Teofimo Lopez Jr. called out Devin Haney after the American star stunned Vasyl Lomachenko to unify the lightweight division.

Lopez dethroned Lomachenko by unanimous decision to add the WBA, WBO and WBC 'franchise' titles to his IBF belt in Las Vegas Saturday.

The 23-year-old emerged victorious over 12 rounds at MGM Grand, where he became the youngest four-belt champion since the WBO was founded in 1988.

After snapping Lomachenko's 13-fight winning streak, Lopez (16-0) turned to 'regular' WBC champion and American rival Haney (24-0).

"Man, take me to 140," Lopez said after judges scored the fight 116-112, 119-109 and 117-113 in his favour.

"Or I could fight the two-time email world champion Devin Haney if they want that."

Haney replied via Twitter, writing: "Lopez vs Haney 2021 Let's do it! AllTheBelts".

Lomachenko had the pedigree heading into the bout, stemming back to a glittering amateur career that included two Olympic gold medals, through to winning world titles in three different divisions in the paid ranks. 

But the Ukrainian star was also coming off a 14-month layoff as Lopez controlled the early rounds before withstanding a late rally.

"Just tried to keep pressuring him," Lopez said. "Just don't give him the jab, don't let him set up. Every time he did want to throw, I had something ready for him to stop the momentum.

"He was on a 14-month lay-off, and I knew it was going to take time for him to catch up." 

Despite Lopez's early superiority, Lomachenko insisted: "I think the first half of the fight he got more rounds than I did, but in the second half of the fight I took over.

 I definitely don't agree with the scorecards. At the moment, I thought I won. But the results are the results."

Teofimo Lopez Jr. dethroned Vasyl Lomachenko as he became the unified lightweight champion by unanimous decision in Las Vegas.

All eyes were on the MGM Grand, where Lomachenko put his WBA, WBO and WBC belts on the line in the blockbuster unification bout against IBF holder Lopez.

Lopez (16-0) emerged victorious over 12 rounds on Saturday, the 23-year-old completing an upset against pound-for-pound Ukrainian star as he unified the lightweight division inside the Las Vegas bubble.

The judges scored the fight 116-112, 119-109 and 117-113 in favour of unbeaten American Lopez, who snapped Lomachenko's (14-2) 13-fight winning streak after withstanding a late flurry to become the youngest four-belt champion since the WBO was founded in 1988.

"I'm a fighter," said Lopez afterwards. "I gotta dig in deep. I knew he was coming. I didn't know if they had him up on the scorecards or not, and I love to fight.

"I can bang, too. I don't care, man. I'll take one to give one. That's what a true champion does. I find a way to win."

It was a clash to decide the number one lightweight and a showdown between two fighters at contrasting stages of their careers.

Lomachenko had the pedigree heading into the bout, stemming back to a glittering amateur career that included two Olympic gold medals, through to winning world titles in three different divisions in the paid ranks. 

Lopez, meanwhile, had long been talked about as boxing's next big star, long before brutally taking the IBF title from Richard Commey inside two rounds last December.

Lomachenko was slow out of the blocks as Lopez took control of the first half of the fight, outworking the 32-year-old with his speed and pinpoint accuracy.

Out of sorts, Lomachenko – back in action following a 14-month layoff – eventually came into the fight in the eighth round but by that time, the damage had already been done.

Sensing he was behind, Lomachenko ramped up the pressure with a late rally in the championship rounds, however, Lopez landed significant shots to halt his opponent and become the new lightweight king.

Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez have the chance to prove who is the number one lightweight on Saturday, as two fighters at contrasting stages of their careers clash in Las Vegas.

The much-anticipated unification contest takes place inside Top Rank's MGM Grand's Bubble, a mouthwatering main event in which the two leading protagonists both have a point to prove.

Lomachenko has the pedigree, stemming back to a glittering amateur career that included two Olympic gold medals, through to winning world titles in three different divisions in the paid ranks. 

Yet the Ukrainian – considered not just the best at the weight but also a leading contender to be recognised as the pound-for-pound king – is putting more than just the WBA and WBO belts on the line. 

