News October 2017

Ricky Hatton ‘Our Fight’ Part 1 Jon Thaxton


By Michael J Jones

RICKY HATTON was, and is, one of the most celebrated boxers to ever fight out of UK shores. The Manchester ace was the premier light-welterweight in the world for some four years but in truth probably peaked before he toppled Kostya Tszyu on that memorable night in Manchester in 2005.

The “Hitman” retired for good in 2012 after a one-off return bout ended in defeat to Vyacheslav Senchenko. Hatton’s record stood at a final 45-3 (32) and he had only ever been defeated by Senchenko, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Now a pro trainer with a small stable of good-quality fighters and as popular with fight fans as he was in his exciting prime, Hatton appears destined for the Boxing Hall of Fame (eligible next year) after a hugely successful fifteen-year career.

Here, Livefight talks to some of the men who fought Ricky Hatton at various stages of his career to give their thoughts on the time they shared in the ring with “The Hitman” starting with Norwich legend Jon Thaxton.

The Fight

The two men clashed on October 21st 2000 with the vacant British title up for grabs. While Hatton had looked sensational blasting out prospects, journeymen and lower-ranked fighters with high-octane body-punching, many wondered what would happen when he faced a more seasoned man of toughness and ambition.

Switch-hitting Jon Thaxton fitted the bill perfectly. The Ingle-trained contender had caused a stir a few years previous by knocking out Paul “Scrap Iron” Ryan in one round in a massive upset. Since the landmark victory, Thaxton had been matched tough in successive title bouts and only lost to Emanuel Augustus and, in his previous contest, Jason Rowland.

Entering the bout at 19-5 (9), the 26 year old Thaxton had been defeated controversially a year earlier in his first shot at the domestic belt. Despite flooring co-challenger Rowland and forging a points lead, Thaxton was ruled out by a cut to the forehead. Under the old UK rules, the cut fighter was ruled out by a TKO.

Thaxton was the clear underdog entering his bout with the fast-rising Hatton but came to the fight in incredible shape and ready to chin-check the Manchester ace. After cutting Hatton in the opening seconds of the contest, Thaxton looked on the verge of a memorable upset victory.

Referee Paul Thomas however let the contest continue and at the end of twelve bloody rounds it was Hatton who emerged victorious with a 117-113 card handed in by referee Thomas.

“I had about six weeks’ notice for the Hatton fight which was a long time for me” recalls “Jono” Thaxton some seventeen years later. “My thing was ‘I’m a fighter so I fight’ I took fights on a few hours’ notice, a few days’ notice; it didn’t matter to me I just wanted to fight.”

“I once boxed the world number one on 24 hours’ notice (Paul Ryan).”

“I remember everybody was raving about how good (Hatton) was but I was like ‘yes but who has he fought, who has punched him hard?’ I was confident and very ‘up’ for the fight and we worked a lot on taking those body shots. The good thing about (the Ingle gym) back then was the quality and variation of sparring so I had very good sparring ahead of the Hatton fight.”

“For the body punches I was doing 5000 sit-ups a day; 2000 in the morning, a thousand in training and another 2000 before bed. I said to myself he was not going to hurt me to the body.”

The fight began in a lively manner with both looking to get into range to unload but it was Thaxton who drew, literally, first blood. A short right-hook slammed into Hatton’s left eye to leave a crimson river flowing down his face with not even thirty seconds gone on the clock.

“I couldn’t believe it when he got the cut…I thought I’d won the fight there and then. The first round I felt like I’d won the lottery, the second I’d paid my mortgage and the third I was thinking who I’d be thanking in my post fight interview!”

While his fight with Rowland had seen Thaxton cruelly ruled out by his cut, Hatton was allowed to continue through twelve full rounds. Referee Paul Thomas was partly to thank while legendary cut-man Mick Williamson was also massively instrumental in Ricky being able to stay in the contest.

“Everyone afterwards said to me it should have been stopped but I hold no grudge. Mick Williamson did a brilliant job of keeping Ricky in the fight and Ricky changed tactics and managed to win with the cut.”

By the middle rounds, Hatton had largely forgotten his injured eye and was boxing cleverly, mixing his shots to head and body well. Thaxton was beaten to the punch and out-landed repeatedly though doggedly stayed competitive all the way through, shaking off some huge punches while giving regular reminders that he too could hit.

“We just went to war and left it all in the ring” smiles Jon, now 43-years-old and making his own progress as a pro trainer. “I don’t really remember if I really hurt Ricky, it was seventeen years ago and some days I can’t remember what I had for breakfast! It was a really good fight, very gruelling and I always tell people it was the best fight I was ever involved in.”

