Category Archives: History

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June 11, 2018
June 11, 2018
mike tyson

Action Images/Reuters/Gary Hershorn

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I IDOLISED him [Mike Tyson] and Muhammad Ali since the age of nine. That was one of the best nights of my life because not only did I beat Tyson, I also met Ali on the same night.

His daughter [Laila] fought on the card and after I’d won, she said Ali wanted to talk to me. He whispered in my ear, “You’re the latest, I’m the greatest.”

But Tyson, even though he wasn’t training like he used to, he still hit very hard. But I beat Tyson with tactics, by using my strength and weight and leaning on him and pushing him around.

I can still feel the shots today. I was very bruised after that fight. But I was on a mission to win and thank God I did win. It showed that the underdog can win. That’s the beauty of boxing. And he quit on his stool, against Kevin McBride – who would ever have believed it? Twenty years from now I’ll still be talking about it. I made a little bit of history and I’ll take that win with me to my grave.

Mike Tyson

I wasn’t afraid of anyone. What’s the worst that can happen? You get put to sleep. I never had fear, I believed I’d win. I’d dreamt of this moment since I was a kid; I’d always said I’d love to fight Mike Tyson. And like I said at the time, I might be slow, but if I land on you, I have heavy hands. I spoke to Tyson in the sixth round. I said, ‘Is that all you’ve got?’

I told him he was in trouble. But then he tried to bite my nipple off. I pulled back and his mouthpiece slipped off my nipple. Thank God he had the mouthpiece in, or I’d be the only guy in Ireland with just one nipple.

I think I’d have definitely knocked him out [if he had not retired on his stool]. His energy was really sapping. But Tyson quit instead. But even at the very end, he was hitting very hard. Also, I must give credit to Goody Petronelli, he gave me great help in the corner – the great trainer of the great Marvin Hagler.

Kevin McBride was speaking to James Slater


June 7, 2018
June 7, 2018
Miguel Cotto

Chris Farina/Top Rank

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REINVENTION of 33-year-old prizefighters is akin to the clock spinning in the wrong direction. Habits have been formed and the programming has been complete. Or so we’d think. Sometimes, however, the greats have one last hurrah, a memory-jog of what they once were and a farewell to the fans.

Only rarely do they adapt to the use of new knowledge, fresh impetus, aching joints and the need to find challenging goals once money, fame and respect are prevailing motivators.

Screamed to the ring by a huge Puerto Rican contingent in the hallowed arena of Madison Square Garden, Miguel Cotto reinvented himself with a dominating 10-round victory over a shellshocked Sergio Martinez, becoming the first ever four-weight world champion from the boxing-obsessed island on June 7, 2014.

The former light-welter, welter, light-middle and now WBC and lineal middleweight champion of the world was the coolest head in a volcanic bear-pit. The passionate Argentine pockets of Martinez fans were loud, the Miguel Cotto army was deafening. They were allowed to reach a raucous fever pitch unchallenged when their idol made his gladiatorial ring entrance. Once his familiar anthem of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army was dimmed, Cotto – without music – strode to the ring and waited for the champion.

It was a sign of intent that there was only one item on the agenda: the fight.

The electrified crowd could hardly wait, refusing to sit through the introductions as the anticipation heightened.
Martinez (11st 4 3/4lbs) arrived to fanfare but shortly after the first bell had a heatseeking missile on his tail.

Cotto’s hands seemed faster. Perhaps it was the weight (he’d come in at 11st 1lb, only a pound over the light-middleweight limit of 11st – the match had been made at 11st 5lbs). Maybe credit goes to the training he had done with trainer Freddie Roach. Whatever, he had almost instant success with his straight right and left hooks, to the body and up top.
Before long Martinez was being rocked by heavy hooks and his initial descent sparked a shuddering roar that sent tremors through The Garden.

Miguel Cotto

It was a mix of disbelief, awe and pride. The passion in the audience was palpable and the final left hook that sent Martinez sprawling was one he ultimately could not recover from. He was down twice more in a round that set the tone for the rest of the night.

