LAS VEGAS - Their man was lying sprawled on his back on the canvas below, and still Ricky Hatton's fans in the cheap seats at the MGM Grand hotel-casino were waving beers high and singing his praises to the tune of "Winter Wonderland."
"There's only one Ricky Hatton, one Ricky Hatton," they crooned collectively, though slightly off-key.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. heard them, partly because Mayweather hears everything that goes on in the ring. Once, HBO's Jim Lampley was babbling too much ringside at a Mayweather fight, and Mayweather stopped in mid-action to urge him to calm down.
Hatton heard them, too, though at that moment Saturday night he wasn't hearing much of anything. A savage left hook from a boxer who supposedly couldn't punch began his downfall, and a flurry of punches put him down and out for the second and last time on this night.
Besides, he had already heard enough. "I'm about sick of that song myself now," he said after recovering what was left of his senses.
Credit Hatton for his honesty, though this wasn't a fight built on honest expectations. About the only ones who thought the undersize brawler from Manchester, England, had much of a chance against the best fighter in the world were the thousands of fellow Brits who traveled across the pond to drink, sing and cheer their man on.
They did their job well, even bringing a small brass band along to help with the only tune they seemed to know. It was all in the spirit of good, drunken sportsmanship until they dishonored both themselves and their country by drowning out the national anthem sung by Tyrese Gibson with loud boos and ear-splitting whistles.
The few Mayweather fans among the 16,000 or so who packed the hotel arena tried with little success to overcome that by singing the national anthem as loudly as they could. And there was no shortage of one-fingered salutes to the Brits, including some from the ringside press section.
But it was left to Mayweather to extract the best revenge, and he did his best for God, country and about $11 million. Hatton had some early success with his frenetic, brawling style. They went after each other with fists to the face, elbows to the neck, and heads to the head. They held and clinched and wrestled despite the best efforts of referee Joe Cortez, who did everything humanly possible to turn it into some sort of a boxing match - including stopping the fight twice to lecture both fighters.
But it was always going to be that kind of a fight - largely because it was Hatton's only possible way to win."Tough as nails," Mayweather said of his foe. "I had him hurt a couple of times and he was still coming forward."
By the middle of the fight, Mayweather was scoring effectively with right leads and left hooks as Hatton continued to come forward relentlessly. Hatton was falling behind, and it didn't help his already slim chances when Cortez took a point from him in the sixth round after he pushed Mayweather's head between the ropes.
Hatton knew the point deduction made it even more unlikely that he could win by decision. So he played into Mayweather's hands by starting to take more chances on the distant hope that he might catch the undefeated 147-pound champion with a big shot to turn the fight around.
"I think I put my foot on the gas a bit too much when the point got taken off," Hatton said. Soon, Mayweather was administering a beating. In the eighth round he rocked Hatton with big punches to the head, landing 32 punches in the round to only six for the challenger as desperation grew in the Englishman's corner.
The end finally came in the 10th round when Mayweather unleashed a left hook that connected to the side of Hatton's jaw and he went sprawling on the canvas.
Hatton got up but Mayweather caught him with two more shots to the head, and he went down in a delayed reaction at the same time Cortez was moving in to stop the fight and his corner was throwing in the towel.