When Floyd Mayweather took the torch from Oscar De La Hoya via split decision in May 2007, the boxing world had a new A-side superstar on its hands.
Mayweather had long been one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, but his win over De La Hoya — combined with his incredible “heel turn” performance on the unprecedented HBO “24/7” hype machine beforehand — made Floyd a far, far bigger drawing card than he’d ever been before.
His first fight as that A-side, big time pay-per-view headliner came seven months later. The 30-year-old Mayweather (38-0, 24 KO coming in) hosted in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand, welcoming British superstar Ricky Hatton (43-0, 31 KO coming in) and an army of rabid fans who came over the Atlantic to see their man take the biggest swing of his career.
The fight was fought at 147 pounds, with Mayweather coming back down in weight from the De La Hoya bout. Hatton, 29, had taken down Kostya Tszyu in 2005 to win his first world title at 140, and moved up in May 2006 to try his hand at welterweight. Facing the tricky southpaw Luis Collazo in Boston, Hatton escaped with a controversial and very difficult decision win, and promptly moved back down to 140 for his next two bouts.
But the Mayweather fight was just too big a chance to pass up. So Hatton came over from Manchester with upset on his mind.
Mayweather-Hatton wasn’t nearly as big as Mayweather-De La Hoya, but you couldn’t tell that to the people in the building that night. The British fans made as much noise as you’re going to hear at a modern fight, really, loudly supporting their man inside the venue and on the streets outside, for those who couldn’t actually get a ticket to attend but came over anyway, and that wasn’t just a few folks, either.
The fight is a personal favorite of mine, not because it’s a Great Fight in terms of being competitive (it isn’t) or whatever, but because of that atmosphere. One of the things that first drew me to boxing was the tension and passion of the famed Big Fight Feel, and on the occasion it still strikes me, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. This one had as much Big Fight Feel as any fight I’ve ever had the chance to cover live on this site, and I’ll always have a special place for it because of that.