Manchester, England’s Ricky Hatton fulfilled his dream of winning a major title in the boxing capital of the world by scoring a unanimous 119-109 decision over Colombia’s Juan Urango at The Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
Hatton regained the IBF Light Welterweight title with a tactical if not boring, workman like effort over the muscle bound southpaw. The latter half of the fight certainly could have been called “Punch and Clinch” or “Hit and Hold”, but Hatton did what he needed to do to ensure a victory in an important fight over a dangerous opponent.
Despite being overseas, the “Hitman” must have felt right at home on Vegas strip as the 3000 British fans on hand dominated the cheering in the 7000 capacity ballroom, often singing a few favorite tunes during the bout.
Hatton got a taste of Urango’s strength and most effective punch in the first ten seconds of the bout when a countering right hook stunned the Mancunian native, sending him a few steps backward. It was evident that Urango was actually stronger than the powerful Hatton, something the Englishman is not accustomed to in the 140 pound division. Hatton wisely showed his versatility by going into a boxing mode and simply out hustling Urango in the early
“ He was very, very tough. Those first four of five rounds I looked like Willie Pep” stated Manchester’s favorite son. That undoubtedly is a bit of a stretch, but the movement and boxing against the plodding champion had Hatton comfortably sweeping the first four rounds. When there was a bit of toe to toe trading in the third round, Hatton quickly figured out best to stick with stick and move tactics, often landing quick lead left hands.
The Colombian champion seemed to find his range in the fifth round, focusing on an effective body attack, something Hatton is better known for. One particular right hook landed with a thud that could be heard rows back, appearing to stun Hatton and put the British champion in survival mode for the remainder of the round. Prior to the start of round 6, Hatton’s trainer Billy Graham told him to conserve some energy for a twelve round fight as it seemed unlikely that Hatton would be able to stop his teak tough opponent.
The now former champion Urango (17-1-1, 13KO’s) failed to capitalize on his success in the fifth round as his punch output dropped back to it’s more economical pace, allowing Hatton to outwork him and regain control of the fight in rounds 6 and 7. At this point in his career, Urango is far too one dimensional a fighter, generally plodding forward, looking to land his heavy right hook without much of a straight left to speak of, and far too economical with his punches as he’d seem to be much better served letting his heavy hands go, particularly on the inside.
The remainder of the fight was frustrating to watch, as Hatton did not want to trade with Urango and turned to hit and hold tactics. The Englishman used his greater speed to land a quick lead punch, and then repeatedly tied up and held Urango before he could fire back. Fight fans in attendance, particularly his loyal British followers were clearly hoping for a more entertaining bout, but to his credit, against a tough opponent, Hatton found a way to keep his undefeated record in tact (42-0, 30KO’s), win another world title, and set up a much anticipated fight with Mexican champion Jose Luis Castillo.
In the main undercard event, Mexico’s Jose Luis Castillo also did his part to keep a June showdown with Hatton, by earning a split decision victory over Cameroonian Herman Ngoudjo. Two judges scored the bout 115-113 for Castillo, with the 3rd judge seeing the close fight by the same score in favor of Ngoudjo.
Castillo’s unspectacular performance poses a few questions in regards to the former two-time WBC 135 pound champion’s ability to regain his elite status as a prize fighter. Ring rust could have been a factor as Castillo hadn’t fought in nearly a year since a lackluster win over Roland Reyes back in February of 2006. Now 33 years old, perhaps the wear and tear of 63 professional fights starting at the age of 15 has taken its toll as Castillo’s legs looked a bit unsteady at times.
His talented opponent certainly had much to do with Castillo having to gut out the narrow decision. The relatively inexperienced Ngoudjo (15-1, 9 KO’s) came out with a high guard and defensively minded in the first round and a half before deciding to effectively trade with Castillo and get a rise out of the crowd to finish up round 2.
Round 3 showcased the chiseled African’s infighting ability, getting the better of Castillo at his own game, despite Castillo landing 2 solid uppercuts to finish a close round. The midrounds were closely fought affairs, mostly on the inside with Castillo certainly not looking like the stronger fighter at his new 140 pound weight class, but showing his versatile attack to the body and head.
Ngoudjo, now residing in Montreal, Canada, changed tactics and decided to fight from far outside in round eight, perhaps having had enough infighting with someone who’s infighting skills were honed as a longtime sparring partner for Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez.
Castillo came on strong as he so often does during the championship rounds to ensure the victory over a superbly conditioned and talented opponent. Ngoudjo used his faster hand speed to occasionally flurry before tying up the seasoned “El Temible” , but it wasn’t enough to sway the judges in the biggest fight of his young career. Castillo improved his record to 55-7-1 (47KO’s), while giving himself the opportunity to capture another world title against Hatton, come early summertime in Las Vegas.
In the evening’s opening bout, Matthew Hatton put the British crowd in the right mood with a comprehensive beating and TKO victory over American Frank Houghtaling, forcing the American’s corner to throw in the towel at the end of the 7th round.
Ricky’s younger brother came into the bout in fantastic shape, and consistently found a home for the right hand, once putting the experienced Houghtaling (19-13, 4KO’s) down in the fourth round. The light-hitting 33 year old Albany, NY resident was simply overmatched against his younger, stronger opponent. With the victory, Matthew Hatton improved his record to 30-3-1(12KO’s) and captured the vacant IBF International Welterweight Title.