National Conference Call Transcript
WBU 14O-Pound Champion
Ricky “Hitman” Hatton,
Wednesday, April 2, 2003
Hatton discussed his upcoming fight against former world champion Vince Phillips on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING Saturday, April 5, at 11 p.m. ET/PT. Hatton will make the ninth defense of his World Boxing Union (WBU) junior welterweight title when he faces former International Boxing Federation (IBF) 140-pound titleholder Phillips. In the co-feature, European Union (EU) 140-Pound Champion Jurgen Haeck will defend his title for the first time when he takes on British Commonwealth Champion and current WBO No. 1 contender, Junior Witter. Frank Warren’s Sports Network will promote the 12-round matches from MEN Arena in Manchester, England.
Question: Do you feel this fight this will be your toughest fight to date?
Hatton: It potentially is my toughest fight. In most cases during my career, I have been the favorite and expected to win. I am not saying motivation has been a problem, but I always felt I was a little bit better than the level I was competing at. This is a fight I can really get my teeth into. Phillips is a class act. Even at 39 years of age, he shows he still is a class act. I am always in top shape, and I have seen a lot of Phillips over the years. He took Sharmba Mitchell to a split-point decision and gave him a good fight. Watching all the Phillips tapes against these top contenders gives me an extra incentive. There are still a few question marks over my head, and I need to fight the top contenders. I think Phillips is close to that level of fighters I need be to competing against.
Question: Does having a common opponent help you as you prepare for this fight?
Hatton: I do not think that having a common opponent will help me prepare for this fight. Styles make fights. I fought Freddie Pendleton a few years ago, and Phillips fought him a few years before that. I would not read too much into that. When I fought Pendleton, everyone expected it to be a really good test, but I came through that in fantastic style, out boxed Pendleton and knocked him out in two rounds. Right now, I feel like I did before I fought Pendleton. I watched tapes of Pendleton against all these top guys, and I knew I would need a good performance. It was supposed to be one of my biggest tests and it turned out to be one of my most comfortable wins. That is the type of feeling I get when I watch tapes of Phillips against Kostya Tszyu and Mickey Ward. I feel this fight will be a real test, and I know nothing short of my best will do. Just like my fight against Pendleton, this could turn out to be my best performance. This is a fight I am really excited about.
Question: Does Phillips’ experience against bigger opponents give him an advantage?
Hatton: With Phillips’ experience and the amount of fights he has had against fighters at the top level in both the junior and welterweight divisions, he probably is used to fighting bigger men. When you talk about guys like Tszyu and Vernon Forrest, then you bring up the name Ricky Hatton, it probably seems like a walk in the park to him. This is a chance for me to see how good I really am. This is my chance to shine and show people I am the real deal.
Question: Phillips has described you as a Rocky Marciano-type fighter. Can you talk about your style against Phillips’ style?
Hatton: That is a fantastic compliment; Phillips saying I remind him of Marciano. I have practically always been the favorite in all of my fights, but in this fight, it is a bigger test. I do not see myself as Rocky Marciano. I have a lot more to my game than being just a power puncher. Phillips’ style will not be dull. He does not shy away from his opponents. He will try to hold the center of the ring and try to measure me. I am someone who likes to keep the pressure on. I know Phillips’ game. He throws a hell of a lot of right hands. Maybe sometimes he overplays it, which leaves me with quite a few dangers I have to look out for. However, throwing that many rights leaves him in the firing line more. It gives me an opportunity to get my punches off. I am extremely confident I can fight my style.
Question: What do you think about Phillips still competing at the top of his division at age 39?
Hatton: Phillips is very impressive. In his fight against Mitchell, he did not look like a 39-year-old fighter. I do not think Mitchell was too keen on standing his ground with Phillips. Mitchell would get off a few shots and get back on the move. I know I cannot afford to stand in front of him, but I will certainly be in range a lot longer. I have to do it in an educated, calculated way. Hopefully, it will make for a fantastic fight. I certainly cannot imagine the fight being dull.
