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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 November 2005, 03:05 GMT
Eyes on America
By Alex Trickett

It may sound strange, but the image of Ricky Hatton with his eyes bloodied en route to a unification victory over Carlos Maussa may just have set the seal on the Briton's first blockbuster fight in the USA.

The IBF light welterweight champion succeeded in adding Maussa's WBA belt to his collection, but the vulnerability and determination he showed will appeal to would-be rivals and fight fans from across the Pond.

WBC holder Floyd Mayweather has been oscillating between divisions.

He beat welterweight Sharmba Mitchell in November, but could now be tempted back down in weight by the prospect of getting to work on Hatton's cut-prone visage.

Hatton, 27, is no stranger to battle scars.

He shrugged off a horrible cut in the first round to outpoint Jon Thaxton in 2000 and dealt well with his blood handicap to drop the game but limited Maussa in Sheffield.

But Mayweather is a different proposition to the Colombian.

Show him a weakness as glaring as two cut eyes and he would dance around Hatton and take away his titles.

The same could apply to Puerto Rican WBO champion Miguel Cotto - who stopped Maussa in eight rounds in 2003 - while hard-hitting Arturo Gatti is being touted as a possible opponent.

That is why it is imperative that Hatton takes all the time he needs for his scars to heal before stepping up his bid to unite the division.

But the manner of his win over Maussa, while displaying one worrying frailty, also showed the "blood and guts" that can make him a massive star in boxing's biggest market.

American fans love an all-action approach and Hatton is about the best practitioner of that style in the business.

POSSIBLE HATTON OPPONENTS
Floyd Mayweather: Three-weight champion, unbeaten in 35 fights and rated by many the best pound for pound
Miguel Cotto: WBO champion, unbeaten in 25 fights
Arturo Gatti: Former WBC champion with 39 wins and seven losses

There was some British pomp and ceremony about Saturday's fight, in particular the curious sight of two Coldstream Guards trying to shake Maussa's hand.

But the Sheffield bout - which was aired in the States - was put on with that far-away market in mind.

Perhaps that played on Hatton's mind when he set off at a furious - some might say wreckless - pace and blundered into the clash of heads that cut his left eye.

But any impetuousness was balanced by some controlled work and by punches that would cause any fighter in the light welterweight division problems.

It was not a perfect display, but it ended with a gem of a left hook, symbolic of Hatton's explosive approach.

"People didn't believe me when I said I wanted the big fights," said the Manchester man afterwards.

"I want Mayweather and Cotto. Look at these eyes. I want those fights and I'll get them."

Those eyes may well be the key that unlocks the door to global superstardom. Let us just hope they do not fail Hatton when he needs them most.


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