Very early on Sunday morning, Manchester’s MEN Arena finally saw the coming together of IBF light-welterweight Kostya Tszyu, a legend in his own lifetime, and Britain’s unbeaten challenger, Ricky Hatton. The 22,000-capacity venue sold out in only two hours, a measure of Hatton’s popularity, but the 26-year-old Mancunian still went into the fight very much the underdog. Tszyu, nicknamed the “Thunder From Down Under”, moved to Australia from Russia in 1992 and has held the IBF title for the past 10 years, winning 31 of his 33 fights. To many, the now 35-year-old has been one of the best pound-for-pound boxers of all time, something classy opponents like Julio Cesar Chavez, Sharmba Mitchell and Zab Judah can only confirm.
Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton is at home in Hyde, Manchester. The City fan enjoys his mum’s cooking in bleak industrial surroundings and while unbeaten in 38 professional contests prior to the Tszyu bout, he lacks the experience at the top end of his profession. Sunday morning was his chance to climb onto the world stage.
Hatton went after the champion from the first bell, wading through barrage after barrage of largely ineffective counter-punches. Ounce after ounce of strength was drawn away from the Russian by the challenger, who methodically and efficiently wore his opponent down. Hatton was leading on points as Tszyu failed to rise from his stool at the beginning of the 12th and final round. The king was defeated and a new champion was born, completing one of the biggest upsets on British soil ever. Ricky Hatton finally has the belt his exceptional talent deserves.
A day earlier, Glasgow’s Scott Harrison ‘retired’ Michael Brody in four rounds to retain his WBO featherweight crown. A match-up against WBA or IBF title holders, Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera, is now on the cards – a step up in class that Harrison should not make.