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Saturday, July 28, 2007
Mayweather ditches retirement, agrees to fight Hatton Dec. 8

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Well that didn't last long, now did it?

Welterweight champion and pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., who said he was retiring following his May 5 decision victory against Oscar De La Hoya in boxing's richest fight ever, will come out of his brief break to face junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton.

The HBO PPV fight pitting undefeated champions in their prime will take place Dec. 8 in Las Vegas, probably at the MGM Grand.

"We've agreed to the fight," Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather's close friend and adviser, told ESPN.com. "We're excited that Ricky Hatton is stepping up to the plate. It's like this -- he asked for it and now he's gonna get it."

Hatton (43-0, 31 KOs), the reigning 140-pound champion from England, will move up to 147 to meet Mayweather (38-0, 24 KOs).

"It's a tremendous fight, two young undefeated fighters coming together," Ellerbe said. "They are both at the top of their game."

Ellerbe said the deal was struck Friday but not yet signed, although the all of the particulars have been agreed to.

Said Ray Hatton, Ricky's father and manager, according to British wire service PA Sport: "We agreed via our lawyers what the financial side of it was going to be. I can't honestly tell you a deal has been done until I see the signatures on all the documents. But what I can tell you is that both sides were happy with what we finalized verbally."

Hatton, 28, fought once before at 147, winning an alphabet belt in a struggle against Luis Collazo in May 2006 before returning to 140 for his next two fights, including a June 23 fourth-round destruction of former two-time lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo (who gave Mayweather the toughest fight of his career in 2002).

After Mayweather, 30, defeated De La Hoya to win a belt at 154 pounds, he relinquished it to return to 147.

Mayweather and Hatton have both been pros for 10 years. Mayweather has won titles in five divisions (130 pounds to 154) while Hatton has won titles in two (140 and 147).

Before and after his fight with Castillo, Hatton made several disparaging comments about Mayweather and called him out, which convinced Mayweather to come out of retirement for the fight.

"Like Floyd told me -- they brought the right deal to the table," Ellerbe said. "Floyd said, 'He disrespected me and I am calling his bluff.' We're happy it didn't turn out to be a bluff. Hatton talked the talk and now it's time for him to walk the walk. He will find out that fighting Floyd Mayweather is a total different level than what he is used to."

The fight will be promoted by De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions and Mayweather's newly formed Mayweather Promotions, according to Ellerbe. Golden Boy promoted the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight and, according to several sources, is on the verge of signing Hatton, whose contract with co-promoters Artie Pelullo and Dennis Hobson expired after the Castillo fight.

De La Hoya and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer met with Ray Hatton and attorney Gareth Williams last weekend in Las Vegas. They flew them in for the Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright fight and for the meeting.

Although Mayweather had some problems with Golden Boy during the buildup to the May 5 fight, Ellerbe said it wasn't an issue. He wouldn't confirm that Golden Boy holds one option on Mayweather stemming from the deal for him to fight De La Hoya.

"We're very comfortable working with Golden Boy Promotions for the Dec. 8 fight," Ellerbe said. "We just worked with them on the biggest event in the history of the sport and we're excited to be working with them again."

Mayweather-Hatton adds another major fight to an already loaded fall that also will include the Jermain Taylor-Kelly Pavlik middleweight championship showdown (Sept. 29), the Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera rematch (Oct. 6), the probable Juan Diaz-Julio Diaz lightweight unification bout (Oct. 13), the heavily anticipated Joe Calzaghe-Mikkel Kessler super middleweight unification bout (Nov. 3), the probable Miguel Cotto-Shane Mosley welterweight title bout (Nov. 10) and the Joan Guzman-Humberto Soto junior lightweight title match (Nov. 17).

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.