Ricky Hatton recalls how home fans’ roar told him he had become world champion

For any sporting Mancunian, 15 years ago it was the ultimate ‘I-was-there moment’.

Around 22,000 fans filled Manchester’s MEN Arena, although many times more have subsequently claimed they were there to see Ricky Hatton beat Kostya Tszyu.

The fight did not start until 2am for US TV, yet the atmosphere was as febrile as for any Manchester derby ever.

They had come to see if one of their favourite sporting sons could beat the legend Tszyu and realise his dream of becoming world champion.

Hatton did not just defeat Tszyu, he broke the pound-for-pound great to take his place among British boxing’s immortals.

The crowd’s eardrum-bursting roar when Tszyu failed to come out for the 12th would have been heard back in his home in Sydney.

“People to this day still say to me it was the best atmosphere they witnessed,” said Hatton, 41. “The noise was incredible.

“I think that was my best achievement in the ring. I boxed Floyd Mayweather, I boxed Pacquiao, I became a two-weight world champion, but the fact I made Kostya Tszyu quit on his stool in front of my own fans, that’s got to be the best moment of my career.

“It was a proper underdog story, wasn’t it? A young kid from a council estate in Manchester beating one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world to become world champion.

“Plus the fact nobody gave me a chance and the fact I was a Mancunian fighting in Manchester.

“They said it would go down as one of the best wins ever in a British boxing ring and that’s how it stands.”

Even tough guy Russell Crowe fell victim to the crowd and the Gladiator star was booed mercilessly when he took his seat at ringside to support fellow Aussie Tszyu.

Crowe’s Maximus Decimus Meridius would have liked Hatton’s aggressive tactics against Tszyu, who had laid waste to the light-welterweight division with his brutal right.

Hatton and trainer Billy Graham saw only one way to beat this human howitzer – at point-blank range.

“There was a massive fear factor,” said the Hitman. “Me and Billy’s tactics were scary as we felt if I stayed on his chest, he would not be able to get his right hand in. And that’s what we did.

“I was using fast feet to cover the crowd and get in on his chest. Even when he did get the right off, I was taking the sting out of it.”

Hatton still needed the raucous support of his fans to get him over the line when Tszyu rallied midway through.

He said: “I was a little bit worried and I said to Billy in the corner, ‘I’ve got nothing left, I’ve got nothing left’. He said ‘don’t you be saying that, you’ve got him now’. I then heard the chant of ‘There’s only one Ricky Hatton’ from the crowd and that gave me the extra push I needed.”

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RICKY’S FIVE BIGGEST FIGHTS

1. Kostya Tszyu  June 4, 2005, Manchester MEN Arena: Stopped Tszyu in 11 rounds to become the IBF light-welterweight champion.

2. Carlos Maussa  November 26, 2005, Sheffield Arena: Knocked out Maussa to unify the IBF and WBA light-welterweight titles.

3. Jose Luis Castillo  June 23, 2007, Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas: Flattened Castillo in four rounds – the first time the legendary Mexican had been counted out.

4. Floyd Mayweather Jr  Dec 8, 2007, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas: Suffered his first pro loss when he was stopped in 10 rounds.

5. Manny Pacquiao  May 2, 2009, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas: Knocked out in two rounds and he only fought once more after this shattering loss.

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