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18 NOVEMBER 2018


'Improved' Hatton two weeks ahead of schedule

Hatton in sparring (Mr Will/HoganPhotos)
Hatton in sparring (Mr Will/HoganPhotos)

Ant Evans visits Hatton's gym: If WBA junior welterweight champion Carlos Maussa and his handlers are hopeful that Ricky Hatton's promotional entanglements will distract him from the business of unifying the WBA and IBF championships on November 26, they better pin those hopes on something else before they are violently disabused of such wishful thoughts.

Former promoter Frank Warren goes to the High Court in London this Monday (October 17) seeking an injunction to stop the Fight Academy promoted event at the Sheffield Arena. But, confident they will persuade the judge they are indeed free agents, Hatton and trainer Billy Graham are training at full capacity at the Phoenix Camp in Manchester.

"I'm two weeks ahead of where I usually am in this camp," the Hitman told SecondsOut when we paid a visit a few days ago. "This is my second day of sparring and I'm already getting sharper - and usually don't start sparring until two or three weeks later into training."

Despite concerns that the reigning consensus ruler of the 10stone (140lbs) division had once again piled on the pounds after besting Kostya Tszyu in June, Hatton looked in good condition as he sparred four tough rounds with talented 23-year-old middleweight Matthew Macklin.

Wearing baggy t-shirts and with the heating on full blast to aid the release of sweat, Hatton and Macklin exchanged very meaningful punches throughout.

"I'm not 'there' yet," Hatton stated. "But I am very pleased that I can do four hard rounds at this stage of my training camp. I don't really need to at this point, but the fitness is there so I thought I'd push the boat out early."

Although Hatton wasn't quit the threshing machine that his Manchester faithful pay to see, even with the oversized gloves and headset there was no mistaking the constant pressure-fighting of the 'Hitman'. Macklin, who has come a long way from his disappointing loss to Andrew Facey when he was 21, landed some good shots, including a left hook followed by a crisp right.

But like someone picking a combination lock, Hatton's timing was clicking into place piece by piece. A lead right hand landed; Hatton ducked and slipped more jabs; the work on the inside resurfaced and, of course, Hatton unleashed hell to Macklin's rips whenever the Birmingham man's back touched the ropes.

"I learn so much from him every time," a breathless Macklin said afterwards. "Even when you are at range you can never have even half a seconds rest because he's constantly feinting, always doing something you have to watch. Your concentration has to be there 100% all the time. And he never falls for the same trick twice, if you feint a jab and then go for a right hand, you won't be able to use that again because he'll be watching for it."

After sparring, Hatton, alongside brother Matthew and several other gymmates, spent more than an hour working over the heavy bags and doing torturous mat work. After a few hours rest he hit the weights. After further rest he hit the tarmac.

"People don't realise how fit he is," trainer Billy 'the Preacher' Graham said. "Yeah, he puts on weight between fight, that's him, but how can anyone say he's affecting his stamina or whatever after the pace he set against Tszyu. And no word of a lie, if he maintains his progress in this camp he'll be even fitter for the Maussa fight."

Hatton added: "Maybe it's because I've matured a little more physically but I feel so strong and fast. Maybe this is mental, because now I'm a world champion, but I've never felt so good."

But Maussa, considered the weakest of the four junior welterweight title holders, is not underestimated.

Hatton was there when the rugged Columbian absorbed an early onslaught from much hyped Vivian Harris to spark the defending WBA champ out in seven rounds in Atlantic City, NJ, in June.

The 39-0 (29) Hatton said: "I was shocked that he beat Harris, to be honest, because Harris was talking so confidently about what he'd do to me, what he'd do to Mayweather and Gatti and suddenly there he was on the floor. But Maussa didn't care about talk or reputations and Harris made look very silly. I don't want Maussa to make me look silly and I won't be making the same mistakes.

"I think Harris was worried about stealing the show from Arturo Gatti and Floyd Mayweather (who contested the WBC belt on the show) and overtrained. He wasn't bothered about Maussa and went right at him for the knockout and paid a price. I've gone on record saying that I want the Mayweather fight next year but I'm not looking or thinking about that until after I win this next fight."

With that, Hatton gloved up and went back to the bags.

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