Question: Do you think Tszyu needs to fight Phillips one more time?
Hatton: You would think Tszyu would want to fight Phillips. You would think Tszyu would be jumping at the chance to set the record straight. I am not too sure why that has not happened. If Phillips beats me, that puts him closer to a shot with Tszyu. That is my job to make sure that does not happen. Phillips probably sees our fight as a chance to shoot up the rankings and get another shot at Tszyu, but I do not think that is going to happen.
Question: What do you think it will take for you to get matches against opponents like Tszyu and Mitchell?
Hatton: I think this fight is a step in the right direction. I feel I have beaten some decent lads, but without jumping into the elite. I would not say motivation has been a problem. It is very difficult sometimes to look good against opponents when everyone is expecting you to win. I expect to win this time. Because of the fighter Phillips is and the company he has fought in, it will make me a better fighter. That will put me on a different level. This is the type of fight I have wanted for a while, and hopefully people will step up and say that Ricky Hatton really is a contender. I just have to go out there and prove it to the people that matter. Fights like this are what I need to get up there with the likes of Tszyu.
Question: What is your time frame for fighting the elite guys at 140 pounds?
Hatton: Fighting the elite guys at 140 pounds depends on if I fight the right people and make the right matches. If I can put on a good win against Phillips and fight some other top-10 rated opponents, I would like to think maybe I will start fighting them this time next year, or the end of this year. It all depends on who I fight, and if Frank Warren can make the right matches and put me in line for a shot. I have been waiting for a chance to prove to people what I have as a fighter.
Question: Do you feel like you have the ability to fight the top guys in your opinion?
Hatton: I know I have not boxed guys like that, and that has been frustrating for me because I know what I can do when I step in the ring. I have been blowing past the majority of my opponents, so people get the impression of me as an attacking, body punching, and brawler type. I do like to put the pressure on, but I have very underrated boxing skills. I have won nine amateur titles. I had 80 amateur fights, and won 76 if them. You do not get that kind of record without having talent. The good thing is I have not really needed all my talent yet. When I get an opportunity to show that talent, people will start taking me more seriously.
Question: Have you received any feedback from people in the United States about you as a boxer?
Hatton: I think everyone is pretty excited about me. I have a style that any fight fan would love. I am a real value-for-money fighter. People want to see me against the elite. I know Frank Warren is trying to make the matches, and this is a step in the right direction. I know this will be my most difficult fight, but I also believe this will be my best performance. I will just rise to the occasion. This is a type of level at which I can compete. This will make me a lot better than how people normally see me.
Question: How has your training been going?
Hatton: I have been training for this fight for about eight or nine weeks. I am never out of training. I have had good sparring against people that have had a high work rate. I have sparred against fighters that threw a hell of a lot of right crosses. We have different training methods in our gym. We are doing 12 rounds everyday in the gym. My preparation has been the same as it always is. The opponent is tougher, so you gear your training and sparring around that. I know there is nothing I could have done better in my preparation for this fight.
Question: Who are the leading contenders to Tszyu?
Hatton: Zab Judah is still a danger. Arturo Gatti is knocking on the door. Mitchell is still a contender. I believe if anybody out there can beat Tszyu, I think I can do it. I have to prove myself before I have the right to challenge Tszyu. People will take me a lot more seriously, and will say he is knocking on the door after I beat Phillips.
Question: Is there one key to defeating Phillips?
Hatton: Mitchell showed fantastic speed when he fought Phillips. Although I cannot be more opposite of Mitchell, I think it is important to show good defense in this fight. I know I am a lot quicker than Phillips. I have good footwork, and hope to make him miss. It is good to be somewhat allusive against Phillips, and get in a lot of punches to the body and head. I have to continue to be active and throw a lot of punches, but not stand right in front of him.
Question: Because you are so successful in England, has that kept you from fighting in smaller venues in the United States?
