He's a hungry young fighter. He's never lost a fight. He's a king at 140. In his last fight, he scored a controversial decision victory to grab a title. And he's making his Las Vegas debut in hopes of solidifying his name.
But he's not Ricky Hatton. He's Juan Urango, the current and defending IBF light welterweight champion.
Hatton comes in undoubtedly the favorite in his matchup with the 26-year old Colombian, who now resides in Miami and will be fighting outside of Florida for the first time in three years. The bright lights of Vegas won't be any advantage for Hatton, who is the star attraction, with a 41-0 record and a reputation for dazzling displays of action, at least when he's fighting at 140. "The Hitman" has known KO power, and he's still England's Golden Child of boxing.
Urango? Well, he beat Naoufel Ben Rabah last June to gain a crown that Hatton had left sitting in favor of chasing glory at 147 in a somewhat ill-advised, hard-fought bout against Collazo, which on the books is another in a long line of Hatton victories, but in reality was the first time that the stylish Brit had ever been truly challenged and couldn't bully an opponent.
Urango doesn't have the big win. He's 17-0-1, with his draw coming against Mike Arnaoutis -- no shame there, Arnaoutis is a quality fighter.
Hatton is the ticket-seller, no question. His Vegas debut is a pretty big deal, and it's even just the third time he's fought in the States. He faced a moderately hostile crowd in Boston against Collazo, and he fought in New York in his second career fight. But this is Las Vegas, glitz and glam and showmanship, and if Ricky Hatton fights like he usually does, the crowd should love him, and if Hatton puts Urango down with a spectacular KO, we may just have a new box office force in boxing.
The worrisome aspect -- if you're pro-Hatton, anyway -- is that Urango can fight, and he will bring it to Hatton. I don't expect Urango to back away from Ricky very often, especially now that we've seen Luis Collazo (albeit at 147) absorb Hatton's onslaught better than anyone ever had before. Yes, Collazo fell in the fight, but he rebounded and simply outboxed Ricky Hatton. If Urango can do that, he can beat Hatton. But he has to do it convincingly, because there isn't much doubt in my mind that the ringside judges will be hesitant to give Urango much on the cards unless it's too obvious to deny. And even then, we've seen it happen. This is why the best way to win a fight is to knock a guy out, which is, of course, not as simple as it sounds.
What bothers me is that the whole event -- with Jose Luis Castillo facing Cameroon-born, Montreal-based Herman Ngoudjo (15-0) on the undercard -- is in place to set up Hatton v. Castillo for two belts (the vacant IBO title is also on the line in the main event) later this year. Urango has been glossed over, as if he's already just another name down on Hatton's list of middling name defeats.
Another worrying aspect (and this is just as a fan of boxing) is that only Ngoudjo has fought since June, which could mean some ring rust all around. Castillo last fought 11 months ago, Hatton in May, Urango in June. Ngoudjo fought three times last year, with wins in February (TKO-12 Juan Carlos Alderete), May (UD-12 John Brown) and October (UD-12 Donald Camarena). All fights took place in Quebec, and this is also Ngoudjo's Vegas debut. Hell, the only one who has seen his name in the Vegas neon before is Castillo.
Truly, though, both fights intrigue me. Will Hatton move back to 140 and just overwhelm Urango, as he's done to so many others? Will Urango prove to be a serious player in the light welterweight division, either way it goes? Is Castillo -- at 33 years old -- still near his old level? Who the shit is Herman Ngoudjo?
As far as picks go, Hatton and Castillo both have too much experience for me to overlook, and while I like Urango, I don't think he's ready to beat Hatton yet. I do think he's ready to take Ricky all 12 rounds. As for Ngoudjo, I know almost nothing about him, so I can't pick him and I can't pretend to know how he'll do in the ring against Castillo.
Be with us at Bad Left Hook this coming Saturday, starting at 9:45 eastern, for live, round-by-round coverage of both fights.