- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Five months removed from his landmark victory and the bitter breakup with his former promoter that followed, junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton is moving on with the championship chapter of his career.
Hatton (39-0, 29 KOs), the recognized 140-pound champ, will attempt to add another belt to his collection when he faces titlist Carlos Maussa (19-2, 17 KOs) of Colombia in a unification bout Saturday in Sheffield, England. The bout, and the accompanying undercard, is available to American fans live on pay-per-view (4 p.m. ET).
In June, the younger, stronger, hungrier Hatton roughed up Kostya Tszyu until Tszyu ceded his championship shockingly by quitting after 11 rounds.
The victory vaulted the Briton into the pound-for-pound rankings and made him an international star. But the feel-good story of his upset victory was short-lived.
Shortly after the fight, Hatton declared his freedom from Frank Warren, Britain's most powerful promoter, and things got ugly.
While Hatton said at first he wanted to make a new deal with Warren, he was also talking to promoters from around the world. Eventually, he signed a one-fight deal with Warren rival Dennis Hobson's Fight Academy.
Warren, claiming Hatton still owed him three fights, sued, and he and Hatton, 27, waged a bitter battle through the British media.
Warren tried to get an injunction to stop the fight with Maussa before finally backing off, although he is still suing for damages. Warren also failed this week in a last-minute attempt to stop the WBA (whose title Maussa holds) from sanctioning the fight.
"I really can't go into detail, but I'll tell you that there were a series of events that made it more difficult to continue to work with Frank," Hatton said.
"We were together for eight years and he did a good job moving me along. In that eight years, we trusted Frank and never once sought out a solicitor or anyone to watch over him. Then some things happened that made me begin to question the relationship. When we did ask to see things, there was hesitation on his part, and when I tried to bring in legal counsel for help, he just dismissed our efforts.
"I've had a fight-by-fight contract with Frank Warren. I came to realize how many other fights are out there with more money that I was missing out on."
Warren repeatedly has denied doing anything other than trying to get Hatton the biggest fights.
A week after beating Tszyu, Hatton came to Atlantic City, N.J., to watch another title fight in his division, between Arturo Gatti and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Hatton said he talked to promoter Main Events while he was at the fight and later received a generous offer. He said he took the offer back to Warren to see if he would make a better one. Instead of discussing it, Hatton said he was threatened with a lawsuit.
"If Frank had come back with another offer, we would have considered it, but instead he started talking about a three-fight deal we had with him," Hatton said. "We never had any kind of three-fight deal with him -- written or verbal."
At that point, Hatton broke for good with the promoter who had taken him from novice pro to world champion. But Hatton said he has made the break with a clear conscience.
"I'm trying to do what's right for my career," Hatton said.
"I tried to be polite about it, but then I have to hear from the press some things that were said about the situation. He made some personal remarks about my family, bad things about my dad. He obviously has a bruised ego. But we had eight years together, we definitely had some good times, good matchups. The whole situation is unfortunate."
As for a reunion, Hatton said he is open to the possibility.
"Never say never," he said. "Right now we both have to go make money, but there's no saying we can't go our separate ways and in the future work together again."
The messy legal situation, however, has not stopped Hatton from focusing on Maussa.
"The win over Kostya Tszyu was a win of a lifetime. After a fantastic win like that I've just got to work hard, train hard and constantly improve," Hatton said. "I've seen the films of Maussa, and I'm expecting a handful. He's very difficult and very tenacious. It's hard to know what he's going to do. The thing is I'm not sure he knows what he's going to do. But I'm looking forward to it. For the fans, it's going to be a fun fight to watch."
Hatton's victory against Tszyu was considered an upset, but not a huge one. Maussa's title victory, however, was one of the biggest upsets of the year.
On the Gatti-Mayweather undercard, the wild-swinging, ultra-aggressive Maussa knocked out the heavily favored Vivian Harris in the seventh round to win a title.
Expect more of Maussa's relentless style on Saturday.
"I see myself imposing my will against Hatton as the fight progresses," Maussa said through translator and trainer Roberto Quesada. "I will be in my best condition for the final rounds. I'm ready to end this fight when I determine the end will be."
