LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - IBO light-welterweight champion Ricky Hatton will bid to complete a rousing hat-trick of British victories this month when he defends his title against Paulie Malignaggi at the MGM Grand on Saturday.
Joe Calzaghe dominated American Roy Jones Jr. in a light-heavyweight bout in New York on November 8, eight days before former world cruiserweight champion David Haye launched his heavyweight career by stopping Monte Barrett in London.
“I’d put Joe pound-for-pound best in the world right now, along with Manny Pacquiao,” Hatton told reporters in the build-up to his 46th fight. “I think he was just exceptional.
“The heavyweight division is right open for someone like David to become champion. I hope I’m not speaking too soon, but I think he can do it.”
Britain’s former WBC lightweight champion Jim Watt has relished watching British boxers rule the roost in recent weeks.
“It’s nice when we have Ricky dominating one division — although that’s coming to an end — and Joe dominating another division,” Watt told Reuters. “It’s not bad when you can say that about British fighters.”
Richard Schaefer, chief executive officer of Golden Boy Promotions, which is promoting Hatton’s bout with American Malignaggi, believes Britain has become a pivotal base for the sport.
“If you look at the kind of excitement British fighters bring to the table, it feels like it’s unmatched anywhere else,” he said.
“It seems like boxing (in Britain) has emerged as a sport that is really followed by the masses. The Brits know a good match-up and if there is a good match-up, they’re there to support their fighters.”
Schaefer feels the success story in British boxing owes a great deal to increased investment in developing fighters as amateurs.
“Britain has a much better support system for the emerging fighters in the amateur programme,” he said. “With the Olympics in 2012 being in London, I am sure their boxing programme will continue to benefit from the support their Olympic federation gives to boxing, and to other sports as well.”
Unlike Schaefer, however, Watt is not convinced that the success of Calzaghe and Hatton heralds a new dawn in British boxing.
“I don’t see that there’s another generation coming through to take its place,” he said. “Given the size of the British nation, I don’t think we can punch above our weight too much.
“We get one or two superstars coming through every once in a while. We’re just producing more stars than expected. But I’m very happy with what we’ve achieved at world level lately.”
Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Alastair Himmer