The usually graceful Martinez looked cumbersome. Maybe he’s not the same fighter who began to dominate at middleweight a couple of years ago. Maybe, as Sergio insisted, Cotto deserved all of the credit.

Round after round Martinez swam against the tide. Heart kept him in there, balls kept him battling back. But he was hurt often, Cotto’s rasping left to the body was a thorn in his side and he could not get out of the way of Miguel’s right or left hook.
By round three Martinez desperately needed a foothold but Cotto, like a shark in shallow waters, was gliding patiently, taking lumps out of him with fast shots and moving out of range. That caused Martinez to fall short with his counters and he was picked off from distance, too. Everything was going wrong.

He was finally more elusive for a while in the third, but Cotto was ruthless. He would take a small step, and then plough in behind his jab. As Martinez tried to circle, Miguel seemed able to cut the ring off at will.

Finally there were some loud “Mar-ti-nez” chants from the 21,090 in attendance, in round four. Perhaps the fans sympathised, or maybe they wanted the fight so many expected, hoping the Argentine could turn a one-way beatdown into a two-way war.

He tried to circumnavigate the ring but was constantly harried. Cotto picked some peachy uppercuts through the middle rounds, hurtful, bulldozer-type shots that saw Martinez’s film-star looks begin to crumple and swell.

Three painful looking blows, a right to the body, one to the head and then a thudding jab, drew a pained expression from Martinez’s face in round six.

Cotto was bouncing up and down in the eighth, looking spritely and making the champion miss with atypical swings by some distance. Sergio complained about a shot that landed high on the head although it didn’t merit action from referee Michael Griffin and none was taken.

By the ninth Martinez needed either a knockout or several knockdowns to win, worrying considering he’d not put a dent in the challenger all night.

Then Cotto’s ramrod jab resulted in a knockdown. Martinez questioned it, clearly disappointed, and when he trudged back to his corner, after a nine-round whipping and four knockdowns, trainer Pablo Sarmiento did the decent thing.

Martinez’s withdrawal came six seconds into round 10.

Judges Guido Cavalleri, Max DeLuca and Tom Schrek all had Cotto ahad 90-77. In other words, Martinez had not won a round and needed a knockout to win. What he did not need was to be assaulted for a further three rounds for the sake of hearing the final bell.

Cotto, 39-4 (31), said the resounding win was the highlight of his career.

“I had only one thing in mind when I left home, that was to win the championship,” he said. “We came here knowing we were going to face a great champion, we knew we had to get ready for him and they told me what to do and I followed the strategy. I got him good in the first round so I was confident.”

From reinvention to reclamation; Martinez was making no promises about his future.

He’d said before he would retire if he lost but the 39-year-old had not just lost. He had been crushed.

The deposed champion would not want to go out that way but, if he does, he moves on with the highest payday of his own hard and arduous career. The loudest voice telling him to call it quits might belong to his battle-weary and fragile body.

He had not boxed since Martin Murray pushed him to the absolute limit in Argentina in April 2013 and he’s had further surgery on his troublesome right knee.

Some said they heard Martinez, 51-3-2 (28), asking for his knees to be iced in between rounds though it later turned out he’d been asking it to be put on his neck.

Maybe that was to bring him out of that knockdown-induced stupor because the media was later told that he’d felt dizzy from there on. It’s why he missed the post-fight press conference and went to hospital.

Miguel Cotto

“I got caught and I never recovered after that,” he stated in the ring immediately afterwards.

Sarmiento said Martinez wanted to fight on but he wouldn’t allow it.

“More than being a fighter, he is a brother and a friend and I took that decision myself,” he explained. “He never got back after that first round and I did what I had to do. Cotto was better than Sergio tonight, there’s nothing else to say.”

The implication was that Martinez’s body had finally crumbled, beginning with his chin in the first round and maybe his knees subsequently.

Martinez has long been a master of the unpredictable with his unconventional southpaw attacks, but here he seemed to move only to his right or in and out. If Cotto senses a weakness it’s ‘game over’ and at no stage did it look anything other than a battle for survival for Martinez.

Cotto’s accomplishments mean he can stake a real claim to being the best fighter from his country. He wouldn’t be drawn on where he stands and said his immediate plans included a rest.

