FROM LAS VEGAS — Ricky (The Hitman) Hatton was more like Ricky (The Trackman) Hatton on Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
In a scheduled 12-round boxing event that was supposed to be a matchup of the top two 140-pounders in the world, Hatton chased Paulie Malignaggi all night and eventually showed that the space between No. 1 and No. 2 is a wide gap.
Hatton won with an 11th-round technical knockout, which in this case was a fancy term for surrender. With 28 seconds elapsed in that round, Malignaggi's corner waved several large white towels in the direction of referee Kenny Bayless.
That is boxing sign language for "Enough. Our fighter is done. Stop this now."
And so Bayless did.
Afterward, Malignaggi argued that he was OK, that Hatton hadn't hurt him, that his corner should not have stopped it. When he saw the white towels come out, he charged toward his corner and shoved his trainer, the veteran Buddy McGirt, a former boxer who has been in more wars of this type than the 28-year-old Malignaggi could imagine.
"I'm better than this," Malignaggi said. "Maybe I wouldn't have won on points, but I'm better than being stopped."
The Brooklyn boxer, who lost for the second time in 27 fights, made a good point in that regard, when he said he had been in worse shape two years ago against Miguel Cotto in Madison Square Garden and his corner hadn't stopped that one. Indeed, Malignaggi suffered several facial fractures in that one, but stayed on his feet after a first-round knockdown all the way to the end.
Malignaggi's promoter, Lou DiBella, saw it differently.
"I wanted it stopped the round before," he said. "You could see him hurting with every punch. I wanted him around to fight another day, and a couple more rounds could have done much damage."
"The reason I stopped the fight was that we were losing," he said. "My guy couldn't hurt him. We had five or six minutes left, and all it takes is one big punch. I'd rather have him be angry at me and be OK."
Hatton's last visit to the MGM ring was December 2007, when undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. stayed that way with a knockout in the 10th round. Interestingly, Mayweather's father, Floyd Sr., trained Hatton for this fight.
Against Malignaggi, Hatton attacked from the start. And chased and chased and caught Malignaggi often enough to make it obviously one-sided.
Malignaggi spent much of the night with his head under Hatton's armpit.
Hatton would charge, usually connect with one solid smash, and then Malignaggi would defensively duck and hold on for dear life.
Mayweather Sr. commented afterward that Bayless should have deducted at least one point from Malignaggi for holding, but hadn't. In defense of Bayless, he probably assumed when he signed on as referee for Saturday night that he was going to work a boxing match, not wrestling.
Hatton threw 516 punches, to 342 by Malignaggi. He also landed 99 of 377 power punches to Malignaggi's 25 of 133.
Malignaggi is nothing if not tough. He took a beating and kept on coming. In the ninth, Hatton hit him with a bomb, then buckled his knees. Malignaggi stumbled backward, regained his balance and stuck out his tongue at Hatton.
Hatton, the pride of Manchester, England, got his sizable fan following going early in the fight. He staggered Malignaggi several times in the second round, and the English band that comes with him seldom stopped playing and banging on their drums the rest of the night, as the Hatton backers in the announced crowd of 9,053 -- and that would be the majority of the crowd -- seldom stopped singing.
Hatton is 30, has a record of 44-1, with 31 knockouts, and fights one way. He comes forward, head bobbing and moving and fists flying. You can almost imagine that, if he didn't make his living in a boxing ring, he would as the most feared bar-bouncer in Manchester.
"I enjoyed this fight a lot more than the last time I was here," he said, in reference to Mayweather's barrage of punches that dealt him his only defeat to date.
"I got frustrated in this fight, but then I hurt him early and then Floyd Sr. got me back to being me.
"I slowed down, I was more composed."
Hatton said he thought this one-sided victory would propel him to bigger things. Some see him as the next stop for the winner of the Dec. 6 mega-fight between Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya.
"I want big fights now," Hatton said. "I only have a couple of years left."