Hitman Hatton sees similarities in Heffron's style

Ricky Hatton firmly believes that Mark Heffron could be the resurrection and the former world champion boxer is hoping to be his leading light.

Thursday, 29th June 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:43 am
Ricky Hatton puts Mark Heffron through his paces

The "Hitman", who has fostered the 25-year-old at his hub in Hyde, has been retired from the ring for almost five years now but the one-time super-lightweight favourite has been getting flashbacks every time the unbeaten prospect's gloves strike the pads in training.

The similarity in styles between the two is uncanny, regardless of the 28lb canyon in the pair's fighting weights.

Hatton was able to see that to an even greater extent when governing Heffron's corner for the first time at Manchester's Victoria Warehouse.

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Ricky Hatton puts Mark Heffron through his paces

Every time the Cleto Reyes of "Kid Dynamite" crippled the body of Polish pugilist Bartlomiej Grafka, you were reminded of Hatton's signature strength.

As Heffron stretched his record to 16 professional wins, carrying an 81% knockout ratio, highlight reels from prominent knock downs - particularly that of Jose Luis Castillo - played back in your mind.

"I'm very excited," said Hatton. "I'm a huge fan of all styles of boxing but he's like me. He's aggressive, he's a good body puncher and knowing that his style of fighting is a little bit similar to me means that I won't only pass on the things that I did right during my career, the things that I did wrong technically will make me a better coach.

"It's not just what you can pass on for things you did right, it's for what you did wrong. Everything I tell him will fit like a glove around his style.

The Hitman is only tweaking his latest protege

"He's been here for four weeks. I've followed Mark for a number of years so I know him pretty much inside out.

"I've always been impressed with him and even more so since he came here. It's right up my street style-wise. I'm not going to change anything about him - I like the fact that he's like me in many ways.

"He's very aggressive and likes to do damage to his opponents. But remember early in my career I used to get cut for being too aggressive so we're just tweaking things a little bit and adding to it.

"He's going to get even better. He's improved so much in a matter of weeks so just think what he's going to be like in a matter of years.

Mark Heffron

"We're not just preparing for his next fight, we're preparing for five, six, seven years time. With how much better he can be given time is very exciting for me as a trainer."

As an observer, witnessing the terrifying power of the super-middleweight's fists from a safe distance, the correlation and juxtaposition between the two is already evident.

The artistry and efficiency of Hatton's coaching style partnered by Heffron's willingness to learn and impress makes the training ritual appear effortless.

The two-weight world champion, who won 43 fights in succession before losing out to Floyd Mayweather Jr at the MGM Grand in 2007, is beginning to add delicate tweaks to Heffron's style, introducing innovative ways of thinking and new ways of moving, in hope of ironing out the rougher edges.

Ricky Hatton puts Mark Heffron through his paces

"He's very aggressive and that aggression can be even better," said Hatton. "He hits hard, he's a good body puncher and he's got loads of ability.

"His favourite punch is the left hook to the body and his biggest strength is his aggression and his ambition to get in there and get the job done.

"Imagine when we add the subtleties, the feints, a little change of the angles, a little more composure, you've got a fierce prospect then.

"We're not changing anything about him, we're just polishing it up and tweaking bits here and there to add to what he's already learnt from previous coaches. Belts will start coming for him, definitely.

"He'll find that if he adds a little bit more subtlety, bit more patience and movement then he'll hit even harder than he's already hitting and he'll find the target a lot easier. He's a frightening prospect and it's very exciting for us all.

"The stuff that he needs to work on is the stuff that I never did when I was fighting. I did work on defence but I think I could've done a little bit more.

The Hitman is only tweaking his latest protege

"If you look at my fights I'd always find the target because I'd throw a few little arm shots, touch my opponent somewhere first to make space.

"I wasn't the biggest puncher in the world but I punched with every part of my body. Bit by bit that is what Mark is doing. Inches make all the difference.

"Mark hits hard anyway without that but when he adds that and a little bit more fluency to his game it's going to be really exciting."

Hatton plays 'Rocky Balboa' in his own enthralling, unwritten, tale of former world champion boxer turned inspirational trainer.

Sylvester Stallone's eponymous character forged an almost telepathic understanding with coach Mickey Goldmill during the early parts of the heptalogy, building an impenetrable relationship in the embryonic stages of his career.

The protagonist later evolves in to his ringside role, imparting the knowledge absorbed from "Mickey" on to the son of Apollo Creed, Andonis, in the final installment.

Of course those bonds were fictional but the collection of films do echo Hatton's pathway in some respects.

The 38-year-old was educated by Billy Graham as a professional, the Moss Side coach had his back in many a war, and now Hatton is hoping to impart some of the knowledge absorbed from his time with "The Preacher" on to his stable.

With English champion Darryll Williams and WBA World champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov also honing their trade at his facility, Hatton said: "He's been brilliant and settled in with all the lads. It's a good gym to be in at the minute.

"We've got Zhanat Zhakiyanov here from Kazakhstan, my world bantamweight champion, and the rest of the lads are all unbeaten prospects. They're all ambitious, they're all working hard and they're all striving towards the same goal which is to become a champion.

"They're all rubbing off on each other, they're all good kids helping each other out. It's a joy to come to the gym and work with them every day.

"It reminds me of when I was fighting; we had a real family atmosphere with Gomez, Farnell, Macklin, Paul Smith, Stevie Bell, my brother Matthew, and that's the same feel here. We're like a close-knit family now."

He added: "Coaching will never replace fighting and I think that everyone will probably agree with that but the next best thing is to try and bring someone on.

"The reason I went in to boxing - I look at these unbeaten prospects that I've got in the gym - it reminds me of myself when I was younger.

"Some of the boys have got kids, families, they want to provide. Boxing gave me and my family some of the best things in life which I never thought I could do.

"If I can help pass that on to a youngster like Mark then it will be worthwhile. It's their dream like it was mine.

"I'm very fortunate that I don't have to do it for the cheque, I do it because I think the world of all my fighters.

"That's the relationship myself and Billy Graham had. When I looked in Billy's eyes and he looked in mine I knew he was there for me.

"I'd like to think that my fighters get that same feeling with me. That's the way it's got to be because it's a lonely place in that world. You want the best advice and good people around you."

Heffron fights in his hometown, headlining at the New Oldham Leisure Centre, on Saturday, July 29th. Anybody interested in purchasing tickets for the show can contact the super-middleweight on social media, via Facebook or Twitter.

Mark Heffron