“I want to rest and to enjoy my family but whatever Freddie wants me to do I will do,” he said.

Before the fight we wondered if Cotto could be as good as he had been before. A career-best win now has aroused curiosity over whether the best is still to come.

June 6, 2018
June 6, 2018
Tommy Hearns

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THOMAS HEARNS had the fight won; all he had to do was stick and move and be content to further batter his rival’s ruined face and await the timely intervention of the referee. Instead, The Upset Of The Decade unfolded.

It was three full decades ago today when the legendary “Hitman,” fresh off his history-making four-division coronation – belts won at 147, 154, 160 and 175 – signed to make the first defence of his recently acquired WBC middleweight crown against Iran Barkley.

Stung by the claims that has chin was a suspect one, one that had been close to being dented in his middleweight title fight win by Juan Domingo Roldan (interestingly Hearns would later say that was the single hardest puncher he ever faced), Tommy came out determined to stick it to “The Blade” from The Bronx. A more cautious approach would have served Hearns far better.

Barkley, who had come up short in an earlier shot at 160 pound glory, the classy Sumbu Kalambay knowing too much for him over 15 rounds in Italy, was known as a gutsy operator, a hard puncher, but he was a big underdog against Hearns. And for two-and-half rounds the spectators in Las Vegas could easily see why.

Tommy Hearns

Hearns, looking sleek, sharp and dangerous, hit his challenger with everything – left jabs that landed smack in the face, hard right hands, lefts to head and body. Soon Barkley was a bloody mess, his face in real danger of doing something has heart would never do and let him down; the fight so close to being stopped.

Then it happened.

Making the mistake of staying just close enough for his wounded but still upright – and therefore still dangerous – prey, Hearns was made to pay the price. Barkley, firing on blind instinct, unleashed a shot from hell (later the landed shot, and it’s devastating effect, was referred to as the boxing equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle ) and Hearns went down, his long body recoiling in what almost looked like slow motion.

Although Hearns – arguably the fighter of the past 30 years with the most staggeringly enormous heart and raw courage – somehow tried to get up and fight on, this one was over. Barkley’s career had been thrown one big lifeline (one Barkley grabbed with both hands, his right hand in particular).

Instead, and quite astonishingly, both men would fight on, at elite level, for years to come – with both having the chance to go to war for a second time – and both greats would capture more world titles. But on the night of June 6 none of that was even a notion.  Hearns was finished and the ultra-hittable Barkley’s reign would surely be short-lived.

Hearns, mere seconds away from a TKO win, was the victim in one of the most shocking come from behind wins in boxing history. Barkley, who lost around four or five fights’ worth of blood, pulled off the single biggest win of his hugely thrilling roller coaster career.

June 5, 2018
June 5, 2018
miguel cotto

Action Images/Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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BACK in 1925, heavyweight contender Gene Tunney – handsome in both looks and boxing skills – was chasing a shot at formidable king, Jack Dempsey. On June 5 1925 he was matched with ageing but dangerous  Tommy Gibbons, who was enjoying an unbeaten streak since losing a 15-round decision to Dempsey two years before. This proved to be a heck of a test for Tunney as he was dazed by his hard-punching rival in the eighth before knocking him out in the 12th. Press play on the clip below, crack open a can of cool lager, and wash it down with the magic of one of boxing’s finest ever technicians.

BY 1952 the heavyweights were trying to come to terms with the end of the Joe Louis era, and unknowingly preparing for the arrival of Rocky Marciano. Sandwiched between those reigns was the rivalry between Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles. Two gifted fighters who deserve their place among the finest of all-time clashed for a fourth time on this day in 1952, with Charles leading by two fights to one. But Jersey Joe, who had caused a shock by knocking out Charles last time, by edging the decision to level the series.

MOVING on to this day in 1956, and a vintage performance from the greatest light-heavyweight of all-time, Archie Moore. The Mississippi fighter had been flirting with the heavyweight division – losing to the aforementioned Marciano – by the time he took a trip to London to take on tough Trinidad and Tobago star, Yolande Pompey. Behind on points after eight, “The Ol’ Mongoose” then decided it was time to beat Pompey up.

