Ricky Hatton was 38-0 and the WBU light welterweight champion, but he was growing frustrated with his career, he wanted the big fights. The WBU was lightly regarded in world terms, certainly in comparison with the likes of the WBC, WBA and the IBF, who were the most recognised of the so-called alphabet boys. Hatton wanted to fight the elite of his division. The universally accepted number one in the division was the IBF champion Kostya Tszyu who had an impressive 31-1 record and who hadn’t lost a fight since 1997, a surprise defeat to Vince Phillips.
Frank Warren had to pay Tszyu a small fortune to entice him to come to the MEN Arena in Manchester in June 2005 to put his belt on the line against Hatton. The bout brought back memories of Eusebio Pedroza fighting Barry McGuigan, a long-reigning champion but one that was just maybe there for the taking, fighting the young pretender. Despite being 35 Tszyu was a big betting favourite, Hatton was given little chance, especially by the American pundits.
So in the early hours in front of 22,000 of his extremely vocal hometown fans, Hatton finally got his big fight, and it proved to be one of the most memorable nights in British boxing history.
There was no feeling out period, any success either boxer got was hard earned and came at a price. Hatton started well, Tszyu came back into it from the 3rd, and it looked as though he would be too much at times for Hatton. But Hatton gave the performance of his life, denying his feared opponent the space he needed to do his best work. Slowly but surely Hatton was getting to his man but absorbed plenty himself, punches which had stopped many good men before him.
Hatton fought at a relentless pace, and eventually, Tszyu started to concede ground and eventually he conceded the fight. At the end of the 11th round, Tszyu looked a broken man and he never came out for the final round, and Hatton had defied the odds in one of the greatest performances ever by a British fighter.
At the finish, Hatton was ahead on all 3 judges scorecards.
Judge: Manuel Maritxalar 105-104
Judge: Alfred Asaro 106-103
Judge: Don Ackerman 107-102