Boxing
Ricky riles Pretty Boy
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
An open letter to Ricky Hatton:

Dear Ricky,

Cheers and congrats on your big win Saturday night, Hitman.

You surely pulled off the most enviable of triple plays for an up and comer...winning against a name foe, looking good while doing so and making it all happen while the millionaire-making HBO cameras were focused and rolling.

A weekend like that surely warrants a few post-fight days of celebration and, in moments of adrenaline-laden grandeur, perhaps even the odd "I'll fight him anytime, anyplace" comments typically left to the professional wrestling set.

But I think you may have gone a little too far with it, Ricky.

By pointing your venom in the direction of one Floyd Mayweather Jr., you may have simultaneously laid the groundwork for a short-term money score while dealing yourself a far more painful long-term career blow.

In waking the sleeping gloved dog that is the "Pretty Boy," you've managed to give the world's best fighter exactly the sort of fuel he'd been seeking while pondering whether to continue what's so far been a peerless career.

With a return to welterweight uninspiring, a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya unlikely and a move to middleweight implausible, Mayweather had considered walking away at the top of his game to await a slam-dunk induction in Canastota later this decade.

It seems, though, that you've changed his mind.

"Ricky Hatton has talked nonstop about fighting me for the last two weeks," Mayweather said. "He has disrespected me and my accomplishments in the ring, and I take that very seriously. I'm going to give him the opportunity to step up and fight the best in the world. I don't think this punk will take the challenge."

In the past, a motivated Floyd has been an opponent's worst nightmare.

Arturo Gatti was the straight-ahead tough guy of all tough guys...and Mayweather made him quit in six rounds. Diego Corrales was a bomber who was all blood and guts and heart...and Floyd knocked him down five times in a 10-round TKO win. Carlos Baldomir was another guy regaled as the toughest one out there...and he lost 11 of 12 rounds.

Now Ricky, you looked great the other night, but remember you were fighting a guy in Castillo who hadn't had a big-time win in a few years and had been through the emotional wringer a few times since. Plus what people forget to mention is that Mayweather already beat Castillo twice at 135.

You had one fight at 147 and damned near lost to a slick, light-hitting athletic guy named Luis Collazo. After that, you went back to 140... your natural weight. And now you want to go back to 147 and talk smack to a slicker and more athletic guy who's never really come close to losing, let alone actually done it? Please!

Admittedly it's a great PR move for you. You'll get face time, stir the "I hate Floyd" crowd up for a few months and cash a nice check when the pay-per- view promotion gets really big. But when you get in the ring, and yes, you will have to eventually do something besides talk tough...Floyd might just be the last thing you want.

"Now that Hatton has opened up his big mouth, he might start to think about what he has been asking for," Mayweather said. "Does he really want to step into the ring with the best fighter of this era and embarrass himself? Being the coward that he is, I doubt he'll get in the ring. We'll see what his excuse will be this time."

Careful what you wish for, Ricky. Come this fall, it seems you just might get it.

Best,

FitzHitz


This week?s second item - brought to you by AARP.

Just a few days after seven 40-year-olds - including Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine - ditched their walkers and hobbled to mounds to pitch in major league games, leave it to boxing to one-up America's pastime.

Lou Savarese, as much defined by his three two-fight losing streaks - George Foreman/David Izon, Michael Grant/Mike Tyson and Kirk Johnson/Leo Nolan - as any of his 46 wins, stands in Saturday night as the last obstacle in 44-year-old Evander Holyfield's path to a heavyweight title shot.

And what's more, Savarese - at 41 - finally gets to be the young guy.

The amiable Texan has spent 18 years on the fringe of prime-time contention - winning 37 in a row from 1989 to 1996 before dropping a split 12-round verdict to Foreman for the lightly regarded WBU crown in April 1997, then following it with a disappointing fifth-round KO loss to Izon just more than six months later.

He returned to capture the even-lesser regarded IBA title over ex-Holyfield victim Buster Douglas two fights later, but fell off the face of legitimacy once again by dropping a 10-rounder to the then-unbeaten Grant and lasting just 38 seconds when the Tyson circus traveled to Glasgow, Scotland in June 2000.

The subsequent one-two against Johnson (TKO by 4) and Nolan (L 12) led to a two-year hiatus from the ring for Savarese - which ended only when he joined Dicky Ryan on the prestigious list of men who've twice knocked out Marcus Rhode, a feat trumped only by stoppages of Travis Fulton and Matt Hicks in January and April, respectively.

So, sure, why wouldn't a guy be optimistic?

"Lou is ready and he is really in great shape," said trainer Bob Benton, in a Thursday piece in the El Paso Times. "Wait until you see him. And I think this matchup is perfect for Lou. Perfect."

And to the winner may go the spoils of a unified championship.

Still anonymous Eastern European belt-holders Sultan Ibragimov (WBO) and Ruslan Chagaev (WBA) announced plans this week to meld their jewelry in an October meeting set for Ibragimov's backyard in Moscow.

Chagaev - who holds the heavyweight championship of nicknames with his moniker "White Tyson" - toppled the division's undisputed novelty act when he beat 7-footer Nikolay Valuev via 12-round majority decision in April to improve to 23-0-1.

Ibragimov, meanwhile, earned his place on the Russian/Uzbek marquee with a unanimous 12-round nod over American pretender Shannon Briggs at Boardwalk Hall in New Jersey earlier this month.

"It's a done deal," said Leon Margules, Ibragimov's promoter with Seminole Warriors Boxing, in an ESPN piece on Tuesday. "We're doing a unification fight, which is what everyone is crying for. The fighters wanted to fight each other and we made a deal, and when it's over there will be one less heavyweight champion."

The last major heavyweight unification bout involved Holyfield, who lost to Lennox Lewis in their second go-round in November 1999.

Elsewhere in the division, IBF/IBO champion Wladimir Klitschko will make defense No. 3 of his crowns on July 7, when he faces former conqueror Lamon Brewster at the Kolnarena in Koln, Germany. Brewster stopped Klitschko in five rounds for the vacant WBO title in April 2004.

Klitschko is 6-0 since the surprising loss, while Brewster defended his title three times before surrendering it to Sergei Lyakhovich - who subsequently lost it to Briggs - via 12-round decision in April 2006. WBC champion Oleg Maskaev has a scheduled defense against Nigerian export Samuel Peter on Sept. 29, at a time and site to be determined.

Last but not least - let's go back to the circus.

Aging ex-champ Ray Mercer, apparently looking for an indoor diversion in the summer paradise that is New Jersey, has decided another cross-over to mixed martial arts certainly won't be it after his one-round run-in with Miami-based street-fighting expert Kimbo Slice last week in Atlantic City.

The former one-defense WBO heavyweight belt-holder - who won it from Franscesco Damiani, defended it against Tommy Morrison and lost it to Larry Holmes - lasted less than two minutes in his MMA debut at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night, which for some reason drew 7,286 fans.

Mercer, who turned 45 in April and hasn't boxed professionally since a KO loss to the suddenly oft-mentioned Briggs in August 2005, promised he'd triumphantly return to his initial sport of choice because of its decided lack of mayhem.

"I walked right into his trap," he said. "It was like I put my head in his armpit and said 'Go ahead, choke me.' From now on, I'm sticking to boxing. I can't get choked out in boxing."

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.