounds. The win put his name on the list of likely fighters to face the winner of Hatton vs. Castillo.
Following the win over N'dou, Malignaggi predicted that Castillo would perform like a shot fighter and Hatton was fighting the easier opponent of the two.
"I want to fight Ricky Hatton. He has the easier opponent in Las Vegas. I beat the tougher guy tonight," Malignaggi said.
The win over N'dou broke the aura of defeat from Malignaggi, who was looking to break away from image of simply being a fighter who took a vicious beating from Miguel Cotto in 2006. In losing that fight, he put his name on the map because of his ability to go the distance while winning some rounds along the way and taking the best punches Cotto had to offer.
Malignaggi is far from a heavy hitter, as evident by the 5 knockouts on his record, but he does hit hard enough to keep his opponents from rushing him. He takes a very good punch. There are very few fighters at 140-pounds with the ability to crack his chin.
Speed is Malignaggi's bread and butter. Hatton is also quick, but has problems with quicker fighters. A lack of speed gave Hatton fits when he decisioned Luis Collazo for the WBA welterweight title. Following the Collazo win, Hatton admitted that he was too small to compete at 147-pounds. He moved back down to 140, but announced that he’s willing to move back up to welter if a fight with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. can be made. Malignaggi is very similar to Mayweather, in terms of speed and ring generalship.
Unless Hatton wants to make a move to the welterweight division and face fighters who are much bigger than him, he needs to fight an opponent with some name value in his own weight class. At the moment, Malignaggi appears to be the only name out there. WBC titleholder, Junior Witter, who’s been calling Hatton out for years, is another option if Hatton plans to fight again in England. The fight is not worth anything in America.
He could try to lure a name fighter to move up from lightweight. It probably won’t happen without a lot of dollar signs involved and there is really no reason for that. Malignaggi is standing right in front of him and owns the very same title that Hatton won from Juan Urango in January. Hatton never lost the title in the ring. He was stripped after refusing to defend the title against the N’dou, the mandatory challenger, in favor of fighting Castillo for a much bigger payday.
On the undercard,
Matthew Hatton (31-3-1, 12KOs), younger brother of Ricky, won a twelve round decision over Edwin Vazquez (22-10-2, 8KOs). Hatton was knocked down in the eleventh round. The scores were 115-113, 117-111 and 115-112.
In a battle of super middleweights, Fulgencio Zuniga (19-2-1, 16 KOs) won a ten round decision over veteran Atwun Echols (31-7-3, 27 KOs). Echols was knocked down in the seventh round. The scores were 97-90, 97-89 and 98-88.