Before we get into this column, first a public service announcement for the boxing fans in the U.S. who plan to watch Ricky Hatton fight Juan Lazcano Saturday on the cable network Versus:
Turn down the sound.
Now, there is no offense to the announcers, my buddies Nick Charles and Wally Matthews.
But if you don't want to be singing to yourself months later, sit in front of the television and enjoy the fight without the sound.
Because if you ignore this warning and watch with the sound on, I guarantee you're going to be humming, "There's only one Ricky Hatton," in the shower for at least the next three months.
The song is sung to the tune of the holiday classic, "Winter Wonderland." I'm not sure who to credit – blame might be a better choice of words – but I heard it so much when Hatton faced Floyd Mayweather Jr. in December that I still can't get it out of my mind.
About 35,000 Hatton fans traveled from the U.K. to Las Vegas to support Hatton when he challenged Mayweather at the MGM Grand Garden, despite the fact that the arena only holds around 17,000 or so.
They were in bars and at slot machines and at blackjack tables and in shopping malls and in restaurants all week long. But no matter where they were, they were singing, loud, long and often:
"There's only one Ricky Hatton/One Ricky Hatton/We're walking along, signing a song, walking in a Hatton wonderland."
Those were small pockets of fans. Yes, they seemed to be everywhere, but you encountered them mostly in smaller groups until the night of the fight.
But on Saturday, when Hatton fights Lazcano in his hometown of Manchester, England, 55,000 of his closest friends will be back into the Manchester City Soccer Stadium to celebrate his return after the first loss of his career.
They'll be singing early, they'll be singly loudly and they're be singing well into the night.
Hatton has picked the perfect opponent for the bout. Lazcano, who has fought mostly as a lightweight, is a pressure fighter who moves forward almost without regard for defense.
But in Hatton, he's going to find a man who is bigger, stronger and better at his game. It will be entertaining while it lasts, singing aside, but Hatton figures to chop up Lazcano and stop him inside of eight rounds or so.
"So it's very, very important when you've got 55,000 fans sitting up to support you the right opponent comes in and Lazcano is my kind of fighter," Hatton said. "He is good all- around and he's always coming forward. … I say last fight when people, 55,000 people, want to come to watch boxing, they've certainly got the right man in the ring for that.
"So it should be a fantastic occasion, a fantastic atmosphere. I mean 55,000 fans! They're going to make a hell of a racket. … So this is my way of saying thank you for all the years of support in the many ways that you've given me."
Hatton simply isn't a welterweight, nor did he have the hand or foot speed to compete with someone like Mayweather. Hatton tried to pressure Mayweather and, while he had limited success, he was taking a great deal of punishment when he got close.
Mayweather took control in the latter third of the fight and handed Hatton his first career defeat with a 10th-round stoppage.
Hatton praised Mayweather, but noted he made tactical errors during the fight. He also pointed out that he doesn't belong, at least for the time being, at 147 pounds. Hatton's two worst performances in his stirring career have come when he's fought as a welterweight, against Mayweather and against Luis Collazo.
But Hatton insists he's a better boxer than people give him credit for and says his emotions got the best of him against Mayweather. With the crowd roaring and singing and urging him on, Hatton tried to turn the fight into a brawl.
Mayweather played the matador role brilliantly and managed to pick Hatton apart. But Hatton said he needs to play more matador and less bull against Hatton.
"A lot of people said about we got severely outclassed by Floyd Mayweather, well, everyone who fights Floyd Mayweather has gotten really outclassed," Hatton said. "But I feel that the guy (who beats him) is not going to be somebody who tries to outbox him or out-speed him or anything like that. I think it's the guy who has tactics like me. …
"In the first couple of rounds, I was moving my head and jabbing as I was going in and that probably was working, but my best intention kind of went out the window and that's what hurt me really. I mean, I just needed to be a little bit more patient and just realize what possibility has got, not just the crash bang approach, so to speak. And that's the one I want to use against Lazcano, really. I've got this boxing ability more so than Juan Lazcano and I think this fight I could make it as easy as I want to depending upon what attitude Ricky Hatton shows up with."
Try as he might, Hatton just enjoys putting on a show too much. He's not going to be on his toes, flicking a jab and circling from Lazcano.
He'll grit his teeth, stand his ground and trade hard punches until one man can take it no more.
And after Lazcano wilts under the pressure, Hatton will raise his arms skyward and 55,000 Hatton lunatics will be singly "There's only one Ricky Hatton … "
That's a guarantee. And if you're smart, you'll keep your sound turned down.
Or you're going to be singing that tune to yourself for the next few months.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
- Ricky Hatton
- Juan Lazcano
- Floyd Mayweather