Ricky Hatton fighting for Floyd Mayweather’s attention

LAS VEGAS – Ricky Hatton didn’t need to watch ”Dancing With the Stars” to know Floyd Mayweather Jr was spending too much time on the jive and not enough on the jab.

Mayweather might be boxing’s unbeaten pound-for-pound king, but he still doesn’t realize the trouble he’s facing on Saturday at the MGM Grand, according to the British champion who will attempt to blemish him.

Hatton (43-0, 31 KOs) eagerly traveled to Mayweather’s adopted hometown to get a fight for the WBC welterweight title. He relishes being an underdog to Mayweather (38-0, 24 KOs), the flamboyant, self-proclaimed face of boxing – and he loves hearing Mayweather’s months of dismissive comments about Hatton’s skills.

After all, Hatton knows almost every great champion has overlooked the first opponent who defeated him, puffed with pride and distracted by the seduction of celebrity. Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis, even Muhammad Ali – they all slipped when they forgot how they rose to the top and began admiring the view from up high.

”I don’t think he’s seeing the whole picture,” Hatton said on Thursday. ”I think that’s what will beat him. … The pressure he has dealt with his whole career is not my type of pressure.”

Many experts give the hard-charging Hatton little chance against Mayweather and his matchless athleticism. Mayweather certainly didn’t seem distracted during his stop at the casino on Thursday, calmly proclaiming his superiority and insisting his brittle hands won’t hurt his punching power.

”I’m never going to overlook a guy or come into the ring in the wrong shape,” Mayweather said. ”He’s the one who shouldn’t sleep at night.”

Though showmanship and over-the-top villainy have long been part of Mayweather’s plan for selling pay-per-view buys, it’s still easy to wonder whether his mind has been on Hatton.

For instance, Mayweather spent nearly as much time on Thursday discussing his pre-fight production number as the actual bout. He promises to wear ”a wild outfit” into the ring while walking with fellow television dance show contestants Mark Cuban, Helio Castroneves and Wayne Newton.

”It’s been an amazing year for me, to become an A-lister,” Mayweather said. ”I did ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and so many different shows, and just having the fans supporting me and all the the writers and all the Web sites keeping my name out in the public eye, I think it’s been tremendous.”

But has it been good for his boxing career? Enough fight fans see the potential for an upset to drive the betting steadily in Hatton’s favor over the last few days.

The Las Vegas crowd will be solidly behind Hatton, judging by the thousands of British fans already combing the casino in the colorful football shirts of Manchester City or Liverpool or Millwall, often accented by shorts and black socks.

What’s more, Mayweather’s glancing references to his aching body have some wondering whether he’s at full strength after three months of 12-hour cross-training sessions between the gym and the dance studio.

A rumor of Mayweather pulling out of the fight rippled through the casino on Wednesday after he changed his usual pre-fight workout schedule, apparently staying out of the gym entirely for a day.

”When you’ve got injuries and the fight is coming up, you (normally) do your best to keep it a secret,” said Billy Graham, Hatton’s trainer. ”He’s letting us know that his hands are sore, he’s got a bad elbow and a bad shoulder. I think he’s giving himself excuses.”

Even Marco Antonio Barrera, the former champion who retired after losing to Manny Pacquiao in October, sees Hatton’s straightforward style as the worst possible challenge for Mayweather. Barrera, who’s fast friends with Manchester’s favorite son, intends to invite Hatton to Mexico, where he believes fans will love the Brit’s no-nonsense flair.

”He has a style that’s very difficult to beat for Mayweather,” Barrera said. ”He’s going to have a chance to move Mayweather, and then he can take advantage of that. I think he can win.” – AP

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