Dan Rafael: Sergey Rabchenko

Hatton, Tszyu still class act

November, 3, 2014
Nov 3
Tszyu, HattonJohn Gichigi/Getty ImagesRicky Hatton, right, defeated Kostya Tszyu in 2005 to win a junior welterweight title.

Nine years ago, June 4, 2005, Ricky Hatton scored his most significant victory as he stopped Kostya Tszyu in the 11th round to win the junior welterweight world championship.

Hatton’s hometown crowd of 22,000 in Manchester, England, was delirious with joy, Hatton had stamped himself as the man at 140 pounds and Tszyu never fought again, ultimately getting elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Hatton and Tszyu had not seen each other since that legendary night all those years ago until meeting once again at a recent news conference in Melbourne, Australia, to promote the Nov. 12 bout between Australian junior middleweight Anthony Mundine and Sergey Rabchenko, a fighter from Belarus promoted by Hatton Promotions.

Like they did throughout their career, Hatton and Tszyu conducted themselves with class.

"It's the first time I've seen him since we fought and it was certainly a lot less painful than when we boxed," Hatton joked. "I still believe it was my greatest win. He's one of the best light welterweights of all time and although I did break a few Australian hearts that night, the way me and Kostya conducted ourselves after the fight was a good example to the youngsters.

“It was a wonderful fight and it couldn't have been more physical. We both landed heavy shots, but the way we conducted ourselves was just as important as the actual fight. It was an honor to see Kostya again at the press conference and a privilege to spend the evening with him at the Australian Boxing Hall of Fame."

Hatton, 36, went on to unify two junior welterweight belts, win a welterweight world title and to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao in huge fights (both knockout losses). He retired after the loss to Pacquiao in 2009 but came out of retirement to face former welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko in 2012, got knocked out and retired again. The win over Tszyu will always be his most significant victory.

Russia’s Tszyu, 45, a star in Australia, the country he adopted and made his professional career in, has returned home and lives in Moscow, where he is a businessman. But he also has stayed connected to boxing by helping amateurs and also training pro fighters. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Tszyu said after losing to Hatton he began to consider his future, which is why he did not press for a rematch and then retired.

"I remember everything (about the Hatton fight)," Tszyu said. "It was a memorable date for me because it made me realize that I had something else in my life other than boxing. Thank you Ricky for that. As Ricky said, the way we conducted ourselves after the fight was a good example to the younger generation because what happens in the ring is one thing and afterwards is different.

“What happened was properly not what I expected but that is life and it was time to move on and see what was next in my life. I'm enjoying myself. I made an agreement with my mother that she'd never see me in the ring again and that's why I'm not there.”

Candidates for Canelo's next fight

December, 11, 2013
Canelo AlvarezAlexis Cuarezma/Getty ImagesCanelo Alvarez is ready to get back in the ring early next year, but now he needs an opponent.

This much we know: Former junior middleweight titlist Canelo Alvarez has a March 8 Showtime PPV date at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. What we don’t know is who Alvarez will face.

Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer has said publicly that he has made an offer for more than $10 million to Miguel Cotto to face Alvarez. Obviously, Cotto is the most attractive opponent out there for Alvarez.

But as each day passes, and based on what I hear from folks involved, it seems more and more likely that Cotto is going to pass on the fight and instead go for a June fight against middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. Cotto can’t make as much money against Martinez as he can to face Alvarez, but he also can’t get an opportunity to become the first Puerto Rican fighter to win a world title in four weight classes by facing Alvarez.

Cotto can do that against Martinez and that is obviously worth something and a reason he would leave money on the table.

So if you believe, as I do, that Cotto is ultimately going to go for Martinez rather than Alvarez, who then should Alvarez fight?

Alvarez will be in San Antonio this week for two reasons -- to watch brother Ricardo Alvarez’s fight on the Adrien Broner-Marcos Maidana undercard and also to meet with Schaefer to go over details related to March 8, including discussing opponents.

Here’s my quick look at the candidates as I see them with the caveat that Alvarez is staying at 154 pounds and not moving up or down in weight. I really see only four candidates who make any sense, especially because I do not see any of the plethora of good welterweights that Golden Boy promotes being viable to move up in weight for March 8.

Here are the candidates:

• Erislandy Lara: He holds an interim belt at 154 and easily dominated Austin Trout on Saturday night, dropping him and rolling to a points win. It was Trout’s second straight loss. The first was a very competitive, tough decision loss to Alvarez in April.

After Saturday’s fight Schaefer said Lara was a candidate for the Alvarez fight. Lara is good. Very good. He is certainly a worthy opponent. That said, I think the last thing in the world Alvarez or Golden Boy want is the slickest, most technical fighter in the division to be Alvarez’s opponent in his first fight after he was so easily outboxed by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September. Lara might very well give him a boxing lesson like Mayweather did.

From a business point of view, it just doesn’t make any sense, either. Alvarez generates enormous money and has a huge fan base. Lara is not a draw at all. Alvarez needs to be brought back from his loss appropriately, not thrown in with a guy who could hand him a second loss and severely injure his brand. Alvarez is only 23 and his team should be looking long term.

• Carlos Molina: Molina has a world title, which he won on the undercard of Mayweather-Alvarez in an awful fight. Showtime has an option on his next fight so a bout with Alvarez can be made easily, especially because Molina wants the fight.

He is kind of like a poor man’s Lara -- very good, very technical and not overly exciting. In fact, he and Lara fought to a draw in 2011 in a fight many believe Molina won. I can see Alvarez and Golden Boy gambling and taking this fight. Like Lara, Molina isn’t a draw. He is not unbeatable, though, and the allure of a world title surely is appealing to Alvarez. Although let’s be honest -- does anyone think this fight would be exciting?

• Alfredo Angulo: Angulo is a straight-ahead brawler who makes exciting fights. He lost his last fight in June by 10th-round TKO in a rumble with Lara, whom he knocked down twice before Angulo suffered a severe orbital injury.

Although he lost to Lara, there’s no doubt a fight between Alvarez and Angulo would be a crowd-pleasing fight. Angulo also is a bigger draw than Lara or Molina, and that’s something to consider for a pay-per-view fight.

Even more important is the fact that if you are guiding Alvarez, who could have a long career worth perhaps hundreds of millions, matchmaking is paramount. Angulo simply has the better style for Alvarez to face at this stage of his career than Molina or Lara and also is the biggest draw among the candidates. Personally, I think Alvarez-Angulo would be one helluva fun fight.

• Sergey Rabchenko: Rabchenko, from Belarus, is the European champion but also ranked No. 1 in the WBC’s poor rankings. Alvarez is No. 2, so this fight could be billed as an eliminator for a title shot. Since Mayweather probably will vacate the title at some point, it would set up Alvarez to reclaim the belt that means so much to him.

Schaefer said Rabchenko is a possibility, although I believe he’s a major dark horse. It’s a deal that could be made easily since Rabchenko is promoted by Ricky Hatton, who has a longstanding relationship with Golden Boy, his former promoter.

There’s nothing fancy about Rabchenko’s style, so he works for Alvarez from the boxing perspective, but he is totally unknown to American and Mexican fans. He would be a non-entity on a PPV promotion and that’s not good.

That’s my breakdown. My money is on Angulo getting the fight. He makes the most sense because he gives Alvarez the best chance to win and he is, by far, the most marketable name of among the candidates.