Ricky Hatton's newest and boldest challenge to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., may not be able to be ignored. Thanks to a phone call from Oscar de la Hoya to Hatton after the English star's victory over Jose Luis Castillo on Saturday, rumors across the pond abound that Hatton may soon sign with Golden Boy Promotions.
And with Oscar saying recently that he's not interested in fighting Floyd for a second time, that could open the door for a showdown between Hatton and Mayweather sometime in the future.
For now, best guess would be that Hatton will take on IBF 140-pound champion Paulie Malignaggi, which would showcase two current HBO favorites in the division, if not exactly give us the best test of Hatton's undefeated record and skills. Malignaggi simply doesn't have the power or experience to be considered a legitimate threat to Hatton's 140-pound supremacy. There are few stars in the division, and Malignaggi may be the one worth the most money -- except, of course, for Junior Witter in England, a fight that is never going to take place no matter how much any of us want to see it, including Witter himself.
But if and when Hatton disposes of Malignaggi, could the Mayweather fight really come to light? Floyd is "retired," but no one buys it, even though I still believe that Mayweather doesn't love the game as many great champions do, and he sees boxing simply as a business at which he is exceptionally skilled.
Signing with Golden Boy could open up the guaranteed money to lure Mayweather into the ring, and if Hatton keeps talking and keeps winning, public demand will grow. The question is whether or not Floyd will care, but as a businessman, if the money's right, I have to think he'd take it. I also think he'd take it because he'd be 120% sure he would beat Hatton, as would many of us.
Hatton has above average hand speed, but it's not great. He has good power, but it's not amazing. His style could, theoretically, give Floyd trouble, but that has been said about several of Floyd's opponents, most of them blown away by Mayweather's pure skill.
Some have argued that Hatton isn't yet a star in America, but I ask how much bigger of a star he could be. His fight with Castillo drew 13,000 in Las Vegas, all of his past three fights have drawn fair media attention, and he's one of the biggest stars in the sport. American boxing fans are well aware of Ricky Hatton. He doesn't need anything, really -- not that a fight with Mayweather would do anything but help raise his profile.
Hatton is a blue collar hero fighter, that's true. But over time he has grown into a superstar, and he's done so with grace. He remains the same humble, cordial fighter that he was prior to his rise to stardom. And he wants to please the fans with his fights, which he didn't do against Juan Urango in January, and feels he didn't do against Luis Collazo last year, either, though I disagree, as I thought that was a competitive and entertaining fight. It just wasn't what Hatton expected.
There aren't a ton of fights for Hatton at 140, because it's not all that deep of a division in terms of star power. And 147 isn't Hatton's weight, though he'd undoubtedly try the move up again if it meant a shot at Mayweather. On paper, Floyd is the massive favorite. We've seen him take on good brawlers before, and dispatch of them. Corrales, Gatti, Castillo two times, and it's how Oscar tried to combat Floyd, as well. Floyd's power peaks at 135 pounds, but Hatton's peaks at 140. At 147, it comes down to boxing, and Mayweather is too good, too fast, and too smart for Ricky Hatton, if you take their past fights into account.
All that said, I'd love to see the fight. Ricky Hatton is a perfect story to get behind against Mayweather, who is a near-villain as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. Not only is he sometimes hard to like, but he's been so much better than everyone else that he seems almost unbeatable.
But nobody's unbeatable. And Ricky Hatton is a genuine rooting interest. If we see the fight, fantastic. I wouldn't bet on it, but it seems more of a realistic possibility now than it did Saturday afternoon.