FAST forward to the end of the century, and this day in 1999. By then there was a new breed of legend, one who many fans – both old and young – were calling the greatest light-heavyweight of all-time. He went by the name of Roy Jones Jnr and on June 5, he went in against Reggie Johnson. It might be time to reach for another cold one. Enjoy.

WHICH brings us to the 21st century, and one of the current era’s most accomplished and impressive boxers. Step forward Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto, who on June 5 2010, was trying to prove he was not finished after gruelling losses to Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito. Standing in his way was WBC light-middleweight champion, Yuri Foreman.

June 5, 2018
June 5, 2018
oscar de la hoya

Action Images/Reuters/Steve Marcus

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THE Oscar De La Hoya vs Bernard Hopkins superfight express was very nearly derailed on this day (June 5) in 2004 when the ‘Golden Boy’ was forced to dig deep to eke out a razor-thin decision over the unheralded Felix Sturm at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Never had a winner looked and sounded more like a loser. That was De La Hoya after relieving Sturm of the WBO middleweight crown and paving the way for the unification with the division’s real champion in Hopkins.

WBC, WBA and IBF boss Hopkins saw off old rival Robbie Allen earlier on the same show to set up the megafight in Vegas on September 18 that year.

Both Bernard and Oscar won unanimously over 12 rounds but while the former did as he pleased, the latter struggled to impose himself on a young and spirited champion.

It was De La Hoya’s first fight at middleweight (he began his career at super-feather), he did enough to win all right but never looked comfortable against an opponent whose surprisingly strong performance must be measured against the low expectations for him.

Oscar De La Hoya

With the victory, De La Hoya became a six-weight world champion.

“It was a tough fight,” conceded a bruised Oscar. “I underestimated him, but then 160 is a great division.

“There are no excuses. Sturm came to fight, like everyone who fights me”.

Opinion was divided among the experts: Roy Jones thought it was close but thought Sturm had done enough, NY Daily News‘ Tim Smith had it level (114-114) and Ron Borges (Boston Globe) scored it 116-112 for the ‘Golden Boy’.

Boxing News had Oscar up 115-113 and we noted that Hopkins would be a different matter altogether…

June 4, 2018
June 4, 2018
ricky hatton

Action Images/Reuters/Darren Staples

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TO beat Kostya Tszyu is a momentous achievement in itself. To make the great Australian quit – at the end of the 11th – as Ricky Hatton did before 22,000 loud, passionate and rapturous supporters at the MEN Arena in the early hours of the morning, defied belief unless you were there to see it.

Although it was in no way a match as physically depleting as when Muhammad Ali strained the last ounce of energy from Joe Frazier in the Thriller in Manila back in 1975, the finish had more than a hint of similarity about it.

Tszyu, like Frazier that day in the Philippines, had reached the end of his resources with just a round to go. And his trainer, Johnny Lewis, like Eddie Futch with Frazier after 14 sweltering rounds, bailed him out, thinking more about the boxer’s well-being than the result.

There was not the mildest objection from Tszyu. Irrepressible Hatton had flogged him to the point Kostya, a 35-year-old father of three, could withstand no more suffering. He wanted the torture to end, even with only three minutes to go and, in these days of erratic scoring, the possibility he was actually winning (he wasn’t – Hatton led 107-102, 106-103 and 105-104).

ricky hatton

But Tszyu, a proud and vastly accomplished title-holder, had reached breaking point. He’d taken his fill. He admitted to Al Bernstein of Showtime afterwards that he felt he was losing and simply didn’t have it in him to win in the last.

So Hatton is the new champion. Officially, he is the IBF champion. But really he is now the undisputed king.

How that works is simple: Tszyu once held all the belts, was stripped by the WBA and promoted to a sort of ‘Super Champion’ by the WBC. He never lost his belts in the ring.

It was a victory of World Cup proportions and not just because the Manchester faithful, singing as though they were in the football stands, offered their man, a City fan, some priceless encouragement.

It was a British success that will go down in sporting folklore like the 1966 win over the Germans at Wembley Stadium, Kelly Holmes winning two golds in Athens, Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent’s Olympic rowing feats, Virginia Wade winning Wimbledon and many more I could mention.

