Hatton ready to slip mickey to Moussa

Nov 22, 2005 5:32 AM

Let’s get this out of the way quickly: It’s a Mickey Maussa fight — Ricky Hatton defending Disneyland and rest of the real world’s junior welterweight championship against Colombia fighter Carlos Maussa.

Okay, we had to give in to the temptation to make fun of the man’s name, but he does in fact hold a Mickey Maussa title, the WBA’s version of 140-pound supremacy, which he got with a stunning upset of someone masquerading as Vivian Harris.

But this fight on Saturday from the pits of Sheffield, England, will grant this country another chance to see Ricky Hatton, who may well be a very important player on these shores in 2006.

Hatton won the real 140-pound title when he made Kostya Tszyu quit earlier this year. A match against either of the two pretenders, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his WBC trinket or Miguel Cotto and the WBOgus belt, would be big time in this country. Also, they would be terrific betting events.

Alas, you’d have to be Goofy to think this unification match, available on pay-per-view in this country, is worth a bet. Hatton is a well-deserved, and unplayable 9-1 favorite. Maussa is not worth 6-1, even if he stopped the pathetically overtrained Harris this year. He was still beaten handily and stopped on cuts by Cotto and lost to a Mexican journeyman Arturo Morua.

The unbeaten Hatton, a real charmer from Manchester, talks up his challenger as well as can be expected. He says Maussa is a "very, very difficult opponent" with a "very, very good chin" and who is "very, very heavyhanded." Very, very nice try, kid, but Maussa, who can also punch a bit, even from some wildly contorted positions, should be no match for the all-out aggressive Hatton.

The Englishman, who broke with his longtime promoter Frank Warren because he wanted to take the riskier fights and put himself in against the best, is a lot better technically than he looks. He fights like a brawler, but a resourceful one. He has great foot movement, especially in close, with good hand speed — and "very, very" heavy punches. His body shots should be decisive and while Maussa is durable, this fight should be finished before the leftover turkey.

But for $20 or so, it might still be fun to watch if you’ve overdosed on football. Maussa is so awkward, Hatton says "it’s hard to work out what he’s going to do next because I don’t think he knows."

Plus, the South American, he said, has a terrific work-rate. Few in boxing throw more punches than Hatton, nicknamed the Hit Man because he doesn’t stop hitting.

"I don’t think it’s a fight where you’re going to be falling asleep," said Hatton.

There’s a caveat here for Hatton. He’d better not fall asleep, either. Maussa may sometimes look as if he’s about to trip over his own feet, but the Hit Man had better heed the old warning and protect himself at all times. It’s when you least expect it that the Colombian strikes.

Maussa will try to keep a distance from Hatton, but I don’t think his boxing ability will be able to hold off the champion. On the inside, Hatton is like an octopus with more than two arms. At least a couple seem to be holding his opponent, while the other half-dozen whack the guy in the body and head. Having sent Tszyu off to contemplate his future, he should not have much trouble with Maussa.

Bigger fights, against other alphabet 140-pound champions, could not be made for now, but Hatton is looking forward to them in 2006. The southpaw champion said he was more than willing to fight in America, though he has a major home-ring advantage at his native village, where he may be bigger than Manchester United and Manchester City combined.

I think his appeal will travel with him — and, no, not because he’s white. He’s polite, doesn’t downgrade opponents. fun to listen to (though sometimes I wish he used a translator so we Yanks can understand every word) and watch. However, that’s not why Floyd Mayweather Jr. is going to Sheffield to see him up close.

Maybe he can look up Prince Naseem Hamed there.