Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton - Will This Dream Match Come True?

Manny Pacquiao28.03.09 - By Andrew Harrison: ‘Remember that scene from Raging Bull when Jake Lamotta is lamenting the fact that his size will forever preclude him from fighting Joe Louis? Don‘t you get the same feeling of frustration when you realize Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton can never happen?’ -Jeff Ryan, June 2006.

What a difference a few years can make. When the above statement was written, Manny Pacquiao was blazing his way through the super featherweight division after recently despatching Erik Morales in blistering fashion. Hatton meanwhile was busy making noise himself at light welter, following up his title winning triumph over Kostya Tszyu with a blood and thunder knockout victory over the awkward Carlos Maussa.

Although the gap between them was a mere 10 lbs, the idea of the duo facing off against each other at this point would have seemed absurd.. Consensus thought was that Pacquiao had more or less reached his limit at super feather, a full 24 lbs on from his professional debut. Hatton on the other hand was about to head North in search of more lucrative assignments at welterweight, a venture ultimately destined for failure. With both vying for the unofficial title of boxing’s most exciting performer alongside perennial thrill machine Arturo Gatti and with neither appearing on the other’s radar, Ryan’s frustration appeared well founded.

In around five weeks time however, the match most never dreamt would one day happen, will play out before a captivated world wide audience and as it draws closer, the prospect becomes more enthralling by the day. A fight which crosses over to the masses may just finally deliver the goods and provide the sport with a major shot in the arm.

Too often of late, the fights which are brought to the attention of the casual fan, usually with an overblown fanfare, end up leaving Joe the Plumber shaking his head and exclaiming ‘is that all there is to boxing these days?’

Many of the truly huge blockbuster fights of recent vintage, Trinidad De la Hoya, Lewis Holyfield I & II, Lewis Tyson and Mayweather De la Hoya, although intriguing encounters, ultimately disappointed. We got a bang for our buck with the Tyson Holyfield battles in terms of excitement I’ll grant you, yet it was hard not to feel short changed after Tyson fouled out in the rematch. Away from the spotlight, truly epic fights involving the likes of Gatti Ward, Marquez Vazquez and Corrales Castillo unfolded to reaffirm our belief that the fight game was just as good as it ever had been, not that old Joe would ever have known about it. Shrinking column inches meant that the great fights remained tucked away whilst the observers who only popped in on our sport from time to time for the big ones, witnessed much ballyhoo with little substance, a most frustrating scenario.

There are two phrases which are guaranteed to leave me cold and running for cover. The first is ‘this guy is the new Tommy Hearns’ (you can guarantee he’s nothing of the sort, from Vernon Forrest to Paul Williams, anyone it seems who fits the Hearns body type ends up having that one thrown at them). The second is ‘this fight could be Hagler Hearns all over again’………….cue tepid 12 rounder.

Hearns is one of the most exciting fighters who ever laced them up, so it’s natural to yearn for another one like him, his barnburner with Hagler remains arguably the most exciting fight of all time. Loathe as I am to put the kiss of death on Pacquiao Hatton, I’m starting to believe we could be in for something which at least bears comparison.

Hatton has proven a top class performer at 10 stone, his forays into the welterweight division against Collazo (a debateable points win) and Mayweather (his only defeat, by knockout) bringing him his poorest returns as a fighter. As a light welterweight however, Hatton has ruled as Ring champion for almost four years, making five successful title defences since his career high point, the championship winning effort over Kostya Tszyu. Tough, powerful and strong for the weight, Hatton is the proverbial immovable object.

Pacquiao is as dynamic a performer as they come. A force of nature between the ropes, Manny has adapted his tornado like style under the umbrella of Freddie Roach. Able to box superbly from his southpaw stance, he has developed into the stellar pound for pound king of boxing. Despite the wonderful skills he has honed which allow him to dart in and out of distance whilst peppering opponents with lead fisted attacks, Pacquiao like Hearns, can’t resist a good old tear up.

Despite Hatton bringing on board Floyd Mayweather Sr. in an attempt to regain some movement and boxing fluidity, I fancy that his approach come fight time, will be not too dissimilar to Hagler’s was on that windy Vegas evening in 1985; namely to keep swinging the swords until there are no more heads to roll. Ricky does have boxing skills, however attempting to box clever as he did against Ben Tackie or Eamonn Magee would appear to be the wrong tactics completely here. He must look to exploit his advantages in strength and size in this one and bully the naturally smaller man, much as he did against Jose Luis Castillo.

If this is the way Hatton elects to fight, then there seems little doubt that the Pacman won’t oblige him in a brawl. Roach will be programming him to box as he did against Oscar and David Diaz, both flawless fighting exhibitions, however once the leather starts flying and Manny’s hackles rise I’d wager we’ll see fighting and slugging as opposed to cerebral boxing. If Roach’s prediction of the ‘Hitman’ falling in three comes to fruition, it would indeed invoke memories of that night of unsurpassable violence from ’85.

Back to 2006 and Steve Farhood’s take on who he thought was boxing’s most thrilling fighter, descriptions which reaffirm that boxing may finally come up trumps with a crossover fight which not only generates PPV sales, but delivers the goods also:

‘Both guys have solid chins…..both guys are prone to cuts….both fighters have had to beat fighters with blood flooding into their eyes….both guys are able to knock an opponent out in the late rounds…..we might lean toward Pacquiao because his whirlwind attack is more attractive than Hatton’s smothering style, but as far as pure excitement goes, it’s a close race between these two’.

Article posted on 28.03.2009

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