In fact, Hatton’s immediate celebrations reminded me of Pat Cash’s spontaneous reaction many years ago at Wimbledon when after winning the men’s singles he climbed into the crowd to hug his nearest and dearest.

As soon as a tearful Hatton had picked himself off the floor – once over the initial shock of victory – Ricky climbed between the ropes and down to ringside to share in his joy with his parents and brother, Matthew.

Hatton is such a personable man that you felt at one point even Tszyu, remarkably gracious in defeat, was going to join in the party.

Not quite. But the display of exemplary sportsmanship between the pair brought to an end a sharp chorus of “You’re not singing anymore” accompanied by finger-pointing from the masses directed towards a small group of Aussie fans in yellow jerseys camped in the (relatively) cheap seats.

Hatton grabbed the microphone to thank his legions, telling them they deserved the success as much as he did, and then Tszyu, with one arm over the shoulder of his conqueror, said a few words.

Humbled, Tszyu replied: “I lost to the better fighter. I don’t feel ashamed to say that today Ricky was better than me in every way.” Everyone applauded.

Indeed, Hatton was, living up to the bold claims of trainer Billy Graham years ago that Ricky would one day become one of the greatest fighters Britain has ever produced.

Graham refined that statement slightly in the aftermath, now saying Hatton, unbeaten with 39 consecutive wins, could go on to become the finest.

There is a difference between the best and most successful and given Lennox Lewis’ accomplishments Hatton will have his work cut out on both fronts.

But with a return to terrestrial television for promoter Frank Warren imminent, Hatton could easily become one of the nation’s best-loved sporting icons, equal in stature and popularity to Frank Bruno, who was ringside, and Henry Cooper.

Hatton defending his world title on ITV could give the sport in Britain the same propulsion of publicity as Barry McGuigan’s victory over Eusebio Pedroza 20 years ago.

ricky hatton

There is something so cheerfully transparent about Hatton that you cannot help but like him.

While Warren deflected any speculation about what the boxing future might hold for the new champion, preferring to save that for a later day when Hatton has had a chance to fully absorb the magnitude of his achievement, Ricky humoured the press.

One of the Australian journalists quizzed him about a low blow (left hook) which dropped Tszyu in the ninth and looked like a fairly deliberate retaliation to a similar, though not quite as southward bound shot from Kostya in the seventh.

“Look, it’s not a tickling contest,” he said.

“Do you think it affected the outcome?” asked the journalist.

“I hope so,” came Hatton’s quick response.

Hatton was in there to win, almost at any cost, and the way he strode to the ring, utterly focused like I had never seen him before and to a thunderous roar, merely reinforced that Ricky was brilliantly prepared.

The previous day Hatton had scaled 9st 13 3/4lbs at the first attempt while Tszyu had to make two trips, shifting an excess 3oz to come in at 10st.

Tszyu looked drawn at the weigh-in, but healthier by the time he rather tentatively vaulted the top rope in traditional fashion.

Cocooned in thought, Tszyu was bombarded by boos. He punched his fist into the air before the anthems were played and the boxers got stripped down to their boots and shorts, ready for business with the time at gone 2am.

Hatton expected the early rounds to be riddled with danger. His objective was to set a whirlwind pace, not get careless and deplete the champion’s strength for the later rounds, when Hatton planned to rally even more forcefully.

“The first four or five rounds, he was always going to be at his sharpest,” said Hatton. “Giving ground wasn’t the right thing to do because Kostya’s power is at the end of his punches.”

We all wondered how Hatton would cope if he got nailed squarely by Tszyu’s best punch and how, without getting tagged, he would get close enough to snuggle on Kostya’s chest – from where he could launch his body attacks.

Hatton answered those questions and many more. He was never seriously shaken. Tszyu hit him often enough with hard rights and left hooks, but Hatton walked through them.

Asked afterwards about Tszyu’s power, Hatton politely refrained from saying the Aussie’s blows were not quite as formidable as had been touted. Instead, he referred to when Vince Phillips had disturbed him with a hefty right, as if to say that was a far more memorable crisis point.

