When Ricky Hatton came to the United States, he brought the party from Manchester, England.
The singers, the drummers, the drinkers — the boisterous fans that had made him a boxing icon in his home city and country traveled across an ocean first to see him fight Luis Collazo in Boston, then both Juan Urango and Jose Luis Castillo in Las Vegas.
But their greatest night came on Dec. 8, 2007, 15 years ago today, when “The Hitman” took on pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, recently rebranded from “Pretty Boy” to “Money” as he went from the sport’s top fighter to its biggest star by way of beating Oscar De La Hoya seven months prior.
Mayweather, 30 years old entering the fight, had blossomed from boxing star to sports superstar, a feat that he achieved by taking a serious risk leaving Top Rank to venture out on his own, feeling in his heart that he could be a bigger deal than Top Rank believed possible. In his early fights outside of Top Rank, he worked not only with his own team, but also De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.
That outfit was in and out of a blood feud and Cold War with Top Rank at the time. Long before there was a “PBC,” many of boxing’s biggest fights were still tough to make because of the same political lines drawn in the sand we’ve seen with new players leading the way.
The 29-year-old Hatton, who was the lineal champ at 140 lbs, dabbled at 147 for the Collazo fight, a controversial decision that went his way in May 2006. He moved back up with a 43-0 (31 KO) record to face Mayweather, because it was the fight to make around those weights. He was the king, and Hatton wanted the throne.
Mayweather came in with a record of 38-0 (24 KO), defending the lineal and WBC welterweight titles and having been a former titleholder at 130, 135, and 140. He’d made the move to welterweight in late 2015, beating Sharmba Mitchell before defeating Zab Judah and Carlos Baldomir in 2006. The fight with Judah was set up before Judah lost a mandatory shocker to Baldomir in January of 2006; Mayweather kept the date, beat Zab, and then beat Baldomir. His fight with De La Hoya had been at 154 lbs.
Hatton, as many expected, found little real success against Mayweather, but his dogged determination and the atmosphere created by his fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena made it a special night all the same. No matter how adept Mayweather was at swatting away the Brit’s charges, Hatton just kept coming, trying to work it out in the biggest fight of his career.
I don’t want to break down the rounds or going over the minutiae of the bout; it hit me recently, in one of the live discussion threads of some other fight, that we were fast approaching the 15-year anniversary of this fight. 15 years! That’s a long time. Not only has this site been here all that time — and thank you for that — but so much has happened over that time in my life, and I’m sure in yours. Maybe I’m just at the right (?) age where that hits the way it does, but it’s one of those things that feels both forever ago and almost like it was just last week.
It was also one of my absolute favorite nights ever on the site, doing the job, talking with people live during the fight. Soaking in that atmosphere, even through a Toshiba TV set in an apartment long ago, chatting with people from all over the world in a shared experience.
I’ve said many times that for me, a big atmosphere in a crowd can make a bad fight better, a good fight great, and a great fight otherworldly. “The big fight atmosphere” in boxing is the thing that can separate it from any other sport on the planet. It can be elusive, seemingly more so every year, but when you get a special one, it’s something.
Mayweather vs Hatton was a special one.
I get the sense that most of you would rather relive the fight, if you’re going to, with the original HBO Sports call, so here it is:
If, for some reason, you’d prefer the fight as called by Col. Bob Sheridan, you can also watch that on YouTube by clicking here. Enjoy.