Almost 15 years have passed since Ricky Hatton fought Floyd Mayweather in an attempt to be the first boxer to beat one of the best to ever lace up gloves.
It didn’t happen for him and Hatton, the nation’s favourite fighter, ‘felt cheated’ at his knockout defeat in the 2007 blockbuster bout in Las Vegas.
In fact, in 2020, ‘The Hitman’ – who returns to the ring to face Marco Antonio Barrera on Saturday – admitted it still bothered him that he never got the opportunity to make his mark in the ring – and on Mayweather’s body – because of referee Joe Cortez.
Hatton was stopped by ‘Money’ in the tenth round of their glitzy Las Vegas spectacle for the welterweight world championship, but the Manchester-native was left frustrated by the official not allowing him to work inside on the body as he had done so many times throughout his distinguished career, including when he beat pound-for-pound king Kostya Tszyu in 2005.
Mayweather historically struggled with body punchers during the brief glimpses of trouble fans were afforded to witness throughout his unbeaten career and Hatton believes Cortez helped the American.
“I feel a little bit cheated to be honest with you, because I felt that I wasn’t going to outbox him and I wasn’t going to out-speed him, but if I was allowed to get close I would definitely throw more punches than him.
“I never got the opportunity and that’s the thing that will always eat away at me – the referee never gave me the opportunity.
“The one person that was allowed to get stuck in and bully him and was allowed to fight close was Marcos Maidana and he pushed him really close.
“Castillo was allowed to get close and a lot of people thought Castillo won, so I smelt a rat that night with the referee and I don’t think I was given a fair crack of the whip.”
Referee Cortez insisted on separating the welterweights at the MGM Grand
Hatton and Mayweather squared off in Sin City on 8 December, 2007, with the Englishman bringing thousands of vociferous fans Stateside as he did wherever he went.
Although he won hearts of fans all over the world, Hatton ended his career with a 45-3 record – his two other losses coming against Manny Pacquaio and Vyacheslav Senchenko.
However, despite being able to look back on his career with a tremendous amount of pride, there is always the element of ‘what if’ for the 36-year-old.
Hatton told Sky Sports: “Against Kostya Tszyu, with a referee who let the fight flow at a distance and up close, I would have beaten anyone that night, including Floyd.
“I’m not saying I was a better fighter than Floyd. But the right tactics on the right night at the right time? Even the best can be beaten.
“If I fought him on that night, I think I might have beaten him.”
There’s only one Ricky Hatton.