LAS VEGAS - The British invasion of 1964 was launched when the Beatles arrived in America and dethroned Elvis Presley as the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

Even at the height of Beatlemania, however, it's hard to imagine a frenzy surpassing that generated by Ricky Hatton's bout against WBC welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the MGM Grand on Saturday night. An estimated 25,000 Britons poured into Sin City to party and loudly support their hero, and so what if only 3,900 tickets were made available to them initially? Some Hatton fans were willing to pay up to $10,000 for a ticket, and did, and those who couldn't gain entry into the arena on fight night happily filled thousands of seats at closed-circuit venues throughout town.

The result was a sellout crowd of 16,459 that couldn't have been more pro-Hatton had the event been staged on the main drag of the "Hitman's" hometown of Manchester. Draped in Union Jacks, Hatton crazies screamed themselves hoarse singing "Rule, Britannia," "God Save the Queen" and, most frequently, "Walking in a Hatton Wonderland" to the tune of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."

They even sang it, if a bit sadly, as a battered Hatton (43-1, 31 KOs) was on the canvas for the second time in the 10th round and referee Joe Cortez was waving the bout to a halt. A series of left hooks delivered by Mayweather with the suddenness of a striking viper deposited Hatton on his backside for the first times since 2002.

At the time of the stoppage, Mayweather led by eight (twice) and six points on the scorecards.

That Mayweather (39-0, 25 KOs) - a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., who for the past several years has resided in Las Vegas - couldn't muster appreciable support in his adopted hometown wasn't really a surprise, considering whom he was fighting. Then again, neither was the level of domination exhibited by boxing's pound-for-pound best against an opponent who, like him, had entered the ring - or is that the Ringo - undefeated.

"There's no doubt about it. Mayweather is the best," said co-promoter Oscar De La Hoya, the future Hall of Famer who was outpointed by Mayweather earlier this year and whose company, Golden Boy Promotions, had signed Hatton to a one-fight contract.

"He's with Oscar and them [De La Hoya's partners, Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley]," a smiling and unmarked Mayweather said at the postfight news conference. "A couple of times I heard them screaming, 'Get him! Get him!' But I wasn't worried. I said, 'They ain't gonna get me tonight.' ''

Maybe nobody will be able to get "Pretty Boy Floyd." Although there are numerous welterweights skilled and marketable enough to challenge the 30-year-old, he again dropped hints that retirement might be his preferred option.

Asked if he would now move on to, say, a unification bout with WBA welterweight champ Miguel Cotto (31-0, 25 KOs), who was at ringside for just such lobbying purposes, Mayweather shrugged.

"Cotto's a helluva champion and the welterweight division is the best," he said. "But I've done all I could do in this sport, so I'm not thinking about fighting anybody else. I've accomplished my last goal.

"I always wanted to fight in the UK, but because I couldn't, I had the best fighter in the UK come to me."

Veteran Mayweather observers aren't necessarily buying into his quit-while-on-top rhetoric. He's likely to bank $20 million for his night's work against Hatton, but there are mansions to maintain and Rolls-Royces to purchase, so don't be surprised if Mayweather hangs around long enough to investigate whether Cotto, WBO champ Paul Williams (33-0, 24 KOs), IBF titlist Kermit Cintron (29-1, 27 KOs) or Antonio Margarito (35-5, 25 KOs) presents a sufficiently profitable excuse to again hit the gym.

"You can't make anybody fight anybody," Cotto's promoter, Bob Arum, said when asked if a Mayweather-Cotto bout is doable, if not exactly imminent. "How difficult that is to make, I don't know. But if it can't get done, Miguel has alternatives. He doesn't duck anybody."

Hatton no doubt wishes he could have ducked those left hooks. Still beloved despite the likelihood that many of his fans had gambled away their children's college funds on him, Hatton took his shellacking with the sort of self-effacing humor that is a component of his incredible popularity.

"What can I say? I was doing all right until I bleepin' slipped," he said with a smile, eliciting another chorus of "Walking in a Hatton Wonderland" from his still-boisterous followers.

Punch lines

HBO will replay

Floyd Mayweather

-

Ricky Hatton

on Dec. 15 at 10:15 p.m. . . . Philadelphia's

Danny Garci

a (2-0, 2 KOs) stopped

Jesus Villarreal

(1-3-1) in the second round of a scheduled four-round junior welterweight bout on the undercard . . . Mayweather was voted off "Dancing With the Stars" on Oct. 16, but he must have made an impression. Several of his competitors who outlasted him on the smash-hit TV show were on hand to lend him their support, including singer

Wayne Newton

, Dallas Mavericks owner

Mark Cuba

n and the eventual winner, race driver H

elio Castroneves

. . . Among the celebrities at ringside were

Tiger Woods

, comic

Will

Ferrell

and actors

Bruce Willis

and

Sylvester Stallone

. *