Hatton vs Pacquiao: Who Won the Fight That Never Was?

22.01.09 - By Tim Leach: So, fight’s off then. After the media feeding frenzy and the genuine excitement amongst fight fans, it looks like Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao won’t be fighting on May 2nd. Manny wanted to split the purse (rumoured to be over $40 million) 60-40 his way, Hatton insisted on 50-50. This looks to be it. Of course, it could be grandstanding or aggressive negotiation, but the current buzz suggests the fight won't go ahead..

Money talks in boxing, even more than in any other sport. Or perhaps they are just more honest about it in this game than elsewhere. This wasn’t a fight for belts or titles. It was a fight that was partly for prestige, but mostly about money. There was no problem with the prestige - they are undoubtedly two of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world today, and the winner of the fight would have been widely recognised as the best in fighter in the world. But the money wasn't right for either man, so they walked away.

Neither fighter comes up smelling of roses in this - unlike De la Hoya/Pacquiao (which seemed like something of a circus freak matchup right up until the night itself) this was a big money fight that people actually wanted to see, and no one likes it when an exciting bout is called off because of a dispute over the purse. We won't know who would have won in the ring - the question remains who will now win the battle off the canvas, for money, prestige and respect.

The Case for Hatton

Hatton, perhaps, comes off looking like the more reasonable man. Even though Pacquiao is reckoned to be the better boxer and would be the firm favourite in a fight between them, Hatton's popularity, character, and the travelling crowd that would have followed him to Vegas probably warrants him demanding 50% of the purse. It's hard to blame him for walking away if Manny wouldn't budge.

But Hatton has something to prove. No one has looked at him in the same way after that humbling defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2007. Under new trainer Floyd Mayweather Snr he seems to have learnt a new trick or two, and he looked good in his last fight as he demolished Paulie Malignalli inside the distance. But many people still aren't convinced that he is more than a tough slugger. If Hatton wants to cement his reputation as a truly great fighter, he needs big fights like Pacquiao, and he needs them soon - he isn't getting any younger. Can he afford to walk away from this, and miss out on the chance to prove himself against the best boxer currently fighting?

The Case for Pacquiao

Pacquiao has less to prove. He's the pound-for-pound king. If he doesn't fight Hatton (or if he fights and wins) he's still the king, and Hatton isn't so well regarded that Pacquiao has to fight him to maintain that unofficial title. Manny has a little prestige to win but much to lose in a fight with Hatton, so its no surprise that he's pushing the money angle so insistently.

But perhaps the Pacman is chasing the dollar signs a little too avidly. It’s easy to forget in the aftermath of De la Hoya’s demolition that it was a fight Pacquiao was generally expected to lose. "Manny's just too small," people said, and it was thought that Manny was signing up for the money. He'd work his way through twelve rounds to a defeat by decision that no one would blame him for (being the much smaller man), pick up his massive paycheck and be on his way. He won, and perhaps that really was the plan all along. But maybe it was about the money first and winning second. Maybe that's what the Hatton fight is (or was) about as well.

If Manny keeps making fights purely on the money and backs out when he can't get his way, he's going to lose respect and potentially tarnish his reputation. But unless (or until) Mayweather comes out of retirement, is there anyone out there that Manny simply has to fight, no matter what the payday?

The Verdict

Both men have obviously missed out on a substantial payday - the biggest of either man's career. It is hard to see why either one of them would do that at first - 40% of a massive purse sure sounds a lot better than 100% of nothing. But neither man could be on the lesser end of that purse. They'd have admitted that they were the lesser fighter, and the fight for respect would have been over before it begun. The fight was about money and prestige, but in boxing money is prestige.

Hatton has lost more than Pacquiao in this, but he was in an impossible situation. He needed this fight, but he couldn't accept it at less than 50-50 without losing face. Manny didn't need the fight, and thought he'd try and squeeze as much profit out of it as possible. That's the way it goes.

The real losers are the fight fans - it would have been a great matchup. Both men are aggressive, all action boxers, and seeing Pacquiao's speed and skill matched up against Hatton's strength and pressure would have been a sight to see. Maybe next time.

Of course, there’s a spectre in the stands, watching this all play out - Floyd Mayweather Jr. Maybe he's the reason why neither Ricky nor Manny fought too hard for theis fight to go ahead. They know that a much more serious, career defining fight could be just around the corner, if/when Mayweather laces up again and decides who he wants to take on.

Article posted on 23.01.2009

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