Hatton said he is ready for whatever Maussa has to offer.
"Maussa's got a good chin. He can throw and take some good punches, but I'm more polished, and my technique is better," Hatton said. "No matter how long the fight lasts, no matter who wins, you'll definitely see some good punches."
Around the ring
Castillo-Corrales III: The rubber match between Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales figures to happen in the first half of 2006. The burning question, however, is on which network: Showtime or HBO?
Showtime had the first two fights, but HBO, after a 2005 in which its non-pay-per-view fights have been less than stellar, is hot for the rubber match as it looks to beef up its live offerings.
The first Corrales-Castillo match in May was the all-time classic in which Corrales unified lightweight titles with a miracle 10th-round comeback in one of the greatest action fights of all time. The second fight in October, which was on pay-per-view, was exciting but not nearly as good, as Castillo knocked out Corrales in the fourth round to even the score.
However, both fights were shrouded in controversy. To refresh your memory, Castillo claimed foul after the first fight because Corrales received valuable extra recovery time in the 10th round after spitting out his mouthpiece after each knockdown. In the rematch, Corrales' handlers claim he was at a disadvantage because Castillo showed up 3½ pounds overweight, not to mention that one of Castillo's cornermen tried to manipulate the scale at the weigh-in.
The controversies have made a rubber match necessary, plus Corrales had a rematch clause in the contract for the second fight in case he lost.
That brings us to fight No. 3. Showtime and HBO have made offers for the fight, offers that would put the bout live on cable, not on pay-per-view.
HBO has offered a date in February or March. Showtime, which has the right to match any offer, wants the fight for May 6, which is during the Mexican holiday weekend of Cinco de Mayo.
Showtime would schedule the bout opposite an HBO PPV event expected to feature Oscar De La Hoya challenging junior middleweight titlist Ricardo Mayorga, forcing fight fans to pick between major fights.
The fighters, however, are anxious to fight as soon as possible rather than waiting until the spring. Castillo promoter Top Rank also wants the fight in February or March. Corrales promoter Gary Shaw, who is very closely aligned with Showtime, is inclined to go when Showtime says.
Ultimately, Showtime might have to move off of May 6 to a date earlier in the year or substantially increase its offer -- or watch its franchise fight go to fierce rival HBO.
Fisher's side: Last week, Bernard Hopkins told ESPN.com that the reason longtime trainer Bouie Fisher was not training him for a Dec. 3 rematch with Jermain Taylor was because Fisher was caring for his ill wife.
Hopkins told others that Fisher, 77, was ill and unable to handle the 7,000-foot mountain elevation of Big Bear, Calif., where Hopkins moved his camp for this fight after usually training in Miami.
Fisher, however, has a different story, telling the Philadelphia Daily News that the reason for the split was over money.
"Bernard is a very difficult person to deal with," Fisher told the newspaper. "When it comes to money, Bernard wants it all for himself. He wants all the glory, he wants all the credit, he wants all the money. It's all about him, him, him. He's made some bad decisions in the past, and this is another one. What's wrong with this guy?"
Fisher also told the newspaper that his wife, Peggy, needed "24-hours-a-day support, but I would be with Bernard right now if he was paying me right."
When asked again about the Fisher situation on a conference call with the national media Tuesday, Hopkins refused to discuss the matter in any detail, saying only, "Let's stick to the fight. I love Bouie like a father. This fight is dedicated to Bouie Fisher. Sometimes things happen and you have to do what you have to do."
This is not the first split between Hopkins and Fisher. They had a nasty breakup in early 2002 and were apart for 18 months. Fisher sued Hopkins, claiming he was underpaid by $255,000 for three bouts against Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad and Carl Daniels.
Following the Daniels bout, Hopkins faced Morrade Hakkar with a new corner headed by Sloan Harrison.
Eventually, Hopkins and Fisher settled the lawsuit and Fisher was back in the corner until this latest breakup. Now Naazim Richardson, Fisher's longtime assistant, is serving as Hopkins' chief trainer.
