Hatton vs Pacquiao: Tactical Warfare!

By P.H. Burbridge - Truly great fights nourish fans and make it possible for us to survive the long and sometimes unforgiving seasons between great match ups. The last fight that had us transfixed for all the right reasons was Miguel Cotto vs Antonio Margarito. The anticipation of two excellent fighters at or near their peaks both with significant followings and all the intangibles you can imagine is always in high demand for boxing fans and itís also somewhat rare..

We rarely get the opportunity to see the match upís we truly want and are often fed fights that barely make our third choice. There are always a million reasons why we donít get these prime fights and at times we feel cheated. Weíre in the constant state of ďsettlingĒ. Itís like ordering a steak and being brought a pork chop.

In recent history we were left scratching our heads as to why Floyd Mayweather Jr would not fight Antonio Margarito or Miguel Cotto or Paul Williams. We all know the reason why he avoided those fighters but hearing all the excuses was frustrating. More and more fighters are taking the money rather than putting it all on the line. They have the right to do that. Itís their life and thatís their business. But, as fans we reserve the right to question their motives and their greatness for doing so. Thatís the deal and fighters canít have it both ways. Our respect and our money! Just ask Oscar De La Hoya. You canít make blatant money moves and also expect us to respect you. We donít operate that way. You canít shy away from the fighter we want you to fight to take on a lesser or safer opponent. We donít like it when you do that and we sure as hell donít respect you for it. Thereís a missing component in a fighter when he refuses to fight the best fighters of his era. It creates justifiable doubt that follows a fighter for his entire career and sometimes beyond. Itís an invisible asterisk that enters our minds whenever the discussion of how great a fighter was or could have been. And a lot of us never forget.

Fortunately, our current P4P king isnít one of those fighters. No asterisk after his name!

It was no surprise when Manny Pacquiao ascended to the status of #1 P4P fighter in the world. He has taken on the appropriate number of dangerous opponents and he always seems to be in the state of stepping up. He took on a much bigger Oscar De La Hoya and regardless of the dehydration or Oscarís age Manny won that fight outright and in a manner that few expected. Itís his willingness to challenge himself that makes him special and deserving of our recognition. He has achieved International acclaim and is without question the most famous athlete his country has ever produced. Pacquiao is impacting his young country men in the same manner as Julio Cesar Chavez did his. Heís proving that ďitísĒ possible! Itís possible to achieve the kind of fame and fortune that very few even waste their time dreaming about. Heís proving that you can lift yourself up to a level of respect if you have the talent and the work ethic to do so. As we speak there are young kids all over the Philippines dreaming of becoming greater then the great Pacquiao just as Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera once dreamt of eclipsing the great Julio Cesar Chavez.

Manny has already accomplished that feat in his country and itís more valuable then any championship belt heíll ever strap around his waist.

Today, he is the best fighter in the world and universally recognized as boxingís P4P King.

The question is what will he be when he wakes up the morning of Sunday May 3rd? On that day heíll be either be rejoicing and looking forward to a heroes homecoming or heíll be dreading the countless questions of ďwhat went wrongĒ? His status in his country and to Filipinoís all around the world adds an element of pressure that most canít even imagine. If he loses it will undoubtedly be as close to a national day of mourning in the Philipines as you can possibly get. Manny is a national obsession and a source of great pride. He has become the face of a nation so a set back here will not only affect his career but it will have a detrimental impact on the psyches of millions of his people. Manny knows that. He understands whatís at stake. Itís tough enough just to be a fighter but when you factor in all those outside elements Iím sure itís pretty tough to get to sleep at night.

Suffice it to say that he has a whole lot on his plate.

At the core this is only a sporting event. A boxing match and itís one that Manny could potentially lose. Heís a healthy favorite but history tells us that means nothing. Neither Manny or Freddie Roach truly know today how this fight will turn out. The tricky thing about boxing is that the most talented guy is not always guaranteed a victory. Anything can happen in the ring and anyone can be knocked out. Speed, power and championship belts guarantee nothing in the ring. A fighter truly never knows how heíll take an opponentís punch until he takes it. It may be no problem or because of the mechanics of the opponents delivery it could have an unexpected affect on you. We just donít know. What we do know is that Manny is once again stepping up in weight and finds himself in another hard fight against maybe his most formidable opponent to date, Ricky ďThe HitmanĒ Hatton. Both fighters have plenty to worry about in terms of the others strengths but I see Manny as the one being forced to make the biggest adjustment in style in order to win. His entire in ring persona will have to take on a completely different dynamic if he is to emerge victorious. Manny is a stalking type fighter who hunts his opponents down. He does it with a high degree of finesse but thatís what he is. Heís not a slick boxer who is capable of slipping shots at close range and countering. His forte is not as an inside fighter. He darts in and out and that serves as his primary defense. His incredible speed allows him to do that. Heís not a skilled inside fighter. He is adept at circling to his right underneath his opponents jab and landing that long left of his. However, he sometimes squares himself up when he throws it. Hattonís timing will be key in making Manny pay for that. Manny also requires a little bit of distance to land his left hand. The burning question in my mind is will Hatton allow him that distance? In Mannyís most telling fights against Morales, Barrera, Diaz and Marquez he performed as is his nature in the role of the aggressor and spent the majority of his time moving forward. His arsenal works best when he is moving forward just like Miguel Cotto. Against De La Hoya, he and Freddie Roach utilized more lateral movement than ever before and were able to avoid taking shots from the bigger man. What Freddie knew about Oscar is that De La Hoya was no longer fast enough of foot to stay in punching range. Freddie devised a fight plan based on Manny flurrying and then moving out which worked to perfection. Mannyís execution was stunning. Fortunately, not only was Oscar too slow but he also turned out to be weakened by the extreme weight loss. Oscarís last act of greed in taking this fight in the first place rather than fighting the man everyone wanted him to, Antonio Margarito backed fired on him in the most ironic way. And from Mannyís perspective it couldnít have happened to a nicer guy.

