HATTON HANGS ON TO CLAIM WBA TITLE
Ricky Hatton survived an almighty scare to claim the WBA welterweight belt with a unanimous points win over Luis Collazo.
The Hitman's first fight as top of the bill in America nearly saw him lose his unbeaten record in a cracking contest at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Collazo, who was knocked down in the opening minute of the fight, provided plenty of problems for the Brit, particularly in the final round.
However, Hatton did enough to get the verdict in the eyes of the judges, with two officials scoring the bout 115-112 while the third gave it 114-113 in his favour.
Such close scores reflected just how tough the Mancunian found life as his first outing at welterweight proved to be no tea party in Boston.
Not even the vocal support of his supporters in the crowd or the heavy rain that had hit Massachusetts could make Hatton feel at home.
It was only his flying start that got him out of trouble as he set off at his usual frantic pace in an attempt to bully the champion into submission.
A sharp left sent Collazo to the canvas almost straight after the opening bell, leading the 27-year-old to sense the chance for a quick finish.
But, by the middle rounds, his come-forward approach played right into the hands of the boxer from Brooklyn.
The challenger's lack of head movement made him an easy target for Collazo, who had abandoned his early plan to box at distance and instead opted to stand toe-to-toe.
For the first time in his career, Hatton had to soak up continued pressure and his resolve was stretched to breaking point.
The New Yorker could hardly miss the target, particularly with his right hand, and several heavy shots to the head drew gasps from the crowd.
The Brooklyn-born boxer even had a smile on his face at the halfway stage and he came close to ending the fight in the 12th with a spectacular late flourish.
Hatton fell to the floor at one stage, only for the referee to adjudge that he had gone down because of the force of a push rather than a punch.
Somehow, despite his left eye almost being swollen shut, Hatton managed to survive the onslaught to reach the final bell.
His heart must have been in his mouth when the verdict was read out as the result could have gone either way.
When it was confirmed he was the new champion, it was a look of relief rather than satisfaction on his face as he moved to 41-0 as a professional.
Victory also moves him a step closer to some money-spinning fights in the future, although he will have to learn from this outing if he wants to live with the likes of Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather Jnr.[/b]
Officially the hardest man I've ever seen.
And the best thing to ever happen to boxing.