For those of us who call ourselves boxing fans, last night was a real treat; the culmination of a year that saw three fights between boxers sporting unbeaten records, and this one was every bit as good as the first two. And, as always, it leaves at least a couple juicy questions and points to ponder.
Turns out I was wrong on my prediction of Ricky Hatton defeating Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas. With a left hook reminiscent of Jones-Tarver II, Mayweather knocked the challenger from Manchester to the canvas in the 10th round (with a little help from the corner post...which I thought only happened in WWE). Hatton got up, but Floyd used a few precision shots to cause referee Joe Cortez to finally stop it. Sadly, the media coverage of the event is, to say the least, extremely one-sided.
As a former reporter, I was amazed to see just how much bias there was toward what Mayweather did in the fight versus Hatton. To read the story makes it sound like the fight was no contest, and Tim Dahlberg's column on SI.com made it sound even worse. To watch it, now that was a different story.
To put it simply, Floyd Mayweather has never been hit like he was last night. A Hatton left nearly sent him to the canvas in the first round, and Hatton was able to press the action and break through Mayweather's vaunted defensive shell several times in the first 6-7 rounds. Even when Mayweather upped his punch count later in the fight, Hatton still made his shots count, snapping Floyd's head back on several occasions and making him very uncomfortable. Sadly, even the judges didn't seem to recognize this, as they had Floyd way out ahead 89-81, 89-81 and 88-82.
I think it was also telling that Mayweather did a very low-key entrance before the fight and offered nothing but praise for Hatton after, as opposed to the arrogance we're so used to seeing from him. Even he seemed to know he'd been in a war.
So where do these two go next? Mayweather says he'll sit out two years, but at 39-0 it would be nice for him to get one more fight against a top-flight champion. I wrote in a blog a couple months ago that I thought Floyd needed wins over Hatton and either Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito or Shane Mosley to firmly stake his place as one of the great fighters of all time. And as much as I like young Andre Berto and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., they simply are not ready yet. But if Floyd beats one of the three, he'll have it.
Hatton, on the other hand, seems to be leaning towards dropping back down to 140 pounds, which is probably a good thing, given the size difference with Floyd, and considering that Floyd is a small welterweight. There was talk of a fight with De La Hoya, but considering he made Floyd look small I just don't see it happening. Hatton, who is still the Ring 140-pound champ, should have plenty of interesting fights out there, including Junior Witter, Paulie Malignaggi, Demetrius Hopkins, Vivian Harris, Gavin Rees, and Ricardo Torres. All except Hopkins and Harris are titleholders, and Witter would make it interesting given that he's also a Brit and has been calling out Hatton all year long.
Should make for an interesting 2008.