His reputation is at stake against a fighter – and a father – who have not been shy in making clear their intentions for a while, long before Lopez Jr became a champion himself by brutally taking the IBF title from Richard Commey inside two rounds last December. 

Teofimo Lopez Sr has long been convinced his son has the power and precision to expose the lauded Lomachenko – and did not mind telling him as much when they were in the same hotel lobby in December 2018. 

That meeting sparked a rivalry that has simmered ever since. On Saturday, though, the heat will be turned up to boiling point. The trash talk has riled Lomachenko, now Lopez has to back it up.

The undefeated 23-year-old has age on his side and is the more comfortable at the limit, a heavy handed hitter who has – so far – backed up both his and his father's confidence with 15 straight wins. 

Still, this is different – this is Lomachenko, a supremely skilled boxer who has needed to move through the divisions to find bigger challenges in every sense. He has normally passed those tests with flying colours, too.

Is this a step too far, though? Can, as his dad has always believed, Lopez be the one to solve 'The Matrix' inside the ring? Thankfully, boxing fans do not have to wait too much longer to find out. 

RECENT HISTORY

As already mentioned, Lopez was ruthless against Commey to claim the IBF strap, handing the dethroned champion the first stoppage loss of his professional career.

That followed on from wins inside the distance over Diego Magdaleno and Edis Tatli earlier in the year, though Masayoshi Nakatani went 12 rounds in July 2019 before being beaten comfortably on the scorecards.

In contrast to his next opponent, Lomachenko's previous outing saw him require the scorecards to triumph against Luke Campbell in August 2019. A knockdown in the 11th helped lead to a comfortable points win, though the final margins did not do justice to the Englishman's brave efforts.

Campbell's compatriot Anthony Crolla had been crushed four months earlier, while the impressive Lomachenko CV includes victories over Jose Pedraza and Jorge Linares at lightweight.

TALE OF THE TAPE

VASYL LOMACHENKO

Age: 32
Height: 5ft 7ins (170cm)
Weight: 9st 6lbs (135 pounds)
Reach: 65.5ins 
Professional record: 14-1 (10 KOs)
Major career titles: WBO featherweight, WBO super-featherweight, WBA, WBC & WBO lightweight

TEOFIMO LOPEZ

Age: 23
Height: 5ft 8ins (173cm)
Weight: 9st 6lbs (135 pounds)
Reach: 68.5ins 
Professional record: 15-0 (12 KOs)
Major career titles: IBF lightweight

THE UNDERCARD

Alex Saucedo, whose only loss came against Maurice Hooker in 2018, and the undefeated Arnold Barboza Jr go up against each other in a super-lightweight clash that should help whet the appetite for what is to follow on the menu.

In the same division, Josue Vargas takes on Kendo Castaneda, while unbeaten super-middleweight Edgar Berlanga is up against Lanell Bellows in an eight-rounder. However, the main course is all that really matters this weekend.

WHAT THE FIGHTERS HAVE TO SAY..

Lopez Jr to Stats Perform News: "I expect him to get hurt, badly, with the explosiveness I bring to the table. I knew I was the underdog coming into this. Listen, it doesn't motivate me any different, it doesn't change anything, you know what I mean? That is really what it comes to. I knew I was going to be the underdog coming into this fight."

Lomachenko on his opponent's pre-fight talk: "For me, it's just words. On Saturday, we will see."

Promoter Bob Arum on Lomachenko: "He doesn't want an easy fight or to win a decision, he wants to win by destroying his opponent. Floyd Mayweather was a great defensive fighter. But unlike Mayweather, Loma is always looking for a way to destroy his opponents. That's what makes him a fan-friendly fighter."

Anthony Joshua's fight with Kubrat Pulev has been confirmed for December 12 at the O2 Arena in London. 

Joshua was due to face the Bulgarian at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in June for the defence of his IBF, WBA and WBO world titles. 