Fisher also told the newspaper that Hopkins' split-decision loss to Taylor in July could be attributed to Hopkins' stubbornness.
"He can't blame anybody but himself for what happened in that last fight," Fisher said. "Bernard wouldn't accept my instruction like he normally would. He thought he'd just show up and knock that kid out."
Lacy-Calzaghe set date: The much-anticipated super middleweight unification bout between champions Jeff Lacy (21-0, 17 KOs) and Joe Calzaghe (40-0, 31 KOs) finally was made official last week. Now the fight, which will crown the best 168-pounder in the world, has a date and a venue, too: March 4 at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England.
"This is a huge fight between me and Calzaghe, and a fight that a lot of boxing fans are going to enjoy and get their money's worth out of," Lacy said at a news conference this week in London. "My goal is to unify the super middleweight division and if I didn't do that just because I'm not prepared to leave the United States, then I don't believe I'm a true champion.
"I have a lot of respect for Calzaghe, but I have to come over and win this world title."
The fight -- the biggest in the division since Roy Jones took the title from James Toney in 1994 -- will take place at 2 a.m. England time to accommodate live television coverage on Showtime (9 p.m. ET) in the United States.
The fight will mark Showtime's 20th anniversary of televising fights. The network's first fight was March 10, 1986, when Marvelous Marvin Hagler stopped John Mugabi in the 11th round in Las Vegas to retain the undisputed middleweight title.
Lacy and Calzaghe were supposed to fight Nov. 5, but the bout fell through because Calzaghe fractured his left hand in a Sept. 10 victory against Evans Ashira. Lacy instead faced Scott Pemberton in his fourth defense on Nov. 5, and knocked him out in the second round.
"This is a massive fight, a career-defining fight," said Calzaghe, of Wales, who has made 17 title defenses since winning his belt in October 1997 and is the longest-reigning title holder in the sport. "My hand is fine. Obviously, these things happen in boxing, but come March 4 it will be fine. I am convinced I am going to win. This is the icing on the cake as far as I am concerned."
Rahman-Toney: Heavyweight titlist Hasim Rahman, who was elevated from interim WBC beltholder to full titleholder when champ Vitali Klitschko retired before their Nov. 12 fight because of a knee injury, has been ordered to face James Toney in his first defense.
Although Toney is behind Oleg Maskaev in the WBC's questionable ratings, Toney got the nod as the mandatory.
Maskaev outpointed Sinan Samil Sam on Nov. 12 in a bout the WBC sanctioned as an eliminator for its No. 1 ranking. He will get a shot at the Rahman-Toney winner.
The Rahman and Toney camps have until Dec. 15 to reach an agreement; otherwise, a purse bid will be held Dec. 20.
HBO and Showtime both have interest in the bout, with each talking about Feb. 4 as a possible date.
"FNF" returns: The 2006 season premier of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" has been set for Jan. 20 at the Foxwoods resort in Mashantucket, Conn. Headlining the Banner Promotions card will be Valdemir Pereira (22-0, 15 KOs), a 2000 Olympian for Brazil, against southpaw Phafrakorb Rakkietgym (52-3, 33 KOs) of Thailand for a vacant featherweight belt.
They'll be fighting for the IBF belt that shockingly was stripped from division king Juan Manuel Marquez because no one bid on his mandatory with Rakkietgym, whose most notable fight was against Manny Pacquiao. In that 2002 junior featherweight title bout, Rakkietgym was knocked down four times and knocked out cold in the first round. He was down on the canvas for about 20 minutes before being taken to the hospital.
The Jan. 27 "FNF" card will feature former junior middleweight titlist Kassim Ouma (22-2-1, 14 KOs) against Francisco Mora (50-9, 34 KOs) in a 12-rounder at the Desert Diamond resort in Tucson, Ariz. Ouma will be fighting for the second time since losing his title in an upset to Roman Karmazin in July.
Also on the card: junior lightweight Vicente Escobedo (7-0, 7 KOs) and junior welterweight Rock Allen (4-0, 4 KOs), teammates from the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.
