FLASHBACK: Ricky Hatton’s Las Vegas invasion – His army of fans drank the Strip dry as David Beckham, Brad Pitt and Co watched on… when the Hitman took on Mayweather and Pacquiao, America loved him so much they wanted to keep him
- Ricky Hatton took Vegas by storm over ten years ago in two high profile fights
- The Hitman took on Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao within 17 months
- Despite losing both bouts, those fights live long in the memory of his fans
- Hatton’s connection with his adoring fans has remained strong ever since
Las Vegas, 8.30 am, Sunday, December, 9, 2007
The morning after the fight before, against Floyd Mayweather Jr, we come downstairs in the MGM Grand and Ricky Hatton is waiting in one of those never-close bars to buy the beers and talk us through it.
Hatton is animated by anger at the Nevada referee who had stopped him dragging Mayweather into a brawl which would have given him a better chance of avoiding the first defeat of his career instead of being knocked out.
Hungover survivors of the Hitman’s 30,000 blue-and-white army stagger past chanting: ‘Only one Ricky Hatton.’
He raises his and bottle and shouts: ‘We’ll be back.’
Ricky Hatton took Las Vegas by storm when he fought Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao
Las Vegas, 10.30 am, Sunday, May 3, 2009
The morning after the fight before, against Manny Pacquiao, the beers are getting warm and we are still waiting downstairs in the MGM Grand for Ricky Hatton to come downstairs and talk us through being on the wrong end of another world title knock-out.
For the only time in his career he swerves the press pack on the day following a big fight, heading straight from hospital after a brain scan to a private cabana at poolside. Alone, with his nearest and dearest and his thoughts.
So much scarier this knock out. Far from singing, the bleary remnants of that trans-Atlantic following, 35,000 this time, keep asking: ‘Where’s Ricky? Is he alright?’
Not really. It wouldn’t be too long before he is contemplating suicide.
There were wild and wonderful – if occasionally poignant – times during those mass Mancunian invasions of the Vegas Strip. Some even before Ricky, Floyd or Manny got there
One of Hatton’s favourite stories of those two manic years was how, on their pre-fight promotional tour of the US and UK, he and Mayweather flew in separate private planes. He recalls: ‘We were first on the runway for one leg. When we were in the air our pilot called me to the cockpit and said ‘‘listen to this.”
‘He was tuned into the radio of the other plane and we could hear Floyd shouting and screaming at his pilot ‘’overtake them, overtake them.’’ We cracked up.’
Hatton and Mayweather’s rivalry was more heated with plenty of antics at press conferences
Hatton later revealed that he and the undefeated Mayweather have very little in common
Highly competitive folk, professional sportsmen. Hatton muses: ‘At the media conferences he talked about bling and money. I talked about fans and darts. We didn’t have much in common outside boxing. We didn’t really speak man-to-man on our own. I still hardly know him.’
The Hitman’s relationship with the Pacman was much warmer.
At their parallel promos in Manchester, Mayweather tried to provoke Hatton by wearing a red United shirt and stayed mostly huddled amid his gang of rappers. Whereas Pacquiao humbly accepted a gift of the pale blue shirt of Ricky’s beloved City and then the pair went off to a pub for game of darts, which Hatton is fond of remembering he won.
In the respective build-ups Floyd, who trains late in the evening, would go to his favourite pizza joint on the Strip, while Manny took time out to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game in Los Angeles.
Hatton mingled with his myriad of supporters in their crowded hotels and on the sidewalks, even though he was still bringing down his weight following his usual bingeing and boozing between fights.
Ever a man of the people. That was the key to that roaring following which it took time for the Americans to grasp as the tens of thousands hit Sin City for Mayweather fight week, The majority with little or no hope of tickets for the fight itself in the 16,000 capacity Grand Garden Arena.
In comparison, Hatton and Pacquiao shared a more amicable relationship outside the ring
Vegas was not ready for the swarm of passionate fans that rained in on the city in 2007
To a man and woman, that huge choir which never seemed to stop singing ‘Walking In A Hatton Wonderland’ – day or night – felt they had a personal connection with their Hitman.
An astonishingly high proportion actually did – and still do – so regularly does he frequent the watering holes of his home city.
The US boxing public had grown accustomed to the aloof celebrity of Mayweather, a separation which would further widen later when he changed his nickname from Pretty Boy to Money. While they still admire hugely his smooth skills and unbeaten record, few have ever taken him to their hearts.
The Hitman is all heart. His fans know it – hear it beating for them – and the Americans gazed in disbelief as they began queuing at the MGM at 3 am Friday morning for the weigh-in with Mayweather at 3pm that afternoon. Twelve-packs of lager at the ready.
They were less surprised when it happened again with Pacquiao, even though estimates as to how many would find tickets to return there for the Saturday night fights varied between 4,000 and 8,000.
Fans turned out in their droves to support their man and to intimidate the brash American
There were not even enough places at the closed-circuit screenings along the Strip. For the unlucky it was enough just to be there in Vegas for their man.
But those who did make it into the Arena – for the weigh-ins or the world title fights – kicked up an ear-splitting din. Hatton first wound up the decibels as he waited for Mayweather to come to the scales, screaming: ‘Come on. Let’s be having him.’
Little did he know that referee Joe Cortez would not let Ricky have his way with Floyd.
Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt – and lest we dare forget, the inevitable David Beckham – were among the glitterati at ringside. They saw Mayweather begin the first round out of elusive character, going on the offensive to shake Hatton with a solid straight right.
The Hitman struck back by charging into close quarters and Cortez set his frustrating pattern by instantly ordering them to break.
Hatton’s plans to rough Mayweather up hit a wall as Joe Cortez constantly separated the pair
Despite a strong opening six rounds, Hatton tired and Mayweather stopped him in the 10th
Hatton says: ‘I knew I could never beat him for skill and speed. My plan was to rough him up, wear him down and try to take him out late. The referee never let me get on him. I wore myself out chasing Floyd and being hauled off.’
Most of us had it close after six rounds, even though the Hitman had been cut in the third, but from that midway point Mayweather felt Hatton fading. Not least from the lifestyle for which, with typical humour, he gave himself the alternative nickname Ricky Fatton.
The fight had slipped beyond recovery by the 10th, with a point already deducted from Hatton for rabbit punching. Mayweather sensed more blood and knocked him down with a left hook. Heroic as ever, if unsteadily, Ricky rose from the canvas. This time Cortez let them carry on. Another left hook dropped Hatton again and the concussive effect was magnified as the back of his head crashed against a corner post. All over.
Seventeen months later, Hatton would return to Sin City to try his luck against Pacquiao
Hatton had ditched long-time trainer Billy Graham and teamed up with Floyd Mayweather Sr.
The pair had an acrimonious relationship and were said to have had monstrous arguments
Blue Moon – Ricky’s ring-walk anthem – it really was. Though not as blue as when the Pacman cameth, 17 months later.
Hatton, having fallen out with his long-time if somewhat eccentric trainer Billy Graham, had been persuaded to bring American experience into his corner in the person of Mayweather’s father, Floyd Sr.
It was a match made in hell. The fights between them lasted way longer than the one to come in the ring. Mayweather the elder complained that Hatton would not listen. Ricky hit back, reporting him for repeatedly turning up late for training and being idly indifferent to the task when he did arrive.
The cordial respect between Hatton and Pacquiao themselves continued to fight night, Ricky joining in the laughter when Manny’s master trainer Freddie Roach injected some spice by saying: ‘Yes, he’s the Hitman. Because he sure is going to get hit, man.’
Hatton did make one mistake, accusing Pacquiao of being a one-dimensional fighter when he said: ‘Good as he is he at what he does, Manny can only fight one way.’
Hatton was made to pay for comments he made of Pacquiao being a one dimensional fighter
Thus he prepared for moving to his right so as to avoid or at least lessen the impact of the sledgehammer right hand with which the Pacman had built his formidable knock-out reputation.
Hatton did indeed survive the first right of the night. Just. He was down but not out. Although no sooner did he clamber upright than he was dropped again, only this time by a crunching left, near the end of the first round.
Pacquiao had made his adjustment to Hatton’s strategy while thinking on his feet. Two right hand feelers early in the second lured Ricky to the right again, where he only kept perpendicular after buckling under another huge left by hanging onto Manny’s head.
The end was nigh. A befuddled Hatton lurched to his right once more and a monstrous Pacman left dropped him flat and senseless on his back. There was only one second left in round two but referee Kenny Bayless had no need to count. He called in the doctors.
Terrifyingly, Ricky’s arms had crossed over his chest as he fell prone, as if he were already placed in a coffin. It was several long, anxious and eerily silent minutes before he could be revived and taken to hospital.
The Philippine sensation finished the Brit inside just two rounds to hand him his second defeat
The ‘one-dimensional’ Pacquiao had become only the second boxer in history, after Oscar De La Hoya, to be a world champion in six weight divisions. He has gone on to be the only one to make it eight.
Hatton was distraught, feeling defeated and that he had let the army down. It was more than three years before he climbed on the wagon, out of a pit of binge drinking, away from what he called ‘my downward spiral in which I nearly took my own life ,‘ and into a farewell fight in Manchester.
Although he was stopped in the ninth by a veteran Ukrainian the faithful gave him an uproarious send off, many of them soon to be reunited with him in the pub.
Helped by boxing again, he recovered his full sense of humour. He said wryly: ‘It was unfair of him to punch me where I had become most vulnerable. My liver.’
The pair of defeats will never change the fact that Hatton is one of Manchester’s own
Any number of defeats were never going to dampen the life-long love affair between Hatton and his people. Least of all those two rollicking adventures in America. He is happy now in his natural habitat, playing darts for his pub team, training wannabe Hitmen in his gym with all the old vim and vigour, enjoying his kids, making us all laugh, raising a glass to everlasting memories.
As they say, what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. Many over there wish that had been the case as far he was concerned.
Scott Ghertner, the brilliant MGM public relations director, recalls: ‘We couldn’t believe it when Ricky’s fans drank the hotel dry.
Then they did it again, even though we were ready next time and rolling out the barrels off non-stop fleets of delivery trucks. It was great having him here.’
Royce Feour, the late and legendary boxing correspondent of the Las Vegas Review Journal, wrote this on the morning after the Pacquiao fight: ‘We love Ricky Hatton so much here that we’re asking US Customs and Immigration to prevent him leaving,’
Sorry, America. He’s one of ours. One of us.
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