However, the fight was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and promoter Eddie Hearn suggested an all-British unification bout with Tyson Fury could take place this year if a new date was not fixed with Pulev. 

It has now been confirmed Joshua will his face mandatory challenger in his first fight in England for over two years, marking his return to the ring since defeating Andy Ruiz Jr in a rematch in Dubai last year. 

"December 12 is the date and once again the heavyweight belts go up in the air and it is my sole focus to make sure that come December 13 they are in their rightful place in the UK," said Joshua, as per Sky Sports. 

"The O2 is the original lion's den, I have a lot of history with the arena, but without the fans something huge is missing. I am really hoping that, safety permitting, we might be able to bring some boxing fans in, but we will have to see. I respect every opponent and I respect Pulev. I wish him well during his preparation." 

Pulev, 39, has lost just one of his 29 professional bouts - a knockout at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. 

"For a small country of Bulgaria to stand up for the heavyweight titles is a great accomplishment," said Pulev. 

"This fight is for my late father and all Bulgarians around the world. I'm coming to London to seize the heavyweight championship of the world." 

Hearn sees this as the "final hurdle" for Joshua ahead of a planned double-header with Fury, set for 2021. 

"After a challenging year for everyone, to end with the unified world heavyweight championship is very special," he said. 

"Over a year after regaining his crown, Anthony Joshua takes on yet another dangerous opponent in mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. AJ's resume is unrivalled, and this is the final hurdle until we challenge for the undisputed crown next year."

Teofimo Lopez believes his "explosiveness" can hurt Vasyl Lomachenko as he embraces his underdog tag ahead of Saturday's bout.

Lopez (15-0) and Lomachenko (14-1) will face off at the MGM Grand in a lightweight unification bout.

The holder of the IBF title, Lopez is supremely confident, although accepts he is the underdog against the Ukrainian.

"I expect him to get hurt, badly, with the explosiveness I bring to the table," Lopez told Stats Perform News.

"I knew I was the underdog coming into this. Listen, it doesn't motivate me any different, it doesn't change anything, you know what I mean?

"That is really what it comes to. I knew I was going to be the underdog coming into this fight."

While Lopez last fought in December last year, Lomachenko is in action for the first time since August 2019.

Lomachenko has been unsure how the long lay-off would impact him, but the 32-year-old said he was ready.

"We have a long time and we are always still in our shape," he said.

"We prepare 100 per cent and this preparation was the biggest preparation in my career, my professional career."

Vasyl Lomachenko is unsure how his long lay-off will impact him in Saturday's lightweight unification bout against Teofimo Lopez.

Lomachenko (14-1) will put his WBA and WBO titles on the line at MGM Grand, while bidding to win Lopez's IBF crown.

The Ukrainian is in action for the first time since August last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked how the longest lay-off of his professional career would impact him, Lomachenko was uncertain.

"I'll check on Saturday, I don't know," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"I never stay one year outside ring, now it will be first time and I don't know."

Lopez, meanwhile, has had a lengthy absence of his own, having won the IBF title against Richard Commey in December last year.

"I feel great. For both of us, it's the same thing. We haven't had this long of a lay-off," he said.

"Even though during the time with quarantine and everything that was hitting, the pandemic, I was still working out, trying to stay on that as much as possible.

"I'm a big 135-pounder so I always stay in shape, always stay in shape. And I'm ready and I'm more than excited for this fight."

Lopez is defending his IBF title for the first time and his experience has been questioned ahead of facing Lomachenko.

But the 23-year-old, who is 15-0 with 12 knockouts, said he was ready for the challenge.

"I mean hey, that's what it takes to go from a good fighter to a great, all-time fighter," Lopez said.

"You've got to do things like this and we spoke about this for a while now. Why am I going to go back on my word? I talk the talk and I walk the walk and I believe that I can and I know I will become undisputed world champion."

Mairis Briedis earned a majority decision win over Yuniel Dorticos to claim the World Boxing Super Series final and IBF cruiserweight title.

