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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ricky Hatton pays tribute to man who got career back on track

Three weeks from the latest big night of his career, Ricky Hatton believes that he is entering his greatest period. Few outside Hatton’s team are tipping him to beat Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on May 2, but belief inside the Hatton camp is strong. A year ago, many were writing off the world No 1 light-welterweight as a man on the slide, but Hatton believes that it is his partnership with Floyd Mayweather Sr, his new trainer, that has breathed new life into his career.

It was always an odd pairing, the down-to-earth Manchester boy and the flash, estranged father of the only boxer to have beaten Hatton. But the two hit if off, even though Hatton admits that he struggled to understand Mayweather’s accent when they first trained together, before his win over Paulie Malignaggi last November.

“It was a case of, after seven weeks in training camp, ‘bang, look at me, a new fighter,’ ” Hatton said. “I showed I wasn’t past it.”

With Floyd Mayweather Jr seemingly certain to end his retirement, the five-weight world champion is again a target for Hatton — if he can beat Pacquiao. If a rematch with Mayweather Jr is arranged, Mayweather Sr has said that he will be in Hatton’s corner against the son he taught to box.

“It has been miles better this time with Floyd,” Hatton said. “The more time you spend with him, you get used to him. I’m faster now than how I was at the end of the last training camp.”

There has been a different approach to Hatton’s preparations, eliminating much of the strength work he did under Billy Graham, his former trainer, and concentrating on speed and sharpness. But splitting with Graham left its mark and Hatton has not spoken to his former trainer since the break. “We have not been on the phone or had a slanging match,” Hatton said. “The way it ended was like ‘It’s come to the end, Bill, you’re slowing down, it’s come to the end and I think we should part ways,’ ” he said. “And he was like, ‘No, I’m as good as I’ve ever been.’ Everyone else could see it, but he couldn’t.

“I would rather say, ‘Yeah, all right,’ but he didn’t, he said, ‘No, no, I can do the job, but if you think I can’t . . .’ That upset me unbelievably, but the performance against Malignaggi, I proved my point.”

Hatton and Mayweather Sr have been based in Las Vegas for the past two weeks, having spent a month working together on the outskirts of Manchester. Mayweather has had Hatton running in the early morning for the first time, rather than late at night when he previously did his roadwork, while he has also “met him halfway” regarding cutting out fast food.

Indeed, Hatton’s influence seems to have rubbed off on Mayweather as his trainer became a nightly visitor to a well-known outlet near the hotel in Ashton-under-Lyne where he was staying. “Three weeks with me and he’s on the KFC,” Hatton said. “I see that as a personal victory.”


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