As part of BBN’s ongoing 'Mythical Matchups' series, Tim Rickson breaks down a 140lbs mega-fight between Brits Ricky Hatton (45-3) and Amir Khan (34-5):
Both from the north west of England, the pair lived only 15 miles apart, but unfortunately their careers weren’t as close, with Hatton making his professional debut in the century before Khan.
After becoming ABA national light-welterweight champion in 1997, Richard John Hatton made his pro bow that same year against Colin McAuley in a local sports centre in Widnes and won via first round TKO. In stark contrast to the Kingsway Leisure Centre, Hatton’s second pro contest was at Madison Square Garden in New York on the undercard of Prince Naseem vs Kevin Kelly in December 1997; he defeated Brooklynite Robert Alvarez on points over four rounds.
He finished his glittering 15-year career as a two-weight world champion, who challenged himself against the two greatest fighters of his generation – Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. He is regarded by most as Britain’s greatest ever light-welterweight of all-time.
His greatest achievement was when he defeated Kostya Tszyu for the IBF, Ring Magazine and Lineal championships in 2005 in an epic contest which swung back and forth. The following year, he became a two-divisional champ by winning a tough fight against Luis Collazo to claim the WBA World welterweight title. He returned back down to super-lightweight to win the IBF title for a second time as well as the IBO.
His bold attempt to win a second Ring Magazine belt ended in his first career defeat to all-time great Floyd Mayweather, who stopped him in the 10th round. His following loss to Pac-Man was an indicator that he had given the sport his all, but was time to call it a day. However, three years on in 2012, he came back from retirement and suffered a further loss to Vyacheslav Senchenko.
His lasting legacy is the way that he transcended the sport, with possibly the biggest fan following of any boxer, not just in the UK, but in the world. At the weigh-in for his clash with Mayweather, there was a crowd of over 6,000 almost exclusively British fans in attendance to support their beloved hero. The event itself, sold out 16,800 tickets within 30 minutes of going on sale, and over 10,000 fans flew from Britain to Las Vegas to support the Mancunian, whether they had tickets or not.
Making his professional debut in a different millennium to Hatton, Khan was a superstar before he even had his first pro bout due to his success in the Athens 2004 Olympics where he was Team GB’s only representative.
Not only did he become Britain’s youngest ever Olympic medalist in boxing, at the age of 17, he went on to become one of the youngest ever world champions when he won the WBA World super-lightweight title at 22.
Quite different to Hatton’s pro bow in a local sports centre, Khan drew an audience of 4.4 million viewers live on ITV at the 6,000-capacity Bolton Arena, which he won via first-round knockout in July 2005.
Blessed with fleet feet and remarkably fast fists, Amir Khan always brought excitement to the ring. His kryptonite was his punch resistance and is often referred to by many as having a ‘glass chin’.
Any heavy shot had the potential to bring down the Olympic Silver medalist - Willie Limond; Michael Gomez; Briedis Prescott; Marcos Maidana; Lamont Peterson; Danny Garcia; Julio Diaz; Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez; Terence Crawford; Samuel Vargas all hurt and floored Khan.
Despite the entertainment he always provided viewers, Khan was always just a second away from defeat, as demonstrated against Canelo in 2016. Virgil Hunter worked closely with Khan to correct his many mistakes in preparation for the pound-for-pound no.1, but it only lasted a few rounds before he would lapse in concentration and unravel.
Despite being ahead on one of the judge’s scorecards, Khan stopped moving his feet as much, stayed in range for too long, left his left side exposed, got caught cold with a hellacious overhand right and was iced out cold by the hard-hitting Mexican. One mistake and he’s out.
He got caught with the exact same punch in his 2010 fight with Marcos Maidana, where he had torrid round 10 eating up unremitting right hands from the aggressive Argentinian. He bossed the first part of the fight dropping Maidana with awesome body shots in the opener, and he fought brilliantly, but he was on the ropes during the championship rounds and clung on to victory, just.
Shared opponent Paulie Malignaggi fought both Brits – Hatton and Khan – and this is what he said of his experience, “I fought them both, I thought Amir was a lot better. On a skill basis, what I saw from both guys, Amir was a lot more difficult to deal with. There’ll never be a right or wrong answer because they’re never going to fight, but for me Amir was the best.”
Here’s what many of BBN’s readers think of the fictional fight outcome:
“Hatton would knock Khan out mid to late after trailing on points.”
“Khan boxes his head off, schools him completely, making Hatton look like a club fighter then slows and gets sparked out anything from round six onwards.”
“Hatton mauls him to death! Hatton would likely lose the first couple rounds but Amir has shown he does not have the ability to keep a pressure guy off of him. Hatton had quick feet and could close distance. He’d be all over Khan from the second round on, he’d rag Khan around on the inside and physically manhandle him.”
“Khan doesn’t have the strength or power to keep Hatton off him, just think of Khan hugging or trying to push Hatton off? Not gonna’ work and Khan’s inside game is nonexistent. What Floyd Mayweather did was make Hatton’s style work against him, something Khan doesn’t have the strength or ability to do. Hatton in his prime lost twice to the top two P4P fighters, something Khan cannot say.”
You can just feel the amazing atmosphere at the sold-out Manchester Arena through your TV screens. This all-British mega-fight has really captured the wider public's attention and over 7 million viewers are expected to tune in to watch the two heroes in action.
The first bell sounds and Khan starts fast and sharp, landing plenty of swift jabs, but without much sting in them. He jabs to the face of Hatton, then pivots and wheels away, with Hatton desperately trying to catch up with him. Whenever Hatton lunges forward and misses, Khan steps back in and lets loose with four to five straight shots to the head, then gets back on his toes again.