Briedis received the Muhammad Ali Trophy after defeating Cuban Dorticos on Saturday, with two judges scoring the fight 117-111, while another had it 114-114 in Munich, Germany.

Dorticos (24-2) was the aggressor but Latvian Briedis – a former WBC and WBO champion – landed the more noticeable blows with a number of right uppercuts to dethrone the IBF holder.

"It feels like a dream," said Briedis (27-1), whose only professional defeat has come against Oleksandr Usyk in 2018.

Meanwhile, world champion Josh Taylor retained his WBA and IBF light-welterweight belts thanks to a first-round knockout of Apinun Khongsong.

Taylor's body shot sent the undefeated Thai fighter to the canvas in incredible fashion at York Hall in London.

"I felt it [the punch] sinking in straight away," Taylor told BT Sport. "I didn't know it had hurt him to that extent until I saw him on the floor.

"He [Khongsong] was the heaviest puncher I have ever been in with. I could feel the weight of his power. That switched me on to take my time and be patient.

"It was a great shot but I'd like to have shown what we've been working on in the gym. But you don't get paid overtime. I can go and get a pint and a pizza."

Anthony Joshua described Tyson Fury as "just another heavyweight" and says his rival should consider retiring soon.

IBF, WBA and WBO title holder Joshua has agreed two fights with WBC champion Fury next year to determine the division's undisputed champion.

Joshua first faces a mandatory title defence against Kubrat Pulev at the end of the year, while Fury is set to take on Deontay Wilder for a third time.

Fury won his first world titles in 2015, seven years after turning professional, whereas his countryman needed just three years to make his big breakthrough.

And ahead of their proposed superfights at some point in 2021, Joshua has cast doubt over whether taking on Fury will be the biggest test of his career.

"Fury has been professional much longer than me. He should be looking to retire soon," he told Sky Sports.

"If he wants to cement his legacy, I'm here and ready. I've built myself into this position.

"I'll challenge Fury, I'll challenge Wilder. These guys aren't the biggest names that I've fought on my record anyway. They are just another heavyweight.

"Look at my record. They are not the best fighters that I have challenged. When they are ready, I'm here to fight."

Fury has won 30 of his 31 professional fights and beat Wilder in February to claim the WBC and Ring Magazine titles.

However, Joshua – with a record of 23 wins from 24 fights – is not fazed about stepping into the ring with the Gypsy King.

"I haven't got fear of Fury – whether he's got a better chin than me, a better jab than me, whether he's all of this stuff that people say," Joshua said. 

"So be it. Let me go in there and prove myself. Show you who I am and what I can do.

"I've fought five champions and been in two unification fights. I'm a two-time heavyweight champion in the space of 24 fights and a [seven-year] career. It shows you I am serious.

"If Fury is serious, I'll take that fight seriously too."

Anthony Joshua is confident he knows how to go about beating Tyson Fury but does not expect to face his fellow Brit in a blockbuster heavyweight showdown this year.

Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter, this week stated the English duo could do battle in a much-anticipated unification before the end of 2020, amid talk that Deontay Wilder may pull out of a trilogy fight with Fury.

A fight with mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev is due to be WBA, WBO and IBF champion Joshua's next assignment, while Fury is contracted to face Wilder for a third time.

WBC champion Fury and Joshua verbally agreed to two fights next year during a coronavirus crisis that has caused uncertainty over scheduling.

Joshua is focused on overcoming his next hurdle in the form of Pulev, but already has in mind how he plans to defeat compatriot Fury.

He told Capital Breakfast: "I've got a winner's head on my shoulders, so I'm going in to win.

"You know, you work Tyson's body, I know certain shots that he's vulnerable to as well, so I kind of create those opportunities as well. With a winner’s head on my shoulders I'll go in there and I'll do whatever it takes by any means really."

Joshua knows both he and Fury have "banana skin fights" to get through before they can finally meet.

He added: "We've got to put them on an equal playing field because if I say 'I've got the bigger test' or 'he's got the bigger test', you never know what's going to happen.

"They're both banana skin fights. It's like 'get past this one then there's the big one next', so this one is just as important as the big one.