From the opening bell Tszyu was obviously flustered by the challenger’s menacing rhythm.

The challenger forged an early lead, but Tszyu seemed to find his timing and judgement of distance much better between rounds three and seven, when it seemed he was taking over. But then Hatton went into overdrive from the eighth and Tszyu simply couldn’t stay or cope with him.

Ironically, we had asked just who had Hatton faced previously to adequately prepare himself for such an outstanding champion, but it was Tszyu who suffered for never having encountered a man with Ricky’s extraordinary surges of energy and determination.

It wasn’t a classic by any means, but absorbing nonetheless. The flow of the contest was constantly interrupted by repeated clinching of which both were guilty.

That’s not unusual in a fight between two punchers who have great respect for one another. Tszyu discovered almost immediately he couldn’t easily contain Hatton. He grabbed often, usually by putting one of Ricky’s arms out of action, or ducked low to come under the challenger’s punches.

Hatton’s right uppercut on the inside was superb. He was also so quick on his feet and that enabled him to move swiftly past Kostya’s radar. Early on, especially during the first two rounds, Hatton’s speed and body attacks were blistering.

But Tszyu tucked his right elbow lower thereafter, making it much harder for Hatton to get home his pet punch, the left hook downstairs.

Tszyu did look an old man at times, however, but that’s not to discredit Hatton. Ricky was like Buster Douglas the night the Columbus, Ohio heavyweight shocked the world to slay Mike Tyson and one hopes – for the sake of British boxing – his reign lasts much longer.

But you can only do what your opponent permits and Hatton didn’t give Tszyu an inch. He set a torrid pace and Tszyu’s punches had lost all potency by the end.

ricky hatton

It was a masterful display by Hatton, but not in the graceful sense. This was simply an exhibition of a man doing through sheer determination and effort whatever was required to achieve his goal. Ricky will surely take some beating if he can maintain this type of form and appetite.

Warren said: “[Miguel] Cotto, [Arturo] Gatti…bring them on. Hatton is now the man to beat. He beat the man.”

It is going to take a lot of money to prise Hatton from Manchester. More than ever, Hatton is going to need the backing of his followers. If the likes of Cotto and Floyd Mayweather want Hatton to come to Las Vegas or New York, they are going to have to pay top dollar.

Hatton will most likely make a few relatively comfortable defences before taking on anyone of Cotto or Mayweather’s stature and the trouble now could be finding a suitable venue to cater for the inevitable rush for tickets.

Diego Corrales, the tall world lightweight champ at ringside to challenge the winner, certainly remains a more immediate possibility than either Cotto or Mayweather. That would be a fantastic match and one I think the brave, tough American would have his work cut out to win. Already the rumour mill is suggesting Hatton could defend against Corrales later this year in New York.

The list of possibilities is almost endless and if his rivals are not fearful of Ricky’s threshing style and boundless stamina, they might be a little perturbed at the thought of him insisting he has only just reached his peak.

No one could argue with that after the way he fought with such vigour, passion and tenacity. Hatton made the perfect start. He ruffled the champion, who was troubled by Ricky’s aggression and wrestled sufficiently on the inside to cause English referee Dave Parris to stop the action and ask that the boxers keep the action more orderly.

In the second Tszyu continued to look confused. When he tried again to clasp the challenger’s arm, Hatton just spun away to the side and then backed the champion to the ropes. In close, Tszyu couldn’t find the space to put force into his right. Hatton produced the more telling work. The crowd cheered as a crunching left hook struck the ribs and then a right uppercut found Kostya’s jaw.

At the end of the round the audience burst into a chorus of “Easy, easy…” But Hatton didn’t allow the dream start to go to his head, even though from the third Tszyu began to claw his way back and looked almost a different man.

The Aussie started this round like almost every other thereafter – with a big right – and, surprisingly, Hatton fell for it each time until the 11th, when Ricky finally ducked.

Tszyu looked as if he had adjusted better to the beat of Hatton’s drumming attacks. He whacked the challenger with a hard right to the body, made Ricky miss more often and even manhandled the local star a little.

