04.12.07 Graham: Hatton has the edge
Stuart Brennan c/o Manchester evening news
BILLY Graham claims he has looked deep into Floyd Mayweather's eyes, and seen the fear and the doubt ahead of his showdown with Ricky Hatton.
The Hitman's trainer believes that the bling and the bluster which accompany the American's every move are a disguise for a man who, deep down, is insecure and uncertain - and he is backing his man to gnaw away at that uncertainty with 12 rounds of relentless, raw action at the MGM Grand's Garden Arena on Saturday night.
Graham admitted that when he met Kostya Tszyu for the first time ahead of Hatton's memorable 2005 dismantling of the fabled Russian, he had shivers running down his spine.
"It was just the whole way Tszyu conducted himself," said Graham. "There was no hype or mouthing, and everything he said and did oozed professionalism and discipline.
"He came across like an efficient boxing machine, which is what he was.
"I will always back Ricky against anyone, but everything about Tszyu gave me nightmares.
"It is not the same with Mayweather, and spending a week flying around America with him on a publicity tour in September was the best thing both myself and Ricky could have done.
"At the time I was not happy about it, but what happened on that tour was crucial.
"After a week with Floyd, both me and Ricky came away feeling much more confident. We saw the man and could size him up, figure out his personality.
"I can read fighters and see what is going on in their minds, from the way they act. Floyd is not intimidating. He has fantastic ability and there is no way we will underestimate that.
"He is recognised as the best pound for pound in the world, and I agree with that because of who he has beaten and what he has achieved, but being around him has sent my confidence sky-high.
"We are going to win this fight. A lot of fighters and trainers pop off when a fight is miles away and then start getting worried as the day draws nearer and reality kicks in. They start being afraid and losing confidence.
"I am the opposite. My backside tends to twitch when the fight is first made and then as it gets closer I tend to get more confident, because we both overcome any problems that we might have.
"I know Ricky really well and I know he really believes he will win. And he knows that I believe it as well. Take cuts out of the equation, and I feel Ricky will win if it comes down to sheer ability on the night."
Graham has raged in the face of American sports writers who have already written of his man as a no-hoper, and he says that victory on Saturday will only make it sweeter when the poison words are thrown back in a few faces.
Graham says that the days of British fighters folding once they get to fight on the big stage in the States have gone, and Hatton has been at the vanguard of a new, more confident breed of `Limey' fighter.
"Some of the clowns who pass as sports writers in the States are going to end up with egg on their faces," said the hard-bitten Salfordian.
"They have been describing it as a mis-match, which proves to me that they haven't got a clue what they are looking at. They need to get themselves a different job.
"I have never suffered from an inferiority complex about anything, and I think British fighters are losing that now, again largely due to Ricky.
"Our boxers used to go over there with a defeatist attitude, and our Press were defeatist, and I find that amazing.
"It doesn't matter where you come from - if you can fight, you can fight, and it's nothing to do with nationality or race. They say it's the British mentality, but I don't know about that - we've not lost many wars!"
That new-found confidence has seen a resurgence in British boxing, and Graham believes Hatton is the standard-bearer in an era which has also seen Joe Calzaghe, David Haye and a clutch of lesser-known English boxers all spring to prominence.
"Ricky has been the main one," said Graham. "You can't knock what Calzaghe has achieved, but he has not quite captured the public's imagination in the way Ricky has.
"Everyone knows Ricky - he is a god in Manchester but wherever you go in Britain you meet people who like the lad. It is not just boxing fans.
"He has been on Parkinson, and the only other two boxers to have been on his show are Muhammad Ali and Jack Dempsey, so he's in pretty good company!
"If I wasn't his trainer, I would be his number one fan, because there is no boxer in the world who is better to watch.
"When he retires from boxing he will be around forever, as a celebrity, and I am not sure you can say that about any of the others.
"And he has done it worldwide. The Latin American market is the biggest boxing market in the world, and they are crazy about him.
"I think lads like Calzaghe have to conquer America for worldwide recognition, and Joe should have done that years ago. Now we have Ricky, Calzaghe, and Haye as undisputed world champions.
"You can go on about the old times - and I remember them - and taking nothing away from those fellas, today's crop are something else.
"On top of those three we also have Junior Witter, Gavin Rees, Clinton Woods, Enzo Maccarinelli and one or two more, as well as good up-and-coming Manchester lads like John Murray and his little brother Joe, and Frankie Gavin who has just won the world amateur title. Britain should be proud of what its boxers have achieved in recent times, and I think Manchester has been dominant in that resurgence."
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