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BOXING NOTES

Support for Hatton is off the scales at weigh-in

December 08, 2007|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- The 6,000 seats opened for Friday's Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Ricky Hatton weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena were filled two hours before the two combatants for tonight's World Boxing Council welterweight championship stepped near the scale.

While a small pocket of school children supporting Mayweather made a small rumble dancing to Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat," raucous roars of "God Save the Queen" and the newly worded "Winter Wonderland" tune, "There's Only One Ricky Hatton," shook the arena to announce officially that the British have not only come to support their beloved challenger, they've literally taken over Mayweather's hometown.

Ultimately, champion Mayweather (38-0, 24 knockouts) weighed in amid much booing at the limit, 147 pounds, and junior-welterweight champion Hatton (43-0, 31 KOs) weighed 145.

Punching his right fist upward to fire up the crowd, Hatton engaged Mayweather in another small pushing exchange, then waved the champion bye-bye, as if scooting him off the stage.

"What can I say for a turnout like that? Absolutely fantastic," Hatton told the crowd. "Answer me two questions: Who'd you come to see? . . . You want the belts?" When more adulation followed, Hatton barked, "Let's . . . have them."

Among the supporters were three friends from Bolton, England, Parry Sloane, Andrew Clancy and Lee Houghton, who stood drinking beers, cheering, singing and absorbing the scene.

Houghton, 40, and Clancy, 28, said they each spent $1,500 for a ticket, and invested $2,000 each for airfare and hotel rooms. Sloane, 46, came without a ticket. Houghton said he was hoping to recoup some of his expense by betting $2,000 that the 2-1 underdog Hatton would knock out Mayweather.

Sure, the Euro-dollar conversion rate is favorable to the Brits, but Sloane said the friends' trip "had nothing to do with the money. Ricky's one of us, one of the lads. If he was not fighting, he'd be up here with us."

Hatton's chance to establish himself as the most successful British fighter in history and stake a claim to the title as best pound-for-pound fighter in the world has united England sports fans in ways divisive soccer allegiances can't, the Brits say.

"He has fans from Liverpool, Manchester, Bolton -- all of England is behind him," Clancy said. "If he loses, we'll still support him. But he won't lose."

Hatton is vulnerable to cuts. He had facial plastic surgery after being bloodied by Jonathan Thaxton in 2000, and Carlos Maussa cut him early in a 2005 bout.

"Every time Ricky fights, I think of cuts . . . actually the only way I see Floyd beating him is on cuts," said Billy Graham, Hatton's trainer. "But Ricky's calm when he gets cut. I just ask [referee Joe Cortez and the ringside physician] to remember this is a fight between two of the best boxers on the planet, so let them fight."

Should Mayweather win, he'll face pressure to maintain the precedent he has established by fighting bouts the public has clamored for -- first Oscar De La Hoya, now Hatton -- but his manager, Leonard Ellerbe, says he's not willing to immediately commit to a date with unbeaten World Boxing Assn. welterweight champion Miguel Cotto.

"I don't know what [he] wants to do beyond Saturday night," Ellerbe said. "He can fight, take an extended vacation, or retire."

Retiring now seems the most unlikely option. Mayweather will earn a guaranteed $11 million, and Hatton will earn $6 million, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and each also will gain undisclosed pay-per-view profit percentages.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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