Hatton, Tszyu still class act

Ricky Hatton, right, defeated Kostya Tszyu in 2005 to win a junior welterweight title. John Gichigi/Getty Images

Nine years ago, June 4, 2005, Ricky Hatton scored his most significant victory as he stopped Kostya Tszyu in the 11th round to win the junior welterweight world championship.

Hatton’s hometown crowd of 22,000 in Manchester, England, was delirious with joy, Hatton had stamped himself as the man at 140 pounds and Tszyu never fought again, ultimately getting elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Hatton and Tszyu had not seen each other since that legendary night all those years ago until meeting once again at a recent news conference in Melbourne, Australia, to promote the Nov. 12 bout between Australian junior middleweight Anthony Mundine and Sergey Rabchenko, a fighter from Belarus promoted by Hatton Promotions.

Like they did throughout their career, Hatton and Tszyu conducted themselves with class.

"It's the first time I've seen him since we fought and it was certainly a lot less painful than when we boxed," Hatton joked. "I still believe it was my greatest win. He's one of the best light welterweights of all time and although I did break a few Australian hearts that night, the way me and Kostya conducted ourselves after the fight was a good example to the youngsters.

“It was a wonderful fight and it couldn't have been more physical. We both landed heavy shots, but the way we conducted ourselves was just as important as the actual fight. It was an honor to see Kostya again at the press conference and a privilege to spend the evening with him at the Australian Boxing Hall of Fame."

Hatton, 36, went on to unify two junior welterweight belts, win a welterweight world title and to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao in huge fights (both knockout losses). He retired after the loss to Pacquiao in 2009 but came out of retirement to face former welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko in 2012, got knocked out and retired again. The win over Tszyu will always be his most significant victory.

Russia’s Tszyu, 45, a star in Australia, the country he adopted and made his professional career in, has returned home and lives in Moscow, where he is a businessman. But he also has stayed connected to boxing by helping amateurs and also training pro fighters. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Tszyu said after losing to Hatton he began to consider his future, which is why he did not press for a rematch and then retired.

"I remember everything (about the Hatton fight)," Tszyu said. "It was a memorable date for me because it made me realize that I had something else in my life other than boxing. Thank you Ricky for that. As Ricky said, the way we conducted ourselves after the fight was a good example to the younger generation because what happens in the ring is one thing and afterwards is different.

“What happened was properly not what I expected but that is life and it was time to move on and see what was next in my life. I'm enjoying myself. I made an agreement with my mother that she'd never see me in the ring again and that's why I'm not there.”