Mitchell, Hatton win convincingly
MANCHESTER, England -- Before the usual packed house at the MEN Arena, hometown hero Ricky Hatton and interim IBF junior welterweight champion Sharmba Mitchell both took care of business in convincing fashion Saturday, perhaps setting the stage for an intriguing matchup between the two titlists this June.
Hatton (35-0, 26 KOs) scored a sixth-round stoppage over late replacement Dennis Pedersen (44-3, 23 KOs) to retain his WBU belt, while Mitchell (54-3, 30 KOs) scored three knockdowns en route to a lopsided 12-round decision over a game Michael Stewart (35-2-2, 19 KOs).
Forced into a late switch of opponents when Brazilian bomber Kelson Pinto withdrew from the card due to a case of the flu, Hatton -- brought into the ring with his trademark "Blue Moon" bellowing through the arena speakers -- nonetheless roared into action in his usual fashion against Pedersen.
Looking much bigger than the former lightweight title challenger, Hatton was obviously going to impose his will on the Dane, and Pedersen appeared to just be going through the motions in the first round.
Hatton continued to chase Pedersen in the second, and with the partisan crowd urging him on, he got closer and closer to his foe, and was even willing to eat some stiff counters for his trouble.
There was more of the same in the third frame, and if there was any lack of focus from Hatton, it wasn't showing. A left to the body dropped Pedersen to a knee with a minute gone in the fourth, and Hatton patiently continued to pick him apart until another ripping hook to the body sent Pedersen down just before the bell ending the round.
Pedersen was in full defensive mode as the fifth commenced, and Hatton attacked, looking to land the finisher. But the end wouldn't come until late in the sixth, when an accumulation of punishment brought in referee Dave Parris to stop the fight at the 2:32 mark of the round.
As the all-United States battle for the interim IBF crown between Mitchell and Stewart began, Mitchell's substantial edge in hand speed was evident, but Stewart was busy and competitive enough to stay in the fight, even scoring with some good shots in the opening round.
Looking relaxed, Mitchell started to open up a bit more in the second and third, and Stewart's face showed the results almost immediately, as he was cut and swollen under the left eye, but still coming forward.
Early in the fourth, Mitchell stunned Stewart with a left uppercut and then sent him to the floor for the first time in his career with a straight left. Stewart rose and proceeded to take some punishment, but all of a sudden he turned the tide, landing some power shots on the surprised "Little Big Man."
The pace slowed a bit in the fifth, and Mitchell took advantage of the lull, landing another stiff left to the jaw that dropped Stewart again. "No Joke" rose quickly, but with Mitchell starting to pile up points, Stewart's trainer Leon Tabbs told his charge that he would consider stopping the bout if the tide didn't turn.
But Mitchell, a step faster and better than Stewart, wouldn't allow his opponent back into the fight, even though the Delaware native did fight well in the seventh.
By the end of the seventh, the outcome of the bout was no longer in doubt, and Mitchell was content to box and pot-shot Stewart, who took the shots and kept coming forward, but was unable to do enough to win rounds.
"I went in there and did what I wanted to do," said Mitchell. "I wanted to go in there and execute perfectly."
Mitchell's straight left put Stewart down again in the ninth, and once again, the disgusted challenger immediately rose to his feet and for the remainder of the bout, was courageous but overmatched.
Scores for Mitchell read 117-109, 120-106, and 120-105.