Hatton outlasts Collazo with unanimous decision


BOSTON (AP) – Ricky “Hitman” Hatton is heading back to England with two titles and his perfect record intact.

And Luis Collazo might just chase him all the way home.

The favored challenger beat Collazo in a unanimous decision on Saturday night to add the WBA welterweight crown to the junior welterweight one he already owned. But the disputed decision had Collazo’s camp screaming for a rematch and offering to fight in Manchester if necessary.

“I was the champion and I believe you should do more than what he did to win the title,” said Collazo, who staggered the 2005 fighter of the year in the 12th and final round of a wire-to-wire brawl. “If Ricky gives me the opportunity like I gave him, I will go to Manchester. Everybody says he’s a gentleman. If he’s a gentleman, he’ll give me the rematch.”

Hatton sent Collazo to the canvas in the first 15 seconds of the fight, but by the third round it seemed to be going the other way. Hatton was wobbling in the final round, and many in the crowd expected the decision to go the other way. “Hatton was out on his feet in the 12th,” Collazo said.

But the judges scored the fight 115-112, 115-112 and 114-113 for Hatton, whose fans had the new Boston Garden rollicking like a World Cup match.

At the bell, Hatton climbed onto the ropes and threw his mouthpiece to the fans who came over from England to cheer him on. Both fighters climbed onto their handlers’ shoulders and raised their arms in triumph; only after they came back down to wait for the real decision did they bang each other’s gloves.

The announcement of Hatton’s victory drew a stunned semi-silence from the crowd.

“John Quincy Adams is rolling over in his grave,” said Don King, who quickly located a Union Jack to wave along with his American and Puerto Rican flags.

“He never wobbled me,” Hatton insisted. “I’m always looking for a challenge, and I couldn’t do any more than this.”

The decision keeps Hatton on track for his attempt to unify the division. He moved up from junior welterweight to challenge Collazo, who was a last-minute sub when he beat Jose Antonio Rivera for the title down the road in Worcester last year.

“I’ll stay in the division that offers me the biggest fights,” Hatton said, seeming open to the idea of Hatton-Collazo 2. “I’ll fight anybody, and that includes a rematch with him.”

Although Hatton was the challenger, the pre-fight hype focused on his arrival on these shores and potential future bouts against Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya or Arturo Gatti. Collazo was miffed that Hatton appeared to be looking ahead, but he wasn’t able to do enough in the ring to stop it.

Collazo went down right from the bell, but he was quickly up and waving that he was OK. He went down to start the second round, too, but that was ruled a slip; but with blood coming already from his mouth, it wasn’t a good start for the champion.

Collazo needed a timeout in the third because of a cut on the top of his bald head. His white gloves were streaked with blood, and the white waistband of his trunks were stained with the blood dripping down his torso.

But he had Hatton backing up in the fourth and the fifth as well. And when the bell rang to end Round 5 he was confident enough in the direction things were going that he thumped his glove against his chest as he crossed the ring on the way to his corner.

Collazo connected with a few solid right hooks in the eighth and ninth, but Hatton soon had the champion backing into the ropes. Collazo was dead on with a right to Hatton’s face, raising a welt under the challenger’s left eye.

Hatton pushed Collazo to the canvas early in the 10th. Between rounds, King let his allegiance be known by waving American and Puerto Rican flags and shouting, “America, baby!”

Then came the 12th, when Collazo had Hatton staggering around, slipping to the floor.

It wasn’t enough to overcome the Hatton hype, which earned the challenger top billing and the promotional tag line, “The British are Back.”

Hatton entered to a punked out version of “Blue Moon,” wearing a turquoise and black robe with white tassels and a spangled Union Jack across the back. Entire sections of fans made like soccer hooligans, screaming until they were red in the face for the pride of Manchester.

All Collazo brought with him were a couple flags – U.S. and Puerto Rico – King and the WBA championship belt. A member of his entourage unwisely wore an Alex Rodriguez New York Yankees jersey.

In an effort to fill the 18,000-seat new Boston Garden, promoters offered half-price on $150 tickets to fans showing a ticket to Saturday’s rained out Red Sox game. A total of 112 people took them up on the offer.

AP-ES-05-14-06 1600EDT