Tonight at the MGM Grand in Vegas, Ricky Hatton returns to the States on official business for the first time since his December 2007 defeat at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
He'll face another slick American boxer when he squares up with Brooklyn's Paulie Malignaggi. Malignaggi is no Mayweather, and I'm sure even the brash Paulie would admit as much.
But this might not be the Ricky Hatton of old, either. UK boxing analyst Steve Bunce isn't the only one concerned about Ricky's mindset these days.
A breakdown of events for Hatton since that TKO manhandling against the "Pretty Boy":
1. At first, he showed humility. Later, it was mostly complaining about Joe Cortez, who has his faults to be sure, but Cortez was fine in that fight. Hatton's style was shut down by Cortez in many ways; Hatton's style is also frequently illegal in many ways. Mayweather was the guy hitting him, and Mayweather was the guy Hatton couldn't hit. Ricky's change in attitude didn't seem like "him," if you know what I mean.
2. Hatton beat Juan Lazcano in May, in a fight I felt was closer than the official cards. Juan Lazcano is no chump, but he's always failed against the highest-level fighters he's faced (save for Stevie Johnston, which began Stevie's downfall). Hatton often appeared gun-shy, took some power shots from Lazcano and got in minor trouble a couple times, and just wasn't as active or effective as he has been in the past. And this was with some biased refereeing.
3. He fired trainer Billy Graham. Some said it was about time that the world-class fighter got a genuinely world-class trainer. Others wondered where Ricky's head could be at if he was letting Billy go. Was he doubting Graham, himself, or both?
4. He hired Floyd Mayweather, Sr., to train him for Malignaggi. Mayweather specializes in slick, defensive-minded boxers.
We're hours from finding out how it all turns out against Paulie. Some lame, standardized keys to victory sort of crap? Sure!
What Ricky Hatton must do:
- Don't get too far out of his comfort zone. Trying to box Malignaggi almost guarantees embarrassment.
- Make Paulie throw his right hand. The thing is mostly for show anyway, but with the way Ricky crowds and bullies, chances for Malignaggi to re-break it on Hatton's elbow or something seem especially high.
- Be Ricky Hatton. That means get inside, push him around, and even get dirty. Malignaggi is an extremely emotional fighter that can't hide his feelings. When he's frustrated, everyone in the country knows.
- Lure him into a slugfest. He won't win it, and then you're taking away his best chance at victory.
- Box, box, box. Use the jab, don't get suckered into a war, and forget proving how tough you are. If Paulie wins and people complain about his punchless style, it'll be Paulie making another big payday down the line, not them.
- Throw Ricky off-balance when he rushes. Just side-step him, swipe him away, and pop him a couple times before he can reset.
- You're not knocking him out. Don't try.
- Look for the check hook! Try to make him face-bust the ringpost, too. It works!