"When the time is right we'll fight. We're keen but I've got Kubrat Pulev first which is a mandatory defence, which I have to do. Once I get past that I'm a free agent.

"I'm going to say we'll fight next year but everything else that comes with it, I've just got to put to the back of my mind and just focus on Kubrat Pulev. Once I get past him, hopefully Fury will be the next one in line."

Anthony Joshua could face Tyson Fury in their much-anticipated unification bout before the end of the year, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.

IBF, WBA and WBO title holder Joshua wants to complete the collection by adding the WBC belt, which is currently held by Fury following his stoppage win over Deontay Wilder.

The pair were expected to meet in 2021 at the earliest, with Fury facing Wilder for a third time before then and mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev up next for Joshua.

However, Hearn revealed Joshua has not agreed a deal with Pulev and could yet take on Fury should Wilder opt against returning to the ring this year.

"I am the only one that has put [Joshua v Fury in 2021] in writing that the deal is agreed," Hearn told IFL TV.

"So, I have already written to their team saying, 'Just to let you know, we have agreed to the following deal.'

"I didn't actually get a reply, but I believe they do want the fight. So, we're ready for the fight."

He added: "I saw the comments about December. It's all very well saying, 'Well, if that doesn't happen in December, I'll fight you now.'

"We will fight you in December. If the world is ready for that fight, and these offers that are coming in are legit for that period in December, then we don't have a problem going into that fight.

"But [Fury's] under contract for another fight. We're not under contract yet, but we have to agree to terms with Pulev now. We probably will.

"We want to have an undisputed fight. So, by doing that, we fight Pulev, [Fury] fights Wilder.

"If we have to drop the WBO belt, then we worry about that then. But AJ doesn't have a problem with going into that [Fury] fight next. He understands that his obligation is to fight Pulev."

Wilder invoked a rematch clause to face Fury for a third time after losing his WBC and Ring Magazine titles to the 32-year-old in February.

However, a date has still not been officially pencilled in and Hearn has told Wilder to consider retiring if he does not step back into the ring with the Gypsy King.

"If Deontay Wilder doesn't take that rematch, he should retire from boxing," he said. "What's the point? You've been a world heavyweight champion, and now you've lost."

Jose Ramirez is motivated by the prospect of facing some of the biggest names in boxing as he plots a move to welterweight - but not before he has a unification showdown with Josh Taylor.

The reigning WBC and WBO light-welterweight champion, Ramirez defends his titles on Saturday when he takes on experienced challenger Viktor Postol in Las Vegas.

It is a bout that looks set to finally go ahead at the third attempt, as initial dates in February and May were scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The postponements have seen Ramirez inactive for over a year, yet the Californian says the time since his impressive stoppage win over Maurice Hooker in July 2019 has gone by like a "blur".

While he must deal with Postol first, the 28-year-old is already plotting ahead as he targets Scotsman Taylor, who currently holds the WBA and IBF titles, and is willing to travel to make it happen.

"I do want that fight, for sure. That's the fight I want next. That's still my plan," Ramirez told Stats Perform News. 

"Not to be insincere, I know he has a mandatory late September so if the fight doesn't happen this year, it could happen early next year.   

"Now, as far as the venue, I would be excited to go to the United Kingdom and fight there. I would be more than happy and motivated to do that.  

"I think it would be lovely for me to be able to showcase my talent in front of a whole different crowd, different fans. I would be willing to do that, whatever it takes for the fight to happen and wherever it's going to bring the most momentum."

Whenever and wherever the Taylor fight takes place, Ramirez acknowledged that he has a limited amount of time left at the 10-stone limit. A switch to welterweight not only makes life easier on the scales but also opens up a number of lucrative possibilities, too. 

Terence Crawford holds the WBO title, while Errol Spence Jr has the IBF and WBC belts. Then there is the legendary Manny Pacquiao, who sits in the position of 'super' champion with the WBA. 

"I think there's two more fights at 140 [the light-welterweight limit], hopefully, and then I move to 147," Ramirez said when asked about his long-term future. 