The switch in superiority caused one anxious supporter to yell “To the body, Ricky.” Hatton obliged, with a left hook, and finished the round better than he started it.

I had the fourth much closer. Tszyu couldn’t match Hatton’s output, but got in a hard left hook late in the round. The action heated up. They threw punches after the bell, first Tszyu.

But the third and fourth, like the fifth, were hard to score. Hatton was far busier, but Tszyu landing more solidly.

There was a curious moment in the fifth when Hatton, after getting caught by a right-left hook, stopped for a second and dropped his hands. But it was more as if he was gathering himself than in any way shaken.

Undoubtedly, Tszyu was picking off Hatton much better, though the champion’s mouth hung open and he was breathing hard.

A worried Vlad Warton, Tszyu’s promoter, visited Kostya’s corner between rounds. Tszyu controlled the sixth with his jab more effectively, creating more space for himself, but Hatton wasn’t away from him for long. He blazed forward to land a three-punch combination to the head.

ricky hatton

Tszyu’s face was damaged – he was nicked beneath the left eye. But he measured Hatton with his jab and landed a hard right. Hatton took it and ploughed forward, sometimes coming in dangerously with his head and was warned.

Amazingly, facial damage was at a minimum. Hatton was bruised, but not cut. He still had that bounce in his legs for the seventh. Tszyu continued to make him miss, though, and picked off the challenger. The match was interestingly poised as Kostya worked his jab and lead left hook, timing Hatton’s advances, while Ricky incessantly went forwards.

Late in the round a left hook aimed at the body went low and made Hatton drop to his haunches, but the action wasn’t delayed for long.

The eighth was scrappier, with lots of hitting and holding. Tszyu blocked many of Hatton’s attacks on his arms and late in the session he tripped Ricky and shoved him to the floor by the ropes.

The final exchange saw Hatton walk through a Tszyu right to connect with one of his own.

A chant of “Come on, Ricky” bellowed around the arena to start the ninth and coincided with a timely improvement in the challenger’s form. Hatton landed a firm left, then worked more effectively as Tszyu tried to claim him in close.

Ricky upped the pace and forced Tszyu to the ropes. Kostya came back with a flurry towards the body that strayed slightly low and he was warned. Hatton, though, almost immediately buried a left into Tszyu’s protector and sent the champion to the deck. Kostya took a short rest and Hatton was admonished.

They swapped left hooks to start the 10th, but Hatton was now confidently taking the fight to the champion, fearlessly swarming over him with almost bewildering intensity. Tszyu got in a few rights that proved hardly distracting, whereas a Hatton right knocked the champion back.

Tszyu was feeding off scraps and by his own corner forced to end the round fending off a barrage of right hooks and uppercuts.

Mouth bleeding, Kostya nodded to trainer Lewis as he turned to go to his stool, though the champion’s weariness was now obvious.

Instantly in the 11th Tszyu was made to give ground and looked uncomfortable under the tireless pressure. Briefly, Tszyu rallied with a big left and followed it with a hard jab to jolt Hatton’s head. But Ricky moved in close and smothered, like someone putting out a fire with blanket.

Driven, Hatton surged again, not to be denied and Tszyu was consumed by his energy. The crowd sensed it, too. They cheered knowingly as the bell went.

Referee Parris visited Hatton’s corner to remind them there was one round to go. He then walked across to the champion’s.

The crowd was upstanding almost to a man in anticipation of the final session of a glorious encounter. But then suddenly Parris spread his arms. The fight was over. Tszyu had retired. Hatton could barely believe it.

You knew the beating had to be serious for Tszyu not to come out for more.

“To beat someone like Tszyu is end of the rainbow stuff,” said Hatton. “I had plenty in the tank for the last five rounds. It was a physical fight – right up my street.

“I fought to the level of my opponent. I had to be more cautious. I conserved my energy for the final stretch.”

It’s now back to the pub, fried breakfasts, darts and dominoes matches for the new champion, who said with typical modesty: “I honestly don’t believe I am any different to the man in the crowd.”

But, quite clearly, he is.