Sim out, Johnson in: Lakva Sim, who was scheduled to challenge lightweight titlist Juan Diaz in a Dec. 15 rematch, suffered a cut while sparring, forcing a postponement of the fight.
A new date for the bout has not been determined, but it will take place on a January "Best Damn Sports Show Period" (Fox Sports Net) card.
Sim (21-4-1, 18 KOs), who has held titles at 130 and 135 pounds, lost his lightweight belt on a decision to Diaz (28-0, 14 KOs) in an all-action fight in July 2004.
To replace the Diaz-Sim fight, former light heavyweight champ Glen Johnson (43-10-2, 29 KOs) will headline on "BDSSP" against Orlando Rivera (15-4-2, 7 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Middleweight Andre Ward (7-0, 4 KOs), the lone boxing gold medalist for the United States in the 2004 Olympics, will fight in the co-feature.
Morales on move: Former three-division champ Erik Morales, coming off an upset loss to Zahir Raheem in September, is changing things up as he begins training for his Jan. 21 rematch with Pacquiao.
Instead of training in Mexico's Otomi Mountains as he usually has, Morales is moving his camp to Queretaro, 90 miles north of Mexico City. Morales said he is making the change because of the bad winter weather in the mountains, but a change of scenery probably can't hurt.
"Over the last eight years I have trained at the Otomi for all my fights, except for one, my [featherweight] title bout with Guty Espadas in 2002, and have been very successful. But the weather is very bad up there this time of year," Morales said.
Morales will have another change in his camp -- a new trainer, after firing his father. However, Morales still has not picked his new chief second.
"I still have not decided who will be helping me in this camp," Morales said.
Hall of Fame: Voters have until Nov. 30 to cast their ballots for the International Boxing Hall of Fame class of 2006. Among the most notable of the 45 fighters appearing on the ballot are a pair of first-timers whose rivalry is a major part of their legacy. Junior flyweights Michael Carbajal of Phoenix and Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez of Mexico fought three times, including their epic 1993 unification fight.
Carbajal (49-4, 33 KOs) won the thriller on the seventh-round knockout in the Ring magazine fight of the year. Gonzalez (43-3, 31 KOs) won their next two meetings on a split decision and majority decision.
Their fights opened the door for smaller-weight fighters to make big purses -- Carbajal became the first 108-pounder to earn a seven-figure purse.
Election results will be announced in January. Induction ceremonies at the Canastota, N.Y., shrine are scheduled for June 11.
"Ghost" sighting: Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero, regarded by many as the top featherweight prospect, faces Gamaliel Diaz on the Dec. 2 "ShoBox" card (Showtime, 11 p.m. ET/PT) at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, Calif.
Guerrero (16-0-1, 9 KOs), making his third "ShoBox" appearance, has the endorsement of Showtime analyst Steve Farhood.
"Guerrero is the best young featherweight in the game," Farhood said. "I felt that way before his first appearance on 'ShoBox,' and nothing has happened to change my mind. He is disciplined, determined and highly skilled. Diaz seems a reasonable test at this point. He is unbeaten in his last 18 bouts over the last five years, so we know he is in form."
Tapia fights on: Featherweight Johnny Tapia (55-5-2, 28 KOs) is 38 and coming off a knockout loss, but he will continue to fight.
The former featherweight, bantamweight and junior bantamweight champ will headline a Dec. 9 Telefutura card in his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M., against an opponent to be named.
Tapia outpointed Manuel Medina for a featherweight belt in 2002 but has gone 3-3 since. Tapia suffered the first knockout loss of his career on Sept. 16 when journeyman Sandro Marcos stopped him in the second round with a body shot.
Amateur update: In the first major international amateur competition since the 2004 Olympics, the United States won two bronze medals at the recently completed 2005 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Mianyang City, China.
Rau'shee Warren of Cincinnati, a 2004 Olympian, and Gary Russell Jr. of Capitol Heights, Md., won medals and established themselves as favorites to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that will compete in Beijing.
Warren dropped a 44-27 decision to Lee Ok Song of Korea in his semifinal bout. Russell lost a 28-17 decision in his semifinal bout against Olympic bronze medalist Rustamhodza Rahimov of Germany.
