Even as Ricky Hatton was climbing into the ring to face Jose Luis Castillo tonight, accompanied by classic Mexican fighter Marco Antonio Barrera, the talk centered around whether Castillo had enough juice left in him to sincerely challenge a hungry Hatton. After two somewhat lackluster efforts against Juan Urango and Luis Collazo, many analysts saw this fight as Hatton's true test. If he could successfully trounce Castillo, then perhaps he could indeed shine as the rising star others claimed him to be.
For his part, Jose Luis Castillo had an equal need to win tonight. After his classic wars against Diego Corrales, who passed away this May in a tragic motorcycle accident, the pressing question remained: Had Jose Luis Castillo's tire's worn too thin?
Even as the bell rang after the first round, it was becoming clear that the answer to this question might be a resounding "yes." Hatton, who had said that his strategy was to stay busy, forcing Castillo backwards, entered the fray the more busy, more accurate and more confident fighter, even after arriving to have his hands taped late and belatedly entering the ring with a corner man still applying Vaseline to Hatton's face and body. Clearly winning the first three of four rounds with confident in-fighting, Hatton used superior hand and foot speed to outland Castillo, whose punches seemed barely noticeable as Hatton effortlessly marched through three rounds. Though Castillo has historically been regarded as an excellent body puncher, it was Hatton who dominated the body as his attack continually focused on squaring off inside and launching both constant body punches and short upper cuts as both fighters alternately traded shots and clinches.
Finally, and surprisingly to some, Hatton's constant attack proved a successful strategy. Two minutes into the fourth round as sharp, but less than shocking, liver shot expertly placed behind Castillo's right elbow staggered the Mexican fighter who then took a knee near his corner. Referee Joe Cortez knelt by Castillo and counted the fighter out. Though a solid and well-placed shot, the blow by Hatton appeared to be less the issue than a tired and resigned Castillo. While being counted out, Castillo had the same look of internal defeat displayed by Eric Morales after his final Pacquiao fight. Castillo looked into the distance as the count echoed into his ears, his mouthpiece hanging from his lips.
Though many may discredit Hatton's performance tonight, pointing at a less than perfect Castillo, one cannot discredit his performance in which he easily dispatched an opponent that had been touted as his most challenging to date.
"I've had two fights in the US," Hatton said post-fight. "Tonight I was a bit more at my best."
What's next for Hatton is not as clear as his victory tonight. His previous foray into welterweight territory bore weight problems and a less-than-stellar performance. He's a natural junior welterweight and showed that weight division comfort tonight. When pressed by Max Kellerman about a potential welterweight opponent in Floyd Mayweather, Hatton had few words.
"...Well I think you've seen more action in four rounds than you've seen [in the whole of] Mayweather's career," he said.
One thing is certain: A fighter from the UK who can sell out flights to and fights in the US and whose fans stage marching band performances in the arena while chanting holiday themed carols could probably fight at any weight and still make it interesting.
Posted 12:00 AM | Jun 23, 2007
HBO WCB - Jun. 23, 2007