Hatton has too much for Pac Man – Yes, I said it!

hatton09.03.09 - By Conor Ward - Although it’s still almost two months until fight night at the MGM Grand, anticipation is already steadily building towards the mega-match of 2009, the pound-for-pound argument between quintessential British hero Ricky Hatton and Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao. So allow me to be clear from the outset - and I hope I’m getting in before most of the pack – I’m convinced that Hatton has all he needs in his favour to get the job done. Detached from the frenzy of the final 48 or 72 hours before the fight, and putting aside any emotional leanings or loyalties, I believe there is solid and substantial reason to expect The Hitman’s hand to be raised aloft when the show reaches its conclusion.

Significantly, the fight will be at light welterweight, where Hatton has ruled the roost for several years. He has never been beaten at 140lbs, with major victories over top-notch operators Kostya Tszyu and Jose Luis Castillo, as well as Paulie Malignaggi, at the weight.. An infectious and relentless Hatton walked through everything Tsyzu threw his way and ultimately broke the Australian’s resolve in 2005, mangled Castillo’s mid-section with a single punch in ’07, and produced a super showing to outmanoeuvre and outmuscle Malignaggi in his last outing in November ’08.

Of course Pacquiao brings something else to proceedings, most especially that blinding hand-speed and non-stop pressure, and represents a tougher test than any of these three boys, fine fighters though they all are or were. But we can’t really talk about Hatton’s chances against Pacquiao without taking a look back at the only loss on his ledger against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in December ’07. Yes, Ricky was knocked out (or TKO’d just to be precise). Yes, he was somewhat dismantled in the later rounds as the magnificent Mayweather moved through the gears and found all the right answers. But rewind the tape a bit and you’ll see the rare sight of Pretty Boy stumbling back on his heels in the opening stanza, you’ll also see him backed up against the ropes, forced to take cover from the Mancunian’s vicious onslaught. It’s also worth noting that Hatton, unlike the vast majority of Mayweather’s opponents, held his own on the scorecards through the opening few rounds.

Mayweather withstood that tough test. I’d venture that the smaller Pacquiao will not be able to weather the storm with quite the same poise and emerge to seize control of the bout. Hatton, then on a mission to take charge of the welterweight division, was at a size disadvantage against Floyd, and although he is again facing the man generally considered to be top of the pile pound-for-pound, he now goes in with a physical advantage which could prove crucial. Manny’s speed will be problematic for Ricky no doubt, but in the ring’s dark cesses Hatton’s brawny physique will surely come to bear.

And then you factor in the role of Mayweather Sr., a renowned trainer and a man with tremendous tactical know-how. It’s really difficult to get to grips with the level of expertise which resides in the boxing dynasty that is Mayweather Enterprises, a corporation which is now divided into factions but which has no equal for technical mastery of the fight game. In seeking out the tuition of the man who fathered and cultivated the master pugilist who gave him his only defeat, Hatton is going right to the source of the matter and is essentially tapping the very best resources in the boxing world. Many, including myself, questioned the wisdom of choosing Floyd Sr. to steer his course late in his career, but the proof was in the pudding against Malignaggi in November as Ricky saw the benefits and tweaked his approach without losing too much of his trademark aggression. Hatton was always an excellent fighter, and a real handful for any opponent, but now, to use his own words, “there is more method to his madness”.

Likewise, there is no doubting the enormous ability and equally big heart of Pacquiao, though I would try to offer a smidgeon of balance to the current excitement surrounding him. He started his career as a light flyweight, therefore he’s a naturally smaller man than Hatton. His best work has been at 130lbs and below. It was at those lower weights where he took the coveted scalps of legendary Mexican warriors Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez. Morales beat him by unanimous decision at super-featherweight in 2005 before Manny turned him over in the remaining two bouts of a classic trilogy. Unlike the defensively watertight Mayweather Jr., Manny is also not a complete stranger to the canvas, getting involved as he has in plenty of open and lively scuffles. He had great difficulty with the quite excellent Marquez, having drawn with him in 2004 before taking an extremely tight split decision a year ago. Still, he’s compiled an awesome CV up to 130lbs.

What’s more questionable is his credentials north of that weight limit. He has only moved up within the last 12 months. He destroyed David Diaz at lightweight last June, though Diaz is not a guy you’ll find near the top of anyone’s pound-for-pound list. Then we had the De la Hoya debacle, and at the risk of mixing my metaphors, the 35-year-old Golden Boy was both “washed-up” and “dried out” fighting at welterweight. Manny performed really well, did what he was supposed to do and got the win he emphatically deserved, but he’ll be meeting a far more live opponent, and one comfortable at his weight when the calendar turns to May.

Seemingly more focussed and confident than he’s ever been, Hatton also has a wealth of boxing wisdom behind him this time around as he again goes to war looking to establish himself as the pound-for-pound top dog. He’s going in against a real livewire, who also has a top trainer in Freddie Roach, but Ricky has serious advantages of his own. Admittedly, I would love to see him do it, but even ruled solely by head over heart, I pick Ricky to triumph by letting Manny have the same medicine he gave Floyd Jr. in those early exchanges and just maintaining his composure that bit better throughout the contest. A late stoppage for The Hitman is not out of the question.

Punters should obviously shop around for best prices, but at an initial glance, it looks like you can almost treble your money by backing Hatton to win by any method of victory.

***All comments are welcomed and greatly appreciated***

Article posted on 09.03.2009

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