Hatton: Because I do bring in good crowds in England, I think it is good business to fight here. I am hoping that if I beat Phillips in the style I hope to do it, I will be able to pull in big crowds in America as well. I think the American public will take to me because I wear my heart on my sleeve, and go forward and attack all day long. I think if I show I can do it against guys like Phillips and other guys at that level, people will stand up and really take me seriously. I need wins like this. I have boxed in the U.S. in the past, but I believe I have had a lot of good wins at this level. I would like to think I could perform and do it the same. Maybe people will say Hatton is good and not just all hype. He can fight as well. I just have to prove it against the top guys.
Question: Is there any venue you have dreamed about fighting?
Hatton: I already achieved my dream by fighting at Madison Square Garden for my second pro fight. I felt like I won the world title already, and I only had two professional fights. Madison Square Garden stands alone as far as boxing venues are concerned, and I dream about going back there again. I have boxed in Atlantic City. I went to Detroit. I would like to go to Las Vegas, where all of the top shows and fighters are. It would be a dream come true.
Question: How much of a distraction has Junior Witter been for you?
Hatton: Witter has not been a distraction at all. When you have someone like him who mouths off to you, there would be something wrong with you if you did not rise to it. I look at him and laugh. I have more to gain in beating Phillips than beating Witter. It would be a big fight in Britain, but Philips has fought the contenders. I want to make a name for myself in the U.S., and a fight against Witter would not help that one bit because he does not really have a world ranking, or a belt that I need. Witter does bad mouth me, but he should be on his hands and knees kissing my feet. He has knocked out his last 10 opponents, but I could knock them out with two hands tied behind my back. He has not even fought a good domestic contender like Eamonn Magee. I have more to gain by fighting guys like Phillips. It is not going to raise my profile in the U.S. People remember Witter’s fight with Judah, and he did not do himself any favors. He ran more miles than he does in training. I want to start climbing the world rankings and get a shot a Tszyu. A win over Phillips would do that, but a win over Witter would not. He is like a boil on my ass, so I would like to lace them up and get rid of him. Maybe we can get this fight out of the way in the summer and get on with my business. So far, Witter is talking the talk and not walking the walk. In fact, he is boring me now.
Question: Can you talk about your reaction after getting knocked down by Magee?
Hatton: Magee was shouting me out, and appeared on many of my undercards. During those fights, he stunk the place up. I had visions of me winning in good style. I did not show him the respect he deserved, and caused myself problems. Getting knocked down early was the best thing that could have happened to me. I got that out of the way. If it had not happened there, it could have happened against Phillips or Witter. I know that will not happen really. It was just one of those fights I had to get out of the way to move on.
Question: Do you feel like your next fight has to be in the U.S. regardless of what happens?
Hatton: I feel I need to fight in the United States. There is a lot being put on me back home, mainly by Witter. I want to be fighting in the U.S. against top opponents in order to put myself in line for a shot with Tszyu. I need to be defeating people like Mickey Ward and Gatti. I will not be able to get rid of Witter until I beat him. It is a fight I want, and a fight I know I would win. I have nothing to gain from it, but I hope the fight comes off. If Frank Warren sees a better fight out there for me, I am sure he will take it. I want to be fighting the top-10 American guys in the near future. Maybe I could have taken this step last year. I see guys fight on television and I feel like I can handle myself on that level. Phillips is a step in that direction. It is a fight I need in order to progress. It has made sense for me to fight as often as I have in order to build up my record and reputation. Now is the time to go for it.
Question: Do you feel an emphatic win would convince Americans to come over and fight in Britain?
Hatton: This fight is a step in the right direction. Phillips gave Mitchell a run for his money. I am not hoping to just beat Phillips; I hope to do it in style. I know a lot of people in the U.S. are getting excited about me. I am going to be in some fantastic fights. Fans like quick knockouts, and they want to see me do it against some of the top guys. I would love to come to America and fight. I have a fantastic fan base in Britain. With my style, I think I could have the same success in the U.S. My style is all action. I come forward with a lot of body punches and shots to the head. That is what the fight fans want to see. They want to be entertained.
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