Pacquiao-Hatton Countdown: A look back at two warriors' greatest moments of adversity

pac hattonBy Vivek Wallace: Saturday night, activity around the boxing world will come to a screeching halt as fans, media, and general spectators watch as two of its biggest stars collide. For both Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, the years leading up to this point have been filled with rich memories, yet it's the one they now prepare to create which may very well go down as perhaps the most illustrious of them all. There's no way to accurately see the future, but in an effort to rekindle the past, today we take a quick trip down memory lane. There were a countless amount of epic battles along the separate journeys, but this time we'll revisit the two stops along the way for both men that can probably be best credited for placing them on the global stage where they stand today:

Manny Pacquiao vs Rustico Torrecampo - Nahkon Si Thammarat, Philippines (02/09/96)

From the very beginning, Manny Pacquiao was considered a hot prospect on the rise with an undeniable talent that few felt they had ever seen the likes of in Filipino boxing history. Fast hands, swift delivery, a cyclist work pace, and an unrelenting will to win.. Coming out of the gates at 11-0 (4KO's), many felt Pacquiao was well on his way to the top, and that inclination was a deadly accurate one. What those watching Pacquiao didn't know was that on this night there would be a sudden and unexpected bump in the road. Prior to the fight, word began to spread about the talented flyweight being led by the ego and starting to exhibit a major lack of focus as a result, but camp insiders were very adamant that the rumors were largely unfounded, promising in so many words that he was more than ready to continue his rise to the top. His opponent on this night was a moderate 11-4-4 with only a few knockouts to his credit. Whether the critics were right about Pacquiao's lack of focus or not, the stunning results would speak for themselves, as an awkward, but flush shot landed across the face of Pacquiao, sending him to the canvas, stunned and unable to recover. The young Pacquiao would later be gentleman enough to shake the hand of the man who mortalized him, but the humbling experience would stir enough raw emotion in the Filipino warrior to bring him back harder than ever. That return to the ring would see him go 15-0 with 14KO's over that time frame. Despite the great forward progress, he would then lose his title at the scale, and subsequently the fight as well when the energy depleted state he was in left him little in the tank to sustain a dangerous shot to the body. The two losses did little less than motivate Pacquiao to develop into an unstoppable force.

Manny Pacquiao vs Erik Morales (1): Las Vegas, USA (03/19/05)

Coming off of that loss to Singsurat, Pacquiao would rip off another 13 wins over 15 fights, two ending in a draw. At this point, Pacquiao had not only moved up in weight to accommodate his growing body, but also established himself on a global scale, defeating some very formidable talent on an international level. Having beaten Marco Antonio Barrera and fighting to a draw with Juan Manuel Marquez, the stage was set for Pacquiao to up the ante by facing a deadly Mexican ring assassin, Erik Morales, for the vacant WBC Int'l super featherweight strap and the IBA super featherweight strap. Having answered the call so many times in the past, Pacquiao came ready to walk away having done no less once again. He would have his moments, but there came a point very early in the fight that he was reminded that maybe he hadn't quite faced the best the sport had to offer - relative to his respective weight class. In a grueling affair, Erik Morales gave Manny Pacquiao more than he could handle. There were many ebbs and flows to the fight in a war that will go down as one of the sports most epic battles, but when the final tally was counted, Pacquiao would not measure up, losing 115-113 on all three score cards. A teary-eyed Manny Pacquiao stated moments after the fight that he was ready to take his opponent on again "anywhere, anyhow, and anytime". Losing stung quite a bit, but letting his nation of supporters down on such a huge stage was said to be his most painful emotion to deal with ever. 4 years, 9 wins, and 6 knockouts later, his desire to keep his nation smiling has yet to fail him; although Saturday night, another mission begins. For a glimpse of what will be standing across from him when he straps up, we take a look at the two fights in his opponents resume that arguably guided him to this point....

Ricky Hatton vs Kostya Tszyu: Manchester, UK. (06/04/05)

Similar to Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton had established himself as the perennial figure on the rise in his country. Coming up in the ranks Hatton had been viewed as the consensus man to beat. What made Hatton such a catch among locals was the fact that his template was that of a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde spectacle. Outside of the ring, he was a mans man. Fan friendly, dart throwing, and Guinness pounding - yet in the ring he was an absolute beast that left little room for era. After slashing through a group of 'cupcakes', his team would up the ante to put him on pace to compete on a global stage. During that run he would defeat the likes of the rugged Ben Tackie, Vince Phillips, and a few other Tier 2 fighters. After withstanding that test, the stage was set for him to face a man who was considered very feared, and although aging, still quite dangerous. Kostya Tszyu would enter the ring 31-1 with 25KO's; the most notable being against then seemingly unstoppable Brooklynite Zab Judah. Many inwardly felt that Hatton had little chance, but with his back up against the wall and his ability in question, next would emerge the beast within. Initially, it was a messy affair with both men having their moments, but the tenth round would prove to be most decisive, as Hatton moved out and took control. In a display of brute strength and a very dynamic will to win, Hatton would rip shots from every angle, giving Tszyu little room to operate and many reasons to reconsider. Tszyu would step in to taste the devastation for another three minutes of pure hell, but between rounds, Tszyu and his corner would listen to those previous inward intuitions, as the Austrailian based champ and his camp decided that he had in fact had enough. For those in the U.K., Ricky Hatton was a household name, but on a larger scale, the young Brit had finally arrived. That journey would see him through many more victories and high points, until he came across a contender unlike any he had ever faced before.

Ricky Hatton vs Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Las Vegas, USA - (12/08/07)

Like Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton would also find himself subjected to the many conversations and media talking points that observed him as losing his hunger and suddenly falling victim to the ole' 'silk pajamas' theory after winning his way to the big leagues. Coming off of his victory against Tszyu, Hatton would defeat Carlos Maussa, then engage in two of his toughest fights of his career. One of which took place in the welterweight division, which happened to be 7 pounds north of his comfort zone. After barely squeaking past talented welterweight southpaw Luis Collazo, Hatton faced hard-punching Colombian Juan Urango, and then in what could now be viewed as a trap fight, he would also defeat a less than eager Jose Luis