Despite Khan’s perfect start, Hatton manages to land a leaping right hand to stun Khan with just seconds to go, although the Olympian manages to ride it somehow, but is forced to really get on his heels to keep away. The bell sounds and the fans are raucous! Both boxers are going for it, it’s fast and frenetic!
In the second round, Khan manages to hit and move with even more success this time and doesn’t get caught by the aggressive Mancunian. His game plan to utilise his fast hands and mobility is working for him so far. Hatton is persistently coming forward but can’t quite get close enough to land his own shots. Lots of walking down by Hatton, but very litle punching so far. When they clinch, Hatton is more effective and manages to sink in body shots, by they are pulled apart quickly.
In the third round, Khan is throwing double and triple jabs as he grows in confidence and even leaps in to land double body shots with a left and right, then steps back out of range again. There’s a bit more holding in this round, as Khan isn’t spinning away to his left as often as before, holding his feet, and Hatton makes the most of the clinches by hitting on the inside, working to the body with left hooks. Hatton hasn't managed to throw many shots in the fight yet, especially from range, and Khan is likely leading on the cards so far.
But in the last 30 seconds of the third stanza, as Khan backs up, the ‘Hitman’ lands a leaping left hook to Khan’s head that knocks him off balance and he backpedals to the ropes, which handily holds him up. He holds on as Hatton frantically tries to capitilise, but his over eagerness results in him getting a warning from the referee for not listening to instruction when he called break. As they separate, Hatton tries the same punch again and almost lands it, but Khan was wise to it and just moved his head enough to escape it a second time. The bell sounds and Hatton is looking a lot happier with his performance, believing the tide is turning in his favour finally.
At the start of the fourth, Hatton explodes out of his corner and lands that same leaping left hand again instantly. Stunned Khan stumbles ever so slightly, due to being surprised more than hurt, and he snaps into action and begins to dance around the ring. Despite the excitement from the first round, the action isn’t as thrilling anymore as they play cat and mouse. Hatton almost runs forward as Khan skips around out of range. Every time Hatton lunges forward, Khan moves his head then holds, but the Bolton boxer looks tired with all the excess movement. On the last few occasions, Hatton came in too predictable with his attacks and Khan managed to land his own shots before moving away. Hatton kept eating jabs on his way in, which looked painful in the replays, as he walked onto most of them.
In the fifth round, it’s much the same, with Hatton trying to land but missing a lot, Khan manages to catch a bit of a breather in this round as he predicts a lot of Hatton’s moves and manages to counter successfully with the right hook on two separate occasions. Then, as the klaxons go, Hatton moves in too predictably and Khan lands a solid left jab to his oncoming head, which opens up a cut above his right eye. Annoyed and frustrated with himself, Hatton apoplectically unleashes his fury and, spurred on by his prior success, Khan fights fire with fire and the pair end the round trading leather, both landing big hits on one another. The fight fans roar into life, as the exhilaration from the opening round is reignited.
In the sixth stanza, Hatton races forwards again, with Khan keeping his distance. Not once has Hatton been forced backwards, which tells you who possesses the greater power of the pair. It's the same story again, Hatton plodding forwards, trying to catch the Bolton Wanderer, who continues to move fluidly, back up and maintain his distance, until finally caught up with and forced to hold. Hatton gets told to watch his head in the holds, clearly leaning in too much. You can just feel his frustration.
Khan always looks bright in the first minute, but gets more and more inactive with his punches during the round. He still manages to land his jabs on occasions and not much of what Hatton throws manages to get through, either missing or just grazing Khan. Hatton's workrate, persistently walking Khan down, seems to be draining Khan's energy as he breathes heavily.
In round seven, once again, Hatton comes flying out of the traps and lunges forwards with a right hand, which just brushes Khan on the top of the head. He immediately pivots to his right and dances away, but as Hatton tries to catch up with him, he switches his movement by skipping away to his right, then to his left, and Hatton can’t get anywhere near. It’s another game of cat and mouse between the two Brits, but then, out of nowhere, Hatton lands a solid left jab to Khan’s right cheek, which visibly hurts him and catches his attention.
Enthused, Hatton steps it up another gear and comes raging forwards. Backing away, Khan is caught up with and forced to hold. As the pair are split apart, Khan immediately gets on his toes again, but as he gets cornered by Hatton, he gets hit with an overhand right and stumbles backwards onto the ropes. Hatton immediately pounces on him and throws three left hooks to the body and Khan slips over sideways under the pressure, but it’s inevitably ruled as a knockdown despite his pleas that he slipped and he takes an eight-count.
Although desperate to finish matters, Hatton displays patience and walks forwards, not lunging in this time, but looking to get close enough to unleash a fight-ending punch. Hatton lands a good jab and the pair end up in a clinch in the middle of the ring, but then he irksomely explodes into life to land two right hands in close, which pushes Khan backwards. Hatton comes forward and powers in a right hook to the body followed by a left hook to the head and Khan goes down for a second time.
Again, ‘King Khan’ gets up, takes the eight-count, but is breathing heavily, seemingly due to the body shot taking the wind out of him. Hatton can’t be contained and throws an overhand right that misses, but his follow up left uppercut, then left hook rocks Khan’s head this way and that way and gets trapped in the corner once more. Hatton pounds away at the body with left hooks then comes upstairs with a right hook that lands cleanly on Khan’s chin, snapping his head back, and he stops fighting back, forcing referee Mickey Vann to step in and stop the contest.
Hatton wins the 'Battle of the Brits' via seventh-round TKO and maintains his status as the British Isle's greatest 140lbs fighter of all-time.
Ricky Hatton PTS: 5%
Ricky Hatton KO: 88%
Amir Khan PTS: 7%
Amir Khan KO: 0%