By David Scott-Lennon.
As Blue Moon rang out in the Manchester Evening News arena in June 2005, Ricky Hatton was about to try to climb Everest.
In the ring alongside the “Hitman” stood Kostya Tszyu. The Australian lost his 19th professional fight looked virtually unbeatable in his next 13 fights. Tszyu beat legends such as Julio Cesar Chavez and Zab Judah along the way to becoming the WBC, WBA and IBF super-lightweight champion.
‘Pound for Pound’ was a term used less back in the mid-2000s but Kostya was surely one of the best. Many ringside pundits gave the young Mancunian little chance of upsetting the seasoned veteran Tszyu on that night.
What occurred however will live in the memories of all Hatton fans and the boxing world for years after that night in 2005. Now, over 15 years later, the fighters’ respective sons are charting their own paths to glory.
Before that fateful night, the experienced Tszyu had built his career in Australia racking up wins from the early 1990s before making the trip to the hallowed halls of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
This trip to Vegas would be to win his first world title beating the experienced world champion Jake Rodriguez. Rodriguez a seasoned veteran was entering his 31st fight and his third as world champion. He was unbeaten in the previous three years.
Like Hatton would be 10 years on, Tszyu entered the contest as an underdog but he went on to put the experienced campaigner under pressure from the first bell. He secured a TKO victory after knocking the then champion down four times in the sixth round before referee Richard Steele finally stepped in to call it off.
Two years later, Hatton made the first walk of his professional career in the less glamorous setting of the Kingsway Leisure Centre. He secured a win after round one. Over the next three years, Hatton racked up an unbeaten record of 21-0. He won the vacant British light-welterweight title beating the tough Jon Thaxton in a 12 round decision which would see the “Hitman” cut early on in the fight. Hatton would then go on to claim the lesser heralded WBU World Title in his next fight.
The path to that pivotal night in the MEN Arena would be different for each of these two legends. Hatton would go on to defend the WBU title 15 times before finally getting his shot at one of the more recognised world titles against the feared Tszyu.
Meanwhile Tszyu, after claiming his first world title against Rodriguez would go on a tear through the super lightweight division. This would include notable wins over Roger Mayweather, winning the WBC title against Miguel Gonzalez, and then beating Julio Ceasar Chavez on his way to unification fights with Sharmba Mitchell and Zab Judah.
His last fight before venturing over to Manchester would be a stoppage victory over his old foe Mitchell in their second fight who he had beaten for the WBA world title a year earlier. Roll on the 4th of June 2005 where these two greats of pugilism would finally come to blows.
Hatton’s entrance that night would still make the hairs on your arms stand up. Thousands of Mancunians stuffed into a capacity MEN Arena could only erupt in song as the Manchester City anthem “Blue Moon” rang out as Hatton made his way to the ring.
At this point, one could sense something special was about to happen.
If there was one man who could show no signs of the pressure of the occasion getting to him it was Tszyu. The Australian looked as confident as ever walking to the ring that night as the 1/4 favourite with some bookmakers.
From the first bell, Hatton used his bouncing footwork and head movement to get in close and land telling shots and pressure the seasoned champion. The British boxer utilised the fighting style that he would become so known for in the coming years. He came forward and roughed up the champion, landing body and head combinations and staggering his opponent in round two.
The two warriors went back and forth for the next few rounds, with both having success to the body and the head. Hatton fought that night for every second of every round giving Tszyu no breathing room and forcing him to work and wrestle.
Despite Tszyu having success throughout the fight, he simply could not match Hatton’s work rate and forward pressure. By the end of the 11th round, the legend Tszyu had nothing left to answer the bell for the 12th. Hatton dropped to his knees. He had achieved what many pundits seemed to think was impossible. Ricky Hatton had defeated the great Kosta Tszyu.
Tszyu never graced the inside of a boxing ring as a professional again. Meanwhile, Hatton was boxing next superstar. Thousands of fans following him wherever he fought. He went on to unify the super lightweight division against first Carlos Maussa before moving up in weight to beat Luis Collazo for the WBA world welterweight title. Hatton then moved back down to super-lightweight, where he beat Juan Urango and Jose Luis Castillo to hold the IBF, IBO and WBC world titles.
Despite losing on the biggest stage against Floyd Mayweather and Pacquaio, few would deny Ricky Hatton’s greatness and star power in the years after the Tszyu fight.
Now, 16 years on from that famed night in Manchester, the phrase “the apple never falls far from the tree” could not be truer.
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) February 23, 2021
Like his father, Tim Tszyu has built up his career over the last four years in Australia and is now working his way to a title shot of his own.
After 15 fights, he faced his toughest test against Jeff Horn.
Horn who had just seven fights earlier been involved in one of the most controversial decisions ever in boxing when beating Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision in July of 2017.
Despite Horn’s luck running out in a TKO loss against arguably the best pound for pound boxer in the world right now Terence Crawford, he was still seen as a tough test for the young Tszyu.
Tszyu, however, made it look easy stopping Horn in the eighth round with the judges at the time having him ahead by several rounds. His next fight saw him headline the card again in front of a Covid capacity of 11,820 in Sydney’s Bankwest stadium making light work of Bowyn Morgan with a 1st round stoppage.
Currently sitting at number two with the WBO and number three with the IBF, big fights and world title opportunities await the son of the former legend.
— Campbell Hatton (@CampbellHatton) February 18, 2021
Meanwhile, just a week before Tim Tszyu made his walk in the Bankwest stadium, across the Atlantic a familiar face was seen at the media day of the big heavyweight world title clash between Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev.
That famous face was none other than Ricky Hatton who was there alongside Eddie Hearn to announce that his son Campbell Hatton would be turning professional under the Matchroom promotion.
Campbell, like his dad 23 years earlier, decided to leave the amateur game early to pursue a pro career. Although unlike Tim Tszyu we are yet to see Campbell Hatton enter the professional ring. From training footage, he looks to have many of the attributes that made boxing fans across the world fall in love with the fast-paced forward pressuring Ricky. And at only 19 we have an exciting few years ahead.
His debut is scheduled for March 6 on the undercard of the heavyweight rematch between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin so get ready to hear “Blue Moon” ring out again as he makes his ring walk.
Although we may never see Hatton vs Tszyu in the ring again, with Campbell campaigning at lightweight and Tszyu at super welterweight, the stars are aligning for the sons of these two legends to have stellar careers of their own.
Only time will tell but what a story it would be if they both could do what their fathers have done before them and secure world titles.