May 11, 2006

Waiting over as Hatton steps up to fight Collazo

By Mike Shalin

BOSTON (Reuters) - World junior welterweight champion Ricky
"Hitman" Hatton has waited a long time to get back to the
United States to fight.

Now that he is here, the undefeated Manchester, England
native son is determined to start reaping the rewards of being
a true champion.

Hatton, 40-0 with 30 knockouts, steps up from junior
welterweight Saturday night to fight welterweight champ Luis
Collazo (26-1, 12 KOs), only Hatton's second fight in the U.S.
and his first since his second professional match, which was at
Madison Square Garden in New York.

While this is a title bout, bigger money and more notoriety
awaits the winner, with possible dates against boxers like
Oscar De la Hoya, Arturo Gotti and Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the
horizon. Saturday marks a big step for both fighters.

"Believe you me, when Saturday night comes, it's going to
be 41 and 0, I'm going to be a champion at two different
weights and I'm going to do my hometown (and) England proud,"
Hatton told a news conference Thursday.

"Also, I hope the United States and the fight fans of the
United States and the people of the United States can take me
to the heart, just like the people have done back home in

Obviously, Collazo, who won his title as a replacement
fighter named just weeks before his title bout with Jose
Antonio Rivera last May, has other ideas.

While this bout is being billed as "The Hitman Invasion,"
Collazo, who fought up through the New York City boxing ranks,
says: "They haven't seen anything yet - Saturday night is just
the beginning of the Collazo Invasion."

"I ain't taking him lightly," Hatton said. "He seems to
think I'm taking him lightly because I'm talking about other
people but that's (not true). He's making me more determined
because he's in the way of me getting there."

The Hatton-Collazo main event tops off a card that also
includes an International Boxing Federation title fight between
champion Valdemir Pereira (Brazil) and replacement challenger
Eric Aiken (U.S.).

Aiken was named to replace the injured Esham Pickering, the
former European, British and Commonwealth super bantamweight