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Frightened of cats

LAS VEGAS – IBO lightwelterweight champion Ricky Hatton swears he’s not afraid of Manny Pacquiao whom he faces in a title defense in Las Vegas tonight (tomorrow morning, Manila time) but admits being frightened of cats. Throw in cuts for good measure. “I’m not allergic, I’m just scared of cats,” said Hatton, quoted by Dominic McGuinness in the book “The Real Hitman.” “I got scratched by one right down the face when I was about one year old. Now, when I see ‘em, I’m proper scared.”

Once, Hatton’s conditioning coach Kerry Kayes bought a stuffed cat to put on his fireplace and the fighter went crazy.

“Kerry bought me this stuffed cat and I thought, there’s no way I’m having that in my house,” said Hatton. “Then Campbell (his eight-year-old son) walked in and said, ‘Oh, is that for me, Dad?’ So I’ve got to keep it in the house.”

Another issue is cuts. Ring Magazine mentioned that Hatton’s weaknesses are lack of defense, susceptibility to cuts and facing slick movers.

McGuinness said Hatton often suffered cuts over his left eye early in his pro career.

“It was a real worry for Team Hatton until a visit to a Harley Street plastic surgeon uncovered a problem,” wrote McGuinness. “An old wound had been stitched up with a ball of Vaseline still embedded inside. The eye was cleaned and 22 stitches inserted. The wound hasn’t reopened since.”

Still another problem for Hatton is fighting southpaws.

“In my career, I’ve had 40 fights and I think I’ve boxed about four southpaws,” said Hatton before he took on left-handed Luis Collazo for the WBA welterweight crown in 2006. “The last time I fought a southpaw was two years ago so coming in and sparring with southpaws was something new to me. The first session with Frankie (Figueroa) was a bit of a struggle. I felt a little bit uncomfortable but I’m quite happy with how well I’ve gotten used to him.”

Hatton outpointed Collazo but not before nearly getting floored in the last round. The fight revealed Hatton’s inability to handle a lefthander which, by the way, Pacquiao is.

Touted as a come-forward brawler, Hatton dismissed the common notion that he’s a one-dimensional fighter.

“I’m known as a 100-mile-an-hour fighter and body puncher but I’m a little cleverer than that,” said the Hitman whose skills have been honed by trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. “I wanna be known as the great white hope. I’m a body puncher. I punch up from the floor with the big legs that I have.”

English actor Steve Arnold commented, “The way Ricky fights, he’s just awesome in there. Everyone thinks, he’s a bit of a mauler and all that but he can really box. He’s a really good boxer. He’s just so exciting. It’s forward, forward, forward and he doesn’t seem to get hurt or fazed by anything. He’s just a great fighter. I think he’s the best thing we’ve ever had (in British boxing).”

Hatton, 30 like Pacquiao, warned critics not to underestimate his intelligence.

“A lot of people think boxing is all about the strongest man or the toughest man getting in a ring and winning,” said Hatton who idolizes Roberto Duran. “It’s not like that at my level. When you’re fighting 12 rounds, your tactics might change three, four or five times during the fight. So if you haven’t got the type of brain that can change tactics like that in a fight, then you’re gonna be in trouble. You have to be a bit clever.”

Unlike Pacquiao who is embarking on a career in politics after boxing, Hatton said he’d like to continue his involvement in the sport beyond retirement.

“I’d like to think that after I finish boxing, I might be a trainer,” he said. “I want to stay in sport and use the knowledge I’ve learned to teach others, whatever their sport. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I hadn’t made it as a boxer. I’d be in a whole lot of trouble ‘cos it’s a difficult world when you leave school.”

As a 17-year-old amateur, Hatton was knocked out by German Jurgen Braemer. A year later, the Hitman turned pro, showing a bronze medal in the 1996 World Championships as his biggest prize in the simon-pure ranks.

“In amateur boxing, people always say, ‘I was robbed’ but I knocked lumps out of him and I didn’t get the decision (in the semifinals of the 1996 World Championships),” said Hatton. “It was that bad a decision the world governing body did an inquiry into the judging and they found that the Russian team had paid off judges. Even so it didn’t help me. I still only had a bronze medal but it did help me feel a little bit better about myself.” The misadventure led to Hatton’s decision to turn pro at 18.

Hatton said 35,000 British fans flew to the US to watch his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007 even if only 5,000 had tickets to the arena. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum estimated 15,000 planed in but the number made no difference because British fans are among the most loyal in the world and for sure, they’ll come out strong to cheer the Hitman against Pacquiao in the biggest fight of his life. - By Joaquin Henson


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