MODERN Manchester legend Ricky “Hitman” Hatton is known for several things: becoming the first British boxing superstar created by satellite TV; invariably bringing an army of UK fans to America for big fights; and, despite capturing world titles at two weights and defeating some top fighters, retaining an ability to connect with the man and woman on the street, aided significantly by his down-to-earth persona. Something that seems to get lost amidst all the contextualisation, however, is just what a superb fighter Hatton was. Regularly lauded for his strength and fitness, in his prime Hatton was a highly intelligent beast, his footwork swift and smart, the upper-body movement clever and purposeful. But, as a fighter, Ricky would be defined – like Rocky Marciano and Larry Holmes before him – by one particular kind of strike.
“I was a body-puncher even before I turned professional,” Ricky told me at the boxing gym on the top floor of the sumptuous Hatton Health and Fitness facility in Hyde, Greater Manchester. “My amateur coach was a former professional so he taught me from a very young age how
to bob and weave, slip and roll, shift your weight and
body-punch, which is almost unheard of in the amateurs. Then when I went to [pro trainer] Billy Graham, one of the main parts of his training was with the body-belt.
“I’ve always been the short, stocky type with very, very big legs and body-punching was made for me and my frame. I used to punch with every bit of me body behind it.”
Hatton’s work downstairs not only led directly to many of his stoppages and knockouts, it also injected his opponents with a fistic poison, the pernicious influence of which would grow with every passing round until they could take no more. But Hatton’s aptitude for locating and subsequently belabouring unfortunate abdomens and ribcages led to an unwelcome notoriety.
“After a few years, when people had recognised me as a body-puncher, I had to go back to the gym, the drawing board and think, ‘They’ve got me number here; what can I do to get these body shots in now?’ Ricky recalled. “It’s a work of art in its own way, getting them in.
“The key thing is to disguise it because there’s obviously a lot of things – arms and elbows and shoulders – that can look after the body. If you’re looking for the hook, make sure you go somewhere else first or set it up with a jab or a combination.”
*All instructions relate to orthodox fighters; southpaws should adapt accordingly.
Left hook to the body
1. Make sure you’re in close, so you’re safe, then touch the opponent with a left hook to the head just to take their attention away from the body. Just touch them around the temple or on the chin.