Bout brings in Hatton backers

Dwyre is a Times staff writer.

Ricky Hatton makes his return to the MGM Grand boxing ring tonight in a 12-round match that has given his dedicated and noisy fan base another reason to depart Manchester, England, in early winter.

Almost a year ago, Dec. 8, 2007, Hatton battled Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a welterweight title fight that received international attention, not only for the quality of competition, but also for the size and volume of Hatton's fan base. Mayweather stopped Hatton with a flurry of shots in the 10th round of that one and retired (for the moment) with an unbeaten record.

Hatton, 30, kept going, beating Juan Lazcano in England in May to bring his record to 44-1.

His opponent tonight will be Brooklyn fighter Paulie Malignaggi, who has also lost onlyonce, in 26 fights, and who may have been most impressive in his 12-round loss in June 2006 to Miguel Cotto. Malignaggi will turn 28 Sunday.

Hatton's 44 victories have included 31 knockouts. Malignaggi's 25 victories have included five knockouts.

Hatton hit the 140-pound match weight on the number at Friday's weigh-in, and Malignaggi was a pound below at 139.

As it did when Hatton took on Mayweather, the weigh-in crowd belonged to Hatton. They cheered him, sang songs about him, mugged for any camera they could find and kept the beer vendors busy.

The crowd was slightly smaller than last year's for Hatton-Mayweather. Officials said tickets were still available.

The Hatton-Malignaggi fight can be seen live on HBO's World Championship Boxing.

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bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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The facts

At MGM Grand in Las Vegas,

7 tonight, HBO

Main event: Ricky Hatton (44-1) vs. Paulie Malignaggi (25-1), 12 rounds, 140-pound match

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