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It’s more pounds for Mayweather

Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Floyd Mayweather Jr. boxed the heart out of Ricky Hatton on Saturday night, repeatedly pounding the gutty Englishman on his way to a 10th-round technical knockout that confirmed the flashy welterweight champion as his sport’s most skilled tactician.

Mayweather (39-0, 25 knockouts) completed a night-long destruction of Hatton in the 10th by first sending him crashing downward into a corner post pad. Later, Mayweather ended his punching artistry with another left hook and an overhead right.

Hatton staggered slowly backward, then fell on his back, as referee Joe Cortez waved off the fight between the two unbeatens.

“A true champion can adapt to anything,” Mayweather said. “I knew it’d be tough, that he’d try to bust me up.”

He called his decisive left a “check hook” that he learned years ago as an amateur in Michigan.

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“He walked right into it and never saw it coming,” Mayweather said. “He walked right into the shot.”

Mayweather, who showed no indication that his previously injured right hand was a weakness, jumped onto the ropes of a neutral corner at MGM Grand Garden Arena and celebrated in his hometown while fighting back tears in front of the sellout crowd of 16,500.

At the stoppage, the World Boxing Council champion was leading on all three judges’ scorecards, 89-81, 89-81, 88-82, and out-landed Hatton in punches thrown, 129-63.

“My hands were fine,” said Mayweather, who was seen receiving hand treatments on the HBO reality series, “24/7,” and who has been criticized for relying too heavily on speed and defense, not power, in winning his last three fights by decisions. “I wanted to show the fans I could punch with power. I wanted to give them a great performance.”

Mayweather returned to the talk of retirement he raised after defeating Carlos Baldomir last year.

With unbeaten World Boxing Assn. welterweight champion Miguel Cotto looking on, Mayweather said, “I’ve done all I can for the sport. I’m not thinking of doing anything else. I’ve done what I have to do: fight the best in the world. And there’s no one else left.”

The passionate fans -- estimated at 30,000 -- who flocked from England to watch Hatton made a tremendous showing in the arena, belting out “God Save the Queen,” with and without pre-fight ring singer Tom Jones, and shouting down Mayweather supporters in the crowd by barking in unison, “Who are ya?”

Hatton (43-1) entered to his traditional song “Blue Moon,” and saluted his followers by kissing his right glove and raising it upward.

Then, Mayweather got to business, walking in casually by his standards with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” blaring. He remained stone-faced, walking to press row and winking his left eye in a confident gesture.

Hatton opened the fight aggressively as promised, charging Mayweather and making him stumble backward to the crowd’s delight in the first round. Hatton was liberal in his use of his left hand.

Mayweather answered the aggression by displaying his dominant punching speed, pounding Hatton with a right in the second. Referee Cortez stepped in to slow the clinching and behind-the-head punching twice during the round.

Mayweather didn’t mind being backed to the ropes, responding to breaks with powerful combinations in the third and fourth rounds to remedy Hatton’s charging and free-swinging attack. Hatton sustained a small cut over his right eye in the third, and said he began feeling Mayweather’s strength in body shots.

“I left myself open,” Hatton said. “He’s better inside than I thought, with all the elbows, shoulders and forearms.”

In the sixth, Hatton’s roughness caused him to have a point deducted when he forced Mayweather through the ropes and punched the champion in the back of the head. Mayweather’s sharp timing of Hatton’s forward attack gave him a 10-8 round in the sixth.

By the end of the seventh, it was clear Hatton was being outclassed, as his head snapped backward viciously twice by Mayweather’s precise blows.

“I didn’t quite stick to the game plan,” Hatton said. “He was very strong, a lot more clever than I expected.”

Mayweather dominated even more in the eighth, burying rights that stunned Hatton, and pounding another stiff right that caused him to slump his head forward in a daze. Mayweather was measuring his shots now, producing a stiff right that bent Hatton’s head back again.

The challenger showed his patented heart with a late combination, but Mayweather’s block-and-land skill was a one-sided advantage and before the decisive blows, cheers of “USA!” emerged.

Hatton tried to soothe his still-serenading fans: “I’ll be back. Don’t worry. Sorry everybody.”

On the undercard, super-middleweight Jeff Lacy (23-1) knocked down former “Contender” runner-up Peter Manfredo Jr. (28-5) in the fourth round, and rallied from a slow start to win by unanimous decision.

Also, Mexico’s Daniel Ponce DeLeon (34-1, 30 KOs) retained his World Boxing Organization junior-featherweight title by defeating countryman Eduardo Escobedo (20-3) by unanimous decision.

Hatton’s brother, Matthew, won a unanimous decision over Puerto Rico’s Frankie Santos to improve to 33-3-1. Edner Cherry (23-5-2) knocked out Wes Ferguson, a fighter in Mayweather’s camp, with one second left in the sixth round.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com


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