Quick hits: The two-year run of De La Hoya's HBO Latino series "Boxeo De Oro" comes to an end with the Dec. 8 card at the Isleta Casino in Albuquerque, N.M. HBO has canceled the show and is working on plans for a new boxing series, which is expected to debut in the spring on another HBO channel. The Dec. 8 "Boxeo de Oro" card will feature junior middleweight Marco Antonio Rubio (31-2-1, 28 KOs) vs. Aslan Kodzoev (16-1, 11 KOs) and welterweight Walter Matthysse (23-0, 22 KOs) vs. Xavier Tolliver (20-4, 13 KOs).
• Promising Australian lightweight Michael Katsidis (18-0, 16 KOs), a 2000 Olympian with a crowd-pleasing style, has signed with Northeast Promotions, according to matchmaker Ron Katz. Katsidis, 25, probably will make his American debut in a 10-rounder on the Feb. 17 "Friday Night Fights" card (ESPN2). Ticketed for the co-feature is welterweight prospect Delvin Rodriguez (17-1-1, 10 KOs), who defeated Virgil McClendon (22-6) on Wednesday night in White Plains, N.Y., when McClendon's corner threw in the towel in the sixth round.
• Two weeks ago, middleweight Felix Sturm had to pull out of a fight with minor titlist Maselino Masoe because of an elbow injury. Now another injury has hit Universum's Saturday card in Germany. This time welterweight Michel Trabant (41-2, 18 KOs) suffered a deep cut on his eye while sparring last week, forcing him out of a title eliminator against Mark Suarez (24-2, 12 KOs). Still on the card -- for now at least -- is bantamweight titlist Wladimir Sidorenko (17-0, 6 KOs) making his first defense against Jose de Jesus Lopez (21-5, 16 KOs), and junior welterweight Mohamad Abdulaev (15-2, 12 KOs) vs. Andreas Kotelnik (24-2, 11 KOs). The fight is Abdulaev's first since losing a title shot against Miguel Cotto in June.
• Former junior lightweight titlist Mike Anchondo (25-1, 18 KOs), in his first bout since losing his belt because he didn't make weight and then getting knocked out in the fourth round by Jorge Barrios in April, will face Antonio Ramirez (24-9-6, 17 KOs) on Dec. 9 in the Bronx. Promoter Cedric Kushner hoped to include lightweight contender Joel Casamayor on the card, but Casamayor pulled out of a fight for undisclosed reasons. Also on the card: lightweight prospect Jorge Teron (8-0, 6 KOs) and Mexican junior welterweight 18-year-old prospect Julio Cesar Garcia (33-2, 26 KOs). Fox Espanol will televise the card on tape delay on Dec. 23 at 11 p.m. ET/PT.
• Eddie Mafuz, a longtime boxing manager, died at his Bronx home Nov 18. He was 92. Mafuz, a native of Puerto Rico, worked with many fighters, including Kid Gavilan, Salvador Sanchez, Azumah Nelson, Hector Camacho and Julio Cesar Chavez.
• To set the stage for the Dec. 3 Taylor-Hopkins rematch, HBO will air a replay of their first bout Dec. 2 (11 p.m. ET/PT) and Dec. 3 (12:30 p.m. ET/PT). Taylor won the July fight on a controversial decision to end Hopkins' division record of consecutive defenses at 20.
• Featherweight Steven Luevano (29-0, 14 KOs) headlines Top Rank's Thanksgiving show on Friday night (Telefutura) at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Albuquerque, N.M. Luevano, 24, faces Martin Honorio (19-3-1, 12 KOs) of Mexico. "Top Rank tells me 2006 will be my breakout year," Luevano said. "I'm getting ready for really big fights."
Quotable: "I'm starting to get a lot more things for free. I don't have to pay for meals no more. I guess they think I got no money." -- middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, who faces Bernard Hopkins in a Dec. 3 rematch, on how his life has changed since winning the title from Hopkins in July.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Ricky Hatton is dueling with his former promoter Frank Warren. Still, Hatton is focused on unifying the 140-pound division Saturday against Carlos Maussa.