Ricky Hatton vs Manny Pacquiao: Magnificent main event, ugly undercard

Ricky HattonApril 29, 2009 – By Scott Kraus: On Saturday, boxing hopes to captivate fans far beyond the core audience of fight freaks when Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao battle for Hatton’s 140 lb. world championship in Las Vegas. The stakes are high and the promotional machine is running at full speed, fueled by Pacquiao’s star-making performance in his last fight against Oscar de la Hoya and the boiling feud between trainers Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Freddie Roach, captured on the brilliant HBO series, 24/7.

Perhaps a fight between the boisterous, bizarre Mayweather Sr. and the mild but outspoken Roach should be signed at the last minute to add some juice to the underwhelming undercard. As it stands, casual fans and newcomers to the sport encouraged to order the event on pay-per-view will be fed a steady diet of appetizers designed to showcase fighters rather than challenge them.

Hopefully the prospective fans’ appetites for the sweet science will not be spoiled by mismatches and lackluster fights on the four-fight undercard by the time Hatton and Pacquiao climb into the ring.

In the co-feature fight, WBC super featherweight titlist Humberto Soto will face Benoit Gaudet for Soto’s belt. Soto is an excellent 130 lb. fighter, rated #1 in the division by Ring magazine, who nonetheless lacks the charisma and fan following of a star fighter. Against the right opponent, Soto could elevate his stock exponentially with a career-defining win on the big stage. Unfortunately, Gaudet is not the right opponent.

Gaudet is virtually anonymous to all but his family and friends, at least in the United States. Of Gaudet’s 21 fights, only two were fought outside of Canada, where he built his record against nondescript competition. In his last fight he defeated Genaro Trazancos by eight round decision; Trazancos is best known as the first fighter to last more than one round with Edwin Valero. Prior to facing Gaudet, Trazancos had lost six of his previous seven fights.

Nothing on Gaudet’s resume suggests a fighter who has earned a title shot, especially not on the highest-profile boxing card of the year to date. And with only seven knockouts to his credit in 21 fights and just two in his last 10 fights, the potential drama a big puncher, even one of limited ability, can bring to the ring is absent.

The most intriguing bout of the undercard is the matchup between undefeated, fast-moving prospect Daniel Jacobs and Michael Walker, though the interest has more to do with circumstances outside the ring than what will happen between the ropes.

Walker was scheduled to face fearsome junior middleweight contender James Kirkland prior to Kirkland’s arrest on weapons charges. With Kirkland unable to fight, Jacobs took his place, despite fighting a mere eight days before May 2. Jacobs scored a second-round TKO of Jose Varela on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights on April 24.

Although the Kirkland court drama and the quick turnaround by Jacobs will likely receive most of the attention, Jacobs-Walker is actually a superior matchup to Kirkland-Walker. Where Walker would have simply been cannon fodder to expose Kirkland to a wider audience, Walker represents the best opponent of Jacobs’ young career other than Varela.

That said, the interest in Jacobs-Walker for the casual fight fan is minimal. And Jacobs’ last fight was the co-feature on an ESPN2 card, while his fight with Walker is the third slot on the biggest pay-per-view of the year. While Jacobs-Walker would have been a solid Friday Night Fights main event, it loses a lot of luster on a $60 pay-per-view card. Also, “best opponent of Jacobs’ young career” isn’t saying all that much when you examine the resume of Jacobs. Again, this fight fails to measure up on paper, given the event.

The remaining two fights feature middleweight prospect and 2008 Olympian Matt Korobov and junior middleweight prospect Erislandy Lara. Each fighter is 4-0. Their opponents have a combined record of 16-11. Unless new fans are coming to the sport to witness one-sided beatings or to file away in memory the names of young prospects who may be champions in several years, these two four-round non-contests mean little to anyone other than hardcore fans.

In a year where HBO responded admirably to past criticism of its matchmaking to put together a special run of fights over the first six months, the lackluster nature of the Hatton-Pacquiao undercard is a distressing return to past bad form. Hopefully, potential fans who tuned in to see a war between Pacman and the Hitman will not be turned off by the whimpers that precede it.

Article posted on 28.04.2009

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