Forum Spin Doctor
LAS VEGAS - Ricky Hatton came to Las Vegas to win back his 140-pound title and make an big impression doing it.
He accomplished the first, taking Juan Urango's title with a unanimous 12-round decision Saturday night to set up a lucrative fight in June against Jose Luis Castillo.
The big impression, though, will have to come another time.
Hatton made a successful debut in this boxing mecca by beating Urango, but even the 3,000 or so fans who came over from Britain to cheer their countryman didn't seem all that excited about his lackluster win.
Hatton outhustled Urango to win back the title he vacated last year when he moved briefly to 147 pounds, winning easily on all three ringside scorecards. But Hatton did little to improve on a reputation that slipped some when he won a controversial decision last May against Luis Collazo in Boston.
"The first six rounds felt too comfortable, maybe I took my foot off the gas," Hatton said.
Hatton, who has a huge following in his native Manchester, England, had wanted to fight in Las Vegas to broaden his base among American fans. He will fight here again June 2 when he defends the 140-pound title against Castillo.
Hatton stood on the ring ropes and took a microphone to address his fans after the fight.
"I hope I did you proud and I'll see you back here in June," he said.
All three judges scored the fight 119-109, giving Urango only one round. The Associated Press also scored it 119-109.
Hatton said he wanted to make the fight a boxing match instead of a brawl like most of his fights.
"I think I showed another side, that I can box," he said.
Urango, who won the vacant title in his last fight, was never in this one. He was slow, didn't punch enough, and never seemed interested in making it a real fight.
Hatton (42-0, 30 knockouts) won the fight with one punch, a lead right hand he landed all night. Hatton often followed that by going into a clinch with Urango, then repeating the same scenario when the two were separated.
While Hatton failed most of the time to back up the lead right with any combinations, Urango (17-1-1) did even less himself.
There were no knockdowns and neither fighter was in any trouble, but the rounds had such a sameness to them that there was little singing among the normally boisterous British contingent who followed Hatton here for the fight.
Urango apparently thought he was doing better than the judges did, raising his arms in triumph at the end of each round as he went back to his corner. But the rounds went to Hatton, mostly because he was quicker getting off.
Ringside punch stats showed Hatton landing 258 of 755 punches to 153 of 570 for Urango.
Castillo, meanwhile, barely escaped with a split decision win over his far less experienced opponent, winning by the slimmest of margins to keep his hopes alive for the fight with Hatton.
Castillo used a relentless attack to the body to win 115-113 on two scorecards, enough to offset the 115-113 margin given Hermann Ngoudjo by the third judge. The Associated Press had the fight even, 114-114.
The decision was widely booed by the crowd at the Paris hotel-casino, which watched as Ngoudjo acquitted himself well in only his 16th professional fight against a fighter who was in his 63rd pro fight.
Ngoudjo (15-1) stood on the ringside corner ropes after the decision was announced and raised his arms in victory.
"I thought I outworked him on the outside and I roughed him up on the inside," Ngoudjo said. "I thought I won this fight by four rounds."
Ngoudjo, who fought for Cameroon in the 2000 Olympics but now lives in Montreal, was fighting for only the second time outside of Canada. He was unbeaten coming into the fight, but had never fought a fighter of the caliber of Castillo.
Castillo, meanwhile, hadn't fought in nearly a year after failing to make weight for his lightweight title fight against Diego Corrales in June. Castillo was suspended for the rest of 2006 and fined $250,000 for not making the weight for the second time in two fights with Corrales.
The effects of the layoff were evident in the 140-pound fight.
"I did the best I could," Castillo (55-7-1) said. "I've been away from the ring for a long time. It wasn't one of my greatest performances."
HBO announcer Jim Lampley worked the fight from ringside despite his arrest Jan. 3 for investigation of felony domestic violence. Lampley has denied the allegations.