June 3, 2018
June 3, 2018
Muhammad Ali quotes

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LIFE is a journey of self-discovery, achieved through our experiences and relationships, but most searchingly by displaying courage and being fearless.

Muhammad Ali confronted boundaries almost like no other man. He fought against the odds, stood firm when most would have run and didn’t compromise his beliefs for what would have been a cosier, less complicated existence.

In the late 1960s he was one of the most despised men in America for taking on the most powerful nation in the world when refusing to show support for the war in Vietnam and against communism.

But Ali, then only in his twenties, didn’t buckle under the mighty wave of hostility – calls of being a traitor, the risk to the safety of his family – and the threat of jail and having his world heavyweight title taken away.

And now he is probably the most recognisable and acclaimed sportsman ever. He is revered not only in his homeland, but everywhere.

The world, not just boxing, was lucky to have him. Even muted by Parkinson’s disease, Ali retained a remarkable and incomparable presence.

Muhammad Ali

Nonetheless, I always wondered why a man so beautiful and majestic would be drawn to a sport that put his handsome features at risk or how a fighter as generously blessed with defensive skills and extraordinary reflexes as Ali was ever wound up absorbing too many punches to the head.

Those who insist Ali’s career had nothing to do with his condition might fiercely disagree. But when I watch his punishing fights against Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Leon Spinks and, in particular, Larry Holmes and then reflect on his 61 fights, concluding when Ali was close to 40, and all the arduous training and sparring that accompanied each test, there is no doubt in my mind that boxing taught Muhammad a cruel lesson.

Even Ali, such an intelligent boxer, fast thinker, masterfully quick and absurdly brave, couldn’t dodge that blow.

In the ring he had bewildering stamina, could jab brilliantly, throw a superb right, hook and combination punch at sometimes astonishing speed. But he wasn’t a huge puncher. Usually, he’d have to connect a dozen times where Foreman might need only one. He fought for over 10 years with bad hands.

Seldom, too, did Ali ever attack the body and he was also a master-clincher, clever at breaking the flow of an opponent’s attack and not always exciting to watch. But he was a showman extraordinaire, charismatically in a world of his own.

So was Muhammad Ali really the greatest? There have been finer boxers, harder punchers, faster movers and those who competed longer and with greater success.

Some will argue, too, that no one could take a punch like Ali. But I believe Ali’s exceptional recuperative powers surpassed his durability.

For me Ali wasn’t the greatest boxer of all-time, as he so often liked to brag. But he WAS the greatest man ever to fight in the ring and the boxer who made the greatest impression outside it.

Life beyond the world in which they excel is a struggle for most boxers when they retire. Ali suffered the withdrawals of competition, but never any lack of attention.

Sure, he fought way too long and against extremely tough men in often vicious bouts. He should have quit after beating Frazier in 1975. Yet he carried on another six years.

The ring was his stage and pulpit. He was as comfortable with crowds and people as he was in his own skin.

Like any man, though, he made mistakes. He said and did things years ago that today he would perhaps not agree with. But Ali always stood up for his beliefs.

Whether in the ring or outside of it, Ali was unwaveringly tough. But he was also gentle, compassionate, amusing and generous.

He didn’t just enter the lives of those who knew or met him, but also people who lived in faraway lands, who believed in different gods, spoke different languages and had conflicting political views.

Muhammad Ali wasn’t just a boxer. He was an entertainer and a warrior for mankind. He was the first true globetrotting champion.

We may have looked at him in his later life and felt sad, but only because we compare what we see with how he was in his prime.

How could a man who spoke so fluently now be so verbally debilitated?

How could a man who in his youth stood so elegantly, tall and shined physically, possibly be reduced to a shuffling old-timer?

How could Ali, once so outrageously witty, delightful, engaging and brilliant, be rendered so expressionless?

Really, though, it doesn’t matter, because Ali was happy. His life had changed. He was not a boxer any more. With humility, selflessness and courage, he rolled with the punches and thereby provided us with another lesson.

As he was in the ring, never accepting defeat, Ali boldly lived on without inhibition. His form, movements and means of communication altered, but he remained the same being and an exceptional one at that.

No boxer ever rocked the world like Ali and, dare I say it, ever will again.