But, credit to Manny for taking on a guy who had fought as high as 160 lbs. After all, itís not as if Oscar was a bum. The fact that Manny took on such a big opponent tells you something about his belief in himself AND in his chin!

In terms of styles, Manny is a rhythm fighter. When he stays on beat he can throw punches all night long. Juan Manuel Marquez is the one fighter who not only disrupted Mannyís rhythm but matched his intensity. Albeit in a completely different way. JMM was able to force Manny to stop and start over and over again and that took away from Mannyís overall effectiveness. JMM is a stylistic nightmare for Pacquiao because he wouldnít allow Manny to get set so he could fire his left. Manny was forced to do a lot of lunging and it took away from his punching power. Punchers need to get set. Marquez proved to be the better boxer but Pacquiao proved to be the better ďfighterĒ and he found a way to land that one knockdown punch to make the difference in the win. In the Hatton fight, Manny will have to be the better boxer because between the two of them Ricky is the better ďfighterĒ. Hatton LIVES on the inside and Manny only visits from time to time. Manny must out jab and out maneuver Hatton from a distance AND do it while moving backwards. He must deter Ricky from charging in and manhandling him as Ricky showed he was capable of against PBF in the early going of their fight. Weíre about to find out if Manny is strong enough in the clinches to wrestle with Hatton and still maintain enough energy to execute his normal punch out put. If he finds out that Ricky can match his foot speed and stay in range HE must avoid reverting back to his old style and get drawn into an ugly brawl. Manny must work the angles and minimize the in fighting. He can do it in spots but not for extended periods. I donít believe Manny can win an inside war with Hatton and if he engages in one heíll lose. But, by the same token I donít believe Hatton can win the fight from the outside and if Manny is able to create that little bit of distance heíll be able to time Ricky jumping in and pot shot him to death just like PBF. Heíll be able to bust Hatton up facially if heís successful.

For Manny, heíll need his legs to win. He cannot allow Ricky to get inside without making him pay a price. He has to land something hard early to gain Rickyís respect because if he doesnít Hatton will try to bully him without a second thought all night long. Manny must create that ďhesitationĒ in Hatton. He must be constantly on the move and not allow Ricky to get set and fire his hook. If Ricky does get inside then Manny has to tie him up immediately. Heíll have to lock down Hattonís left arm. Ricky doesnít need much room to land his hook and Manny MUST minimize the number that he takes. If he can do that then thereís no question he wins this fight. He has the superior punch out put and accuracy.

I think Manny is going to win the early rounds but I donít think he will win them big because Hatton will be smothering most of his punches and sapping his strength with all the mauling tactics. Freddie Roach initially wanted Joe Cortez to referee this fight because Cortez typically breaks fighters almost as soon as they enter into a clinch. From my observations, Cortez often wonít even allow a fighter to punch his way out of a clinch. As soon as theyíre in close he breaks them! He certainly impacted the Hatton vs Mayweather fight. Ricky was not allowed to use his most effective tactics on the inside. Cortez is definitely a boxerís referee not a fighterís referee. In observing Kenny Bayless who is the referee for this upcoming fight, he DOES allow infighting and typically waits to see if the fighters punch their way out of a clinch before stepping in to break them. Thatís bad news for Manny because that plays right into Hattonís hands. Floyd Sr has said nothing about trying to change that aspect of Rickyís game and I believe Hattonís physical strength in the clinches will be to their tactical advantage. Hatton is going to jump in, grab and fire the left hook to the body thatís no carefully guarded secret. Floyd Sr has worked primarily on getting Hatton to move his head more so donít expect to see a completely different fighter come fight night. Heíll still be Ricky Hatton but maybe weíll see him slip a punch or two coming in rather than just steam rolling his way in. Hatton is not going to come out and attempt to counter punch. If he can decrease the number of shots he takes it will go a long way towards his success in this fight. Hattonís old rough and tumble persona will be on full display Saturday night as it should be.

Again, heís not the one who has to make the drastic change in his overall approach that will be left up to Manny.

Manny will have to be the boxer in this fight and heíll have to do it in a manner that we havenít seen from him before.

If he can then heíll win this fight. Manny may come out and show a completely different side of himself Saturday night and one that we never imagined he had.

He IS a great fighter so thereís no telling what heís capable of. Just because he hasnít shown the defensive minded boxing side of himself doesnít mean he canít do it. He hasnít needed to do it so far and he usually beats guys by out fighting them.

Manny could have these skills in reserve for all we know.

If he does heíll win.

But, if he finds himself in a chest to chest war with Hatton and canít box his way out then expect Manny Pacquiao to lose this fight.

And expect him to lose it big!

(Please feel free to contact P.H. Burbridge via email at with any comments or feedback.)

Article posted on 29.04.2009

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