Hatton figures to have a tougher time in next Vegas visit

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LAS VEGAS (AP) – Ricky Hatton did what he had to do in his first working visit to this boxing mecca. He’ll need to do a lot more when he returns in a few months with a much more willing opponent.

Hatton regained his 140-pound title Saturday night, much to the delight of several thousand of his countrymen who had traveled from Britain to watch his Las Vegas debut. But the win had as much to do with the passive nature of his opponent as it did with anything Hatton himself did.

That figures to change June 2, assuming current plans prevail. That’s when Hatton will defend his title here against former lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo in his most important fight since beating Kostya Tszyu.

Unlike Juan Urango, who served as Hatton’s foil in his latest fight, Castillo will be in the fight to win.

“There won’t be a lot of dancing going on,” Hatton said.

There wasn’t much dancing going on against Urango. But there wasn’t a whole lot of fighting either in a bout that thrilled only the most ardent of the British fans who came over to follow their hero.

Hatton did what he needed to win, fighting a conservative fight that consisted of landing right hand leads and then tying up his opponent. But if he wanted to make a big splash in his Las Vegas debut, he failed.

“The first six rounds felt too comfortable, maybe I took my foot off the gas,” Hatton said

Still, Hatton regained the title he vacated to move up to welterweight for his last fight by winning 11 of the 12 rounds on each of the judges’ scorecards against the previously undefeated Colombian.

Urango was slow and beaten to the punch all night, but Hatton fought conservatively because he was concerned about his power.

“He was a dangerous fighter,” Hatton said.

Castillo did his part to set up the June fight, but barely. Fighting for the first time in nearly a year he escaped with a split decision win over Hermann Ngoudjo in the fight that topped the undercard at the Paris hotel-casino.

Castillo pounded Ngoudjo with left hooks to the midsection to pull out the fight, though he often got the worst of it in exchanges in the middle of the ring.

“It wasn’t one of my greatest performances,” said Castillo, whose failure to make weight for his last fight with Diego Corrales got him suspended from boxing for the rest of 2006 and cost him a $250,000 fine.

Hatton, meanwhile, seemed happy to be in Las Vegas, where he spent the last two weeks training before the fight. And the city seemed happy to have a down-to-earth fighter who didn’t forget his fans when he grabbed a microphone and stood on the ring ropes after getting his win and thanked them for coming.

“I hope I did you proud, and I’ll see you back here in June,” he said.

Hatton is undefeated and charismatic, a popular combination in boxing. He usually is all action, too, though that side of him didn’t come out against Urango.

Hatton said he wanted to box Urango and he did, landing the lead right hand and then staying away from any big counters. Some in the crowd started booing as the rounds piled up, but Hatton’s British supporters stayed and cheered him on after the fight ended.

Ringside punch stats showed Hatton landing 258 of 755 punches to 153 of 570 for Urango.

Hatton had moved up to 147 pounds to win a title against Luis Collazo in Boston last May, but he struggled in that fight and was in trouble in the last round before getting a controversial decision win.

He seemed more comfortable back at 140 pounds, though the veteran of 42 fights now seems to realize that being in wars in every fight doesn’t make for a long career.

AP-ES-01-21-07 1414EST

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