Examiner Sports column, 5 December 2007.

March 27, 2008

05-12-2007
Michael Moynihan

Food loving Hitman’s hunger
for success

RICKY HATTON fights tomorrow
night in Las Vegas, where he takes
on Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand for the WBC world welterweight
title. Enjoy some chips and curry if you watch the fight, and toast the men you’re watching.

Here’s why. Welterweight is 140 to 147 pounds, or about 10 stone in your socks. The reason this column is taking an interest in that specific weight is because Hatton — whose name can’t legally be printed in an English newspaper without lovable Mancunian/never forgotten his roots following close behind — doesn’t have an ascetic’s approach to his waistline when he’s out of training.

Mayweather’s midweek sneer at his
opponent came pretty close to the mark: “Ricky Hatton never had this many fans here before — it’s all part of the Mayweather experience. I’m putting him in a position to buy a lot of Guinness.”

Ouch. Hitman’s fondness for beer and chips when he’s away from training camp is well-known, and he often balloons up to 13 stone between bouts. For those of us whose well-padded upholstery means 13 stone is quickly receding in the rear view mirror, this might not seem too drastic,
until the following realisation sinks in.

Three years ago Hatton fought four times in 12 months, which meant that the cycle of training and starvation alternated with the curry and lager cycle. The net result was that Hatton lost 13 stone in a year, or well over his (total) fighting weight.

If the notion of grinding away until you shed a couple of pounds doesn’t entice you, consider losing a quarter of your body weight four times in one year.

Makes you think twice about putting butter and jam on that breakfast scone, doesn’t it?

Boxers must deny themselves a lot if they’re slightly too big for their weight class, and for ‘a lot’, read food.

One famous middleweight in the 1930’s had to starve himself for a fight and couldn’t sleep for days ahead of the bout, crying with hunger in his bed. When the fight was over he ate so much ice cream that he put on five pounds in an hour.
Another world champion used to lick a near-empty spoon to get the taste of a
sliver of honey.

Joe Calzaghe, who recently made a
successful 21st defence of his WBO super-middleweight title, had a fairly spartan regime in the run-up to that bout. Porridge in water; diet yoghurt and a banana; small chunk of chicken and salad.

If you blinked, then you just missed Joe’s three meals a day. It comes to about 500 calories on which to train for a world title fight, but for the 48 hours before the weigh-in it’s even less: nothing whatsoever.

THERE are associated advantages for a
boxer, of course. If he’s not too weak
from the starvation, a man at odds with the world because he’s living on
porridge and water is likely to be in the perfect frame of mind to stand in a ring and fight someone else. Anger doesn’t quite cover it.

And believe it or not, it could be worse. Jockeys are another breed of sportsman who need to be as light as possible, and Laura Hillenbrand’s ‘Seabiscuit’ tells some harrowing stories of the wild old days of the twenties and thirties, when jockeys spent so much time in saunas with rubber suits on that some of their bones warped and twisted.

One group of jockeys were being given a pitch by a dubious salesman about the
“reducing” powers of a concoction he was flourishing in a jar when the contents spontaneously combusted. The jockeys watched in silence as the stuff they were supposed to use as a laxative burned and fizzed away in front o them.

Don’t feel too sorry for Ricky, by the way, he’ll pocket £5 million for his trouble. And if Mayweather wants to continue with the verbals, Hatton counter-punched when the two were on a promotional tour: “I’ve missed my son, my six-year-old son, for a week, but I probably haven’t missed him quite as much as you would probably think … because I’ve had the good fortune to spend the full week with another six-year-old.”

Seconds out.

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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