Villain or hero, 'Pretty Boy' gets it done
By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
From what I gather, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is not everyone's favorite person.
The e-mails floating toward my inbox this week - reacting primarily to his role in HBO's latest "24/7" hype-o-mentary - claim he's arrogant, ostentatious, a poor role model and, well... just a flat-out jerk.
Readers don't like the way he taunts opponents. They don't like the way he acts superior. And they don't like the way he flaunts his wealth and status - "making it rain," if you will - for everyone to see.
So, disgusted by the showboating, me-first attitude that's obviously turned up a notch for the sake of inquiring cameras, people look at this weekend's fight as a chance for a heroic "common man" type to rise up and shut the brash "Pretty Boy's" mouth.
They see Ricky Hatton - the ale-chugging, song-singing import from Manchester - as the perfect foil to Mayweather's abrasive hip-hop persona, and breathlessly hope against hope that the unbeaten "Hitman" will complete the job that 38 others before him have tried and failed.
Lost in the polarizing battle of image, however, is a clear-cut and harsh reality.
Good guy or bad guy... Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the best fighter on the planet.
And there's really nothing - short of entering the ring with a few dozen more of his Manchester brethren - Ricky Hatton can do about it.
Oh sure, detractors one and all will point to Hatton's pristine 43-0 record, his buzz-saw aggression and his confident pre-fight determination and say, "Floyd's never seen a guy like this before."
Good guy or bad guy... Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the best fighter on the planet.
They'll say it, but they'll be wrong.
In truth, the bull-dozing specter of Hatton is no more ominous than several Mayweather has already unmasked on a victim's list with names like Corrales, Castillo, Judah and De La Hoya - while barely breaking a serious sweat, let alone coming close to losing.
Hatton, on the other hand, has fought just one time at 147 pounds, impressing precious few while escaping with a narrow 12-rounder over slick lefty Luis Collazo in what was supposed to be a rock 'em, sock 'em U.S. coming-out party.
He wisely returned to junior welter and fattened up on untested Juan Urango and uninterested Jose Luis Castillo afterward, but was lured back to the big stage by a wallet score unavailable amid the has-beens and never-weres at 140.
Cleverly repackaged for $54.95 on a television near you, it becomes an "Undefeated" extravaganza for Golden Boy Promotions.
But strip away Hatton's accent and charm and it's no different than the myriad previously propped up as Mayweather's worst nightmare fights, particularly the bull/matador blueprints of Arturo Gatti in June 2005 and Carlos Baldomir 17 months later.
Gatti was the "blood and guts action hero" who, according to many, would push Mayweather with unparalleled resilience. And Baldomir, who'd risen from anonymous club fighter to linear world champion, was the rough-and-tumble customer just solid enough and tough enough to score an upset.
Or, well... maybe not.
For those unaware of how those one-sided get-togethers turned out - Gatti was beaten to a pulp over six rounds in his Atlantic City backyard, while Baldomir landed nary a punch after his pre-fight aggression became in-fight survival upon realizing what he was truly up against.
Hatton is younger, more accomplished and fitter than those two, but when push comes to shove, the only advantages that'll matter - speed, athleticism, defense, elite-level experience - are still the ones unquestionably checked off on the "Pretty Boy's" side of the ledger.
So, while he's surely a down-to-Earth guy with whom I'd rather raise a pint of Guinness, Hatton - in a boxing ring with a motivated Mayweather - is quite possibly the last chap whose shoes I'd want to actually fill in Las Vegas come Saturday night.
Longer than Gatti and harder than Baldomir... but in the end, no less decisive.
FitzHitz says: Mayweather in 10.
Meanwhile, if your search for the perfect blend of championship-level boxer and fine human being continues, look no further than DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley.
True, the ex-WBO junior welterweight title-holder isn't quite the fighter he used to be, but from a journalist's perspective, you'd go a long way before finding a more gracious and cooperative guy in any walk of life.
The 33-year-old headlined a nine-bout card in Tampa last weekend, eventually dropping the main event by reed-thin split decision to Colombian veteran Dario Jose Esalas.
But as it turned out, his best performance came later.
Rather than the frustrated and embittered prima donna I dreaded while approaching the locker room with ace sidekick Nick Fortuna, Corley was instead as friendly and pleasant as any winner I'd ever dealt with.
He sat casually with us and chief second Al Bonnini for the next 20 minutes, candidly discussing the bout with Esalas, its close verdict and how the upset loss would impact the subsequent steps in his already 11-year professional career.
'This loss really hurt me,' he said. 'I'm going to go home, sit down with the kids and my wife, talk to DK and them (soon) and see what they want to do from there. If not, I can hang my gloves up. There's a pretty good chance this might be the last time you'll see me.
'I had a great career. I'm pleased. I'm satisfied with it.'
Corley, who runs a youth boxing group in suburban Washington, D.C., said he'd likely devote more energy to such activities should he actually decide to retire.
"My degree is in boxing. It's what I know and what I do," he said. "If I'm done here, I'll just go back and spend more time with the kids, teaching. I'll always be around it."
Neither the sport, nor his students could have a better ambassador.
Be well, "Chop Chop."
Of course, the two-hour ride from Gainesville to Tampa for the Corley fight brought more than its fair share of debate on this weekend's main event.
My man Nick, a former varsity quarterback at the College of New Jersey and an alum of Bloomberg News in New York, is also an ardent Hatton supporter and believes the British import will win by late-round stoppage or clear-cut decision.
Among his rationale:
"Floyd's always in great condition, but this might be the first fight where he's in the second-best condition of the participants," he said. "Ricky's always in great shape, too, and is rock hard, and he has proven he has the ability to come forward non-stop for 12 rounds, something few others are really capable of. He's looked great on 24/7 too.
"Ricky is not the used up fighter Gatti was. Ricky has only been hurt once, against Collazo. He's 29, whereas Gatti was 33 when he fought Floyd. Gatti had been knocked out twice previously and had taken extraordinary punishment in many of his wins, earning him the 'ultimate blood and guts warrior' moniker.
"Ricky simply hasn't had to display that find of perseverance because he's a better fighter."
Needless to say, and as was pointed out earlier, I disagree. But in lieu of just a monetary wager to certify my beliefs, I've decided to put up something more important -- my column.
Should Hatton shock the world and win on Saturday, look for a lead item of next week's piece -- no doubt featuring a fair amount of gloating -- penned by Mr. Fortuna.
And if all goes as planned and Mayweather wins, well... I'd guess you pretty much already know what to expect. Just another testament to the greatest fighter of our time.
Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show -- broadcast weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com) -- and provides 'In the Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com).