"It's time for me to let my body grow and see how much I can develop and let my power also develop and put some extra mass and be a bigger fighter that I know I can be.   

"If it's Terence Crawford or any other champion, my goal will be to become a world champion at 147 as well." 

He added: "I think those things motivate me the most. So, two more fights and I will be happy to make that move to 147, especially if I fight Josh Taylor for all four belts.   

"There wouldn't be any reason to stay at 140. I know there's some good 135-pounders out there, but nothing motivates me [more] than the names Crawford, Pacquaio, Spence – those types of champions. 

"I know if I let my body grow, I know I could be a much better 147-pounder than a 140-pounder."

Anthony Joshua is ready to step in and fight Dillian Whyte if Tyson Fury is unwilling to do so, according to Eddie Hearn.

Already holding the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles, Joshua wants to complete the collection by adding the WBC belt, currently held by Fury following his stoppage win over Deontay Wilder.

That duo are scheduled to meet for a third time, though a date is yet to be confirmed, with Whyte then next in line to face the winner.

However, promoter Hearn has made clear that if Fury is not so keen to make that fight, Joshua is willing to make it happen in his quest to be crowned the undisputed champion in the division.

Joshua and Whyte have met once before in the paid ranks too, the former coming out on top against his long-time rival back in December 2015.

"Looking at the bigger undisputed picture, all Joshua wants is the WBC title," Hearn told Sky Sports News. 

"He was never worried if it came against Wilder or Fury. Whoever owns that belt is who Joshua will face for the undisputed championship. 

"We know the winner of Saturday's fight will be ordered to face the winner of Fury-Wilder. If Fury does not want to fight Whyte, then Whyte will be elevated to champion from interim champion. Now I do not like that. 

"But what will happen? Joshua will fight Whyte straight away for the undisputed championship. 

"You always want to fight a champion. But if Fury refuses to do a fight that has been ordered by the WBC, then he will be stripped of his title. 

"Then Whyte will be fighting for the undisputed championship."

Whyte puts his status as the WBC's interim champion on the line this weekend when he takes on Alexander Povetkin in the fourth and final 'Fight Camp' event to be staged at Matchroom's headquarters in Essex.

Russian Povetkin was stopped by Joshua back in 2018, but that is one of only two defeats he has suffered in a 38-fight career.

Anthony Joshua joked heavyweight rival Tyson Fury "blew his cover" through the pair's chance meeting in Marbella last week.

Photographs of unified IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua talking to WBC king Fury as the latter passed him in a car at the Spanish resort again set tongues wagging over a long-mooted meeting in the ring.

Fury must first come through a third encounter with American knockout artist Deontay Wilder, who he dethroned spectacularly in February, while Joshua has an obligation to IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev, who he was slated to meet in June at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Joshua acknowledged a fight with Fury has to happen in the near future and poked some gentle fun at his fellow Briton.

"It's only right that me and him will bump heads soon. We're going to put on a great show for the British public, the world public," Joshua said.

"It's going to be a massive fight. I'm looking forward to it.

"What was cheeky about the situation [in Marbella] was he couldn't even get out of the car and offer me a drink.

"I don't know how he saw me because I had my mask on, my hat on and everything.

"He's obviously got his eye on me. He's probably following me around, he blew his cover!

"All respect to him. He was with his wife as well, all respect to her. They're a humble family."

Joshua attended a Black Lives Matter rally in his hometown of Watford on crutches last month, although he reported encouraging progress from a knee complaint.

"I think you saw I bumped into Tyson Fury last week. I'm on my feet, I'm going for my 10,000 steps," he added.

"I'm in the gym, I'm standing up, I'm smashing the heavy bag, smashing the bag. The knee's good."

Anthony Joshua's world titles could "slip from him again" if he does not take the fight to Kubrat Pulev, says trainer Peter Fury.

The Briton shockingly lost his IBF, WBA and WBO belts to Andy Ruiz Jr in July 2019 before regaining them with a convincing performance in a December rematch.

