Hatton forced to go the distance

 

Boxing: Ricky Hatton survived a couple of scares on his way to retaining his IBO light-welterweight title via unanimous decision over Juan Lazcano in front of 55,000 fans at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Hatton's relentless aggression won him landslide 120-110, 118-110, 120-108 verdicts on the three judges' cards but brave Lazcano gave him plenty of trouble and came close to dumping the champion on the canvas in rounds eight and 10.

Hatton showed he had not entirely learned the lessons of his 10th-round knockout defeat to Floyd Mayweather in December as he got careless and was forced to cling on and ride the storm.

And arguably his win over Lazcano - a fringe 140lbs contender who effectively came out of retirement to take the fight - leaves his dream of enticing Mayweather into a rematch a long way off.

Lazcano came into the ring with a potentially valuable five-inch reach advantage and deserved enormous credit for the way in which he stood up to Hatton's relentless bombs and hung around until the final bell.

Following the verdict, Hatton admitted he was more nervous about this fight than he had been before any of his previous 44.

"The hardest one's out the way, coming back from Floyd Mayweather," said Hatton. "I've never been more nervous about a boxing match in my life.

"I felt great in the gym but it's different once you get in there. All those demons are in your mind: 'can I come back as strong?'"

Hatton praised Lazcano's courage, saying: "There were about three or four times in the fight when I thought I had him.

"If I wanted to box my way to a points victory, I could have come through a lot more comfortably."

Hatton believes his victory proved he is the light-welterweight king and he confirmed he would like his next fight to be against IBF champion Paulie Malignaggi, who won an unconvincing victory on the under-card.

With Hatton's trainer Billy Graham admitting he did not know how the knockout to Mayweather would affect him until last night's first bell sounded, there were enough imponderables for the sell-out home crowd to savour.

Hatton, who entered the ring wearing a padded robe in a jibe to the critics who deride his habit of ballooning in weight between fights, did not look like showing any ill effects in a confident start.

Lazcano had entered the ring first wearing a sombrero and smiling broadly despite the boos of the pro-Hatton fans, as fight stars like Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson watched from ringside.