“One thing I do remember is sitting in the corner between one of the rounds and thinking ‘I’m loving this fight’. Both of us earned our money that night”

“People say to me ‘but you didn’t win’ but, listen, me and Ricky went to war and out of all my fights I can honestly say that one I couldn’t have given any more in there. I’m very proud of that fight, especially when you think what Ricky went on to achieve.”

At the final bell both men embraced warmly after thirty-six minutes of hellacious fury with both men rightly praised afterwards. Thaxton would offer his hand to the ref’ but it was Hatton’s night after coming through by far his toughest test to date with flying colours.

“Of course I knew I hadn’t won” chuckles the 43 year old. “I did that with every fight. The ref’ has just a second to decide who he has made the winner, if you jump to him and he makes a split-second mistake then you could get the win.”

The scorecard of 117-113 was a fair one though most had it a little wider to “The Hitman”. The Billy Graham-trained Hatton would seek the plastic surgeon once more following his gruelling win over Jon Thaxton before beginning his famous WBU title reign in his next fight which would ultimately lead to his success at the highest level.

The Hatton-Thaxton fight would be remembered for another reason. During the post-fight interview between the two battle-scarred combatants, Hatton’s chief protagonist Junior Witter would interrupt the respectful tones to call Hatton out to “destroy” him.

Ricky later said in his autobiography that incident was the final straw and vowed never to entertain a fight between him and his Yorkshire rival especially since he also showed disrespect to Thaxton (who was Witter’s then gym-mate).

“I remember thinking it was a bit wrong and disrespectful what Junior did but I also understood why he did it” says Jon slowly, clearly not wishing to fuel the long-dead rivalry between the two men. “It was wrong to do that just after the fight, but he really wanted to fight Hatton and he saw that as his breakthrough fight one which would have paid well and put him on the map.”

“He was on camera and decided he’d take that opportunity so I totally understand why he did that.”

For Thaxton, the Norwich puncher would continue to take every meaningful fight available and, five years later, would topple Lee Meager to finally become British champion at the age of 32. He would also capture the European belt before retiring in 2009 with a final tally of 34-11 (19).

The year after, Ricky Hatton was the guest speaker at a tribute evening to celebrate Thaxton’s seventeen-year pro career. He told all of the guests in attendance Thaxton was “one of the boxing’s good guys” while acknowledging his former opponent’s toughness and grit.

“Me and Ricky have only ever been respectful to each other since our fight. We had a torrid fight and at the end we both had a huge amount of respect for each other and that stayed with us both.”

“The only thing I never had in boxing was talent. That may sound a strange thing to say but in boxing you can’t have everything. I had fitness, toughness, conditioning, a great chin, good power but I never had that raw talent. I still did bloody well and I’m immensely proud of my career.”

“I’m a trainer now and I’ve learned a lot from Graham Everett and I can tell you I’ve learned far more about boxing since I retired. When I beat Lee Meager to become British champion there was one thing I had over him; experience. That was my best performance as everything seemed to come together on the night and I bamboozled him.
That was the best night of my life but Ricky Hatton was my best fight.”

Parting shots

This fight marked the first time Hatton would navigate beyond round six in his career. Many were stunned at the engine Ricky showed right up until the final bell.

Jon Thaxton broke “The Hitman’s” knockout streak when going the distance. Hatton had stopped his last seven in decent company.

In his next contest five months later, Hatton would begin his long reign as WBU 140lb champion. In his first defence he would crush Jason Rowland, the man who had denied Thaxton in his first British title shot.

A few fights after his defeat by Hatton, Jon Thaxton would move down to the lightweight division where he flourished to become British and European champion.

Jon Thaxton was well known for being a fitness fanatic but says he makes sure none of his fighters make the mistake of over-training.

The one man who beat Thaxton beyond any dispute was Irish hard-man Eamon Magee in 2002. “His trainers said to me years later he never trained and the only fight he ever did train for was ours…just my luck” smiles Jon when asked about his six-round stoppage defeat.

Also on the bill was Danny Williams’ incredible come-from-behind KO of Mark Potter. The Brixton puncher won the heavyweight contest despite injuring his right shoulder and having to box one-armed.

While the Sky Sports commentators praised both men’s’ respective performances, Jim Watt turned in an unflattering score of 119-109 for Ricky Hatton giving Thaxton just the first round and everything else to the victor.

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