Joshua's next defence is against Pulev, though a venue and a date have yet to be confirmed due to continued uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic.

Should Joshua come through unscathed, a lucrative unification bout with countryman Tyson Fury is on the cards, providing the WBC title holder defends his own strap against Deontay Wilder.

But Peter Fury, Tyson's uncle and former trainer, thinks Joshua can ill afford to look too far ahead.

"Pulev is very cagey and he'll come in top condition as well, and he's really up for this fight," he told Sky Sports.

"He's got a very good jab. He's a very underestimated boxer is Pulev. He's very awkward.

"You've got to break him down and AJ will have to take chances in this fight, because he's not going to just simply be able to land that double jab and right hand on Pulev, no matter how sharp he is.

"AJ has got to take it to him and be explosive, but be clever with it. You have to fancy the younger man, but like I said, you can't put anything past Pulev, because he's a very cute, professional fighter.

"It's not a pushover fight this, it's a serious fight. When people are famous in boxing everyone expects them to win, but it's not the case in this fight.

"This fight is a dangerous fight for him. If he doesn't keep 100 per cent focused, this fight can slip from him again."

Britain looks set to be the focus of the boxing world in 2021 after confirmation that a deal has been agreed in principle for Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury to finally meet for the undisputed heavyweight title.

For all the tawdry chicanery that still lurks at the top level of the sport, when the best fight the best the ripples run far and wide as legacies and legends are shaped.

Joshua is the ticket-seller extraordinaire, a star with mass appeal that transcends his sport. Fury is the undefeated fighter who has won battles both in and out of the ring.

All of those elements were present in one corner when the sport's centre of gravity shifted from Las Vegas to Manchester on a balmy June night in 2005.

"Even talking about it now, I get goosebumps," former WBA lightweight champion Anthony Crolla told Stats Perform News, reflecting on Ricky Hatton's stunning daredevil assault on Kostya Tszyu – one that earned him the IBF light-welterweight title and victory to rank alongside any in a UK ring, as the great Australian failed to answer the bell for the final round.

HOMETOWN HERO

Hatton was already a Manchester institution and inspiration by the time he faced his career-defining fight, although his was a sporting celebrity built at a different pace to the likes of Joshua.

Audley Harrison and Amir Khan's Olympic breakthroughs in 2000 and 2004 set Britain on the path to the elite amateur set up that spawned the class of 2012, with ready made bill-toppers emerging from the London Games.

A medal in one pocket and a lucrative television deal in the other means the fast-tracking towards major titles can quickly commence.

By contrast, Hatton was a long-time headliner at the Manchester Arena with a record of 38-0 heading into the Tszyu fight.

He held the WBU belt at 140 pounds, the sort of lightly regarded strap generally tossed away en route to bigger and better things. Hatton defended it 15 times after beating the veteran Tony Pep in 2001. Eleven of those came as the headliner at his home arena.

The road to Tszyu felt needlessly long at times, with a sense Hatton's undefeated record was being protected as a bankable asset by promoter Frank Warren. But the extended parade of dress rehearsals means the all-action body puncher became as much a part of his city's cultural landscape as Manchester United, his beloved Manchester City and Oasis.

"Every British boxer aspired to be like Ricky Hatton but certainly every young Mancunian boxer wanted those nights," said Crolla, whose enthusiasm was not dampened by his own footballing loyalties lying firmly at Old Trafford.

"Whether he was a Manchester City fan or not, you wanted those nights. To watch him progress… I remember telling people, other young boxers, about him before he burst onto the scene the way he did."

Crolla was an aspiring amateur at the time and a regular at Hatton fights, although a prior engagement meant he tuned into the Tszyu showdown on television, with the bout taking place at 02:00 local time for the benefit of US broadcaster Showtime.

"The first Ricky Hatton fight I was at was the first title he won as a professional – against a lad called Tommy Peacock at Oldham Leisure Centre," he said.

"Ricky would be at a lot of amateur shows too, giving trophies out. I'd always ask him about body shots and how he'd throw them. I probably drove him mad.

"I couldn't go that night [against Tszyu] because I was boxing as an amateur in Germany four days later. I was thinking about it being a late night and I was making weight, in hard training. It wasn't the best place to be!"

FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE

A capacity crowd of around 22,000 reached fever pitch when Hatton emerged to the strains of Blue Moon, although it was an atmosphere fuelled as much by nervous energy as alcohol consumption, because the hometown hero was tackling mission improbable.

Tszyu's decision to walk away from the sport after losing his title has dulled perceptions of what a formidable operator he was.

An esteemed amateur boasting supreme technique and power, he had 25 knockouts from his 31 wins. The shot that placed Zab Judah's legs and brain on different wavelengths in 2001 remains a staple of knockout showreels, while he returned from a long injury lay-off to blast Sharmba Mitchell to the canvas four times before signing to face Hatton.

"The right hand!" Crolla marvelled. "He (Tszyu) doing that for years. People also forget he was one of the finest amateurs you'll ever see.

"There were a lot of boxing people who didn't give Ricky much of a chance because Kostya Tszyu was that good. He was an amazing, amazing fighter. For Ricky to walk him down the way he did…"

The tactical plan cooked up by Hatton's trainer and mentor Billy Graham still sounds audacious 15 years on.

Instead of staying away from the right hand that had liquidised so many in the division, Hatton jabbed intelligently and swarmed ravenously to operate within the line of fire at all times.

Staying somewhere close to Tszyu's chest, the older man was denied the leverage he needed for his honey punch and made to box at a pace that eventually proved beyond him.

"I remember at the start of nearly every round, Ricky would cop for a big right hand," Crolla said, considering footage that draws a wince to this day.

"You were watching through your hands but he was a man possessed. That night he might have beaten anyone. He wouldn't be denied."

THE HATTON EFFECT

Tszyu's trainer Johnny Lewis had seen enough when his man slumped down exhausted at the end of round 11. A similarly fatigued Hatton collapsed to the floor in tears, embracing Graham as bedlam ensued around him.

The wider impact was instant and enduring.

"That created a massive buzz around Manchester boxing," Crolla said. "After what Ricky did, our gym was packed on the Monday. Everyone wanted to be a boxer. He had loads of big nights at the arena and he made so many young fighters from Manchester dream of having that themselves."

Despite struggling to sleep after the adrenaline rush of Hatton's stunning upset, Crolla claimed the gold medal at his multi-nations tournament in Germany the following week. And, a decade later, his dreams of magical fights as the toast of Manchester Arena were realised.

Both Crolla's fairy tale title win over Darleys Perez and emphatic first defence against the feared Ismael Barroso arrived via body shot stoppages in the image of the man he idolised. That teenage pestering had paid off.

Manchester's footballing divide was again brought together to howl their favourite fighter's name, with Crolla's left to the liver to take out Perez fittingly Hatton-esque.

"Yeah, it was one I'm sure Ricky would be proud of," he recalled fondly. "He was there that night and that was somebody I idolised, at ringside watching me in my big fight. I boxed under his promotions for a bit as well and he's a mate now. It's mad.

"After Ricky, a lot of people told me I was the first to come along and have those big nights again – what Manchester had missed for so many years. That makes me immensely proud because I was just one of those kids at the arena.

"Mine were never as big as Ricky's nights, because those were some of the biggest in British boxing history. Mine were only a fraction of it, but I'm very proud that people would even consider me like that.

"There'll never be nights like Ricky Hatton again for a Manchester boxer."

Fury, whose good friend Hatton was in his corner for the first Deontay Wilder fight, might beg to differ if he embellishes his remarkable resurgence by beating Joshua, potentially twice as a rematch clause is seemingly part of the deal.

Should it come to pass, it will be a contest to resonate just as Hatton's deeds did with Crolla and many thousands of others – an occasion like that intoxicating Tszyu encounter, where a boxer wins not only the fight, the belts and the fortune, but sporting immortality.  

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