Pacquiao-Hatton: A Fight to the Finish

Ricky HattonBy Dan Fitz-Simons: Old time fight fans can smell a war brewing from miles away, and the match-up between Manny Pacquiao against Ricky Hatton fits that category. The image of Pacquiao and Hatton circling each other like hungry lions makes the mouth water. Throughout their careers, both have given their all in the ring to the delight of the fans. Manny and Ricky come to fight, and everyone knows it.

When their names are on a fight card, there’ll be action, blood, and someone going down. Now that they are on the same card, anticipation of an inevitable war is irresistible. What makes this contest even more exciting is that both fighters are in their prime at 30, and have forward moving, aggressive styles. Simply put, there’s going to be an explosion when they collide in what could be one of the best fights of 2009.

Both fighters have done a lot to improve the image of boxing and are popular outside, as well as inside the ring. Ricky is constantly upbeat and has a great sense of humor. He genuinely likes people and seldom utters disrespectful words about his opponents. Manny, who was recently named best pound for pound fighter, remains affable and even humble in spite of this great accomplishment. He loves his country, is very religious, and always shows great respect to his trainer, Freddie Roach. Ricky and Manny also possess the characteristics of courage and determination in large quantities. The mutual popularity of both fighters explains one estimate of a 100,000 live gate were the fight held in Wembly or Manila instead of Vegas. There’s also been a remarkable lack of hate-mongering from fanatical fans on either side.

Both of these veterans have awesome backgrounds with a wealth of experience against highly rated opponents. Manny has 53 fights under his belt (48-3-2) against punishing brawlers including Morales, Marquez, Diaz, Barrera, and most recently, de la Hoya. Ricky’s resume lists 46 bouts against the likes of Castillo, Collazo, and Urango with an upset victory over Kostya Tszyu, and only 1 loss to undefeated pound for pound great, Floyd Mayweather Jr. This wealth of acquired ring savvy will soon become evident as the battle unfolds. Seasoned pros, Hatton and Pacquiao will enter the ring with strategic fight plans. However, this is boxing; if the game plan doesn’t pan out, watch for flexibility under fire by both opponents.

Compounding this combined experience is the fact that both fighters have two of the best trainers in the business in their respective corners. Freddie Roach, who has bonded with Manny to the point of being a surrogate uncle or big brother, will be coaxing Pacquiao to exploit any weaknesses in Hatton’s defense, and patiently urging Manny to capitalize on his superior speed and natural ability. But Ricky will also have the asset of Floyd Mayweather Sr. in his corner. A shrewd old boxing sage, Mayweather Sr. has been a positive contribution to Ricky’s style. His defensive training techniques were exhibited in Hatton’s last outing against Paulie Malignaggi, when Ricky began picking his spots more carefully, and keeping his hands up on the way in.

There are also pluses and minuses in both camps and styles, which make it difficult to determine which fighter has the advantage. Pacman is the odds favorite right now, but not by much. Most would agree Manny has faster hands and better footwork. Nevertheless, Ricky is probably the stronger fighter, and at 140, he’s fighting at his best weight. According to Teddy Atlas, Hatton telegraphs his punches and throws from too far out. That might be true, but on the inside, the Hit Man is deadly, using his shoulders, elbows, hips, and torso to set up upper cuts and hooks to the body, while throwing additional shots from unorthodox angles. Both fighters have the capability to KO their opponent; Hatton has 32 KOs, Manny has 36, nothing to sneer at on either side.

Pacquiao is dangerous with either hand, but he’s not difficult to hit, because he likes moving forward. Unlike Hatton, Manny can punch effectively while back peddling, but he hates moving backward. Manny’s aggressive style is also bound to cause some toe-to-toe explosions, testing the chins of both fighters. The defining factor may be Hatton’s ability to mix it up on the inside. The Hit Man will need tremendous strength to wear down the slick, fast moving Pacquiao, who has repeatedly proven his ability to take a punch. Nevertheless, Ricky will be able apply a lot more pressure than the aging de la Hoya, and his work output has improved, probably the result of Mayweather Sr.’s prompting. Ricky’s greatest challenge will be to avoid getting tagged on the way in.

Neither Manny nor Ricky is a one punch banger. Rather, they are both vicious boxer-punchers, who methodically break down their opponents through constant pressure over several rounds. Manny can be expected to show up in tip-top condition, and Freddie Roach has expressed confidence that Hatton will run out of gas in the later rounds. However, such an assumption on Freddie’s part could prove dangerous. Hatton is slower than Pacquiao, but he is still relatively fast. He will also have good stamina, provided he leaves the Guinness alone during his 12-week, pre-fight training routine. In the end, it could simply become a test of wills. If so, it’s hard to imagine either one of these determined warriors whining on his stool. Get ready for one hell of a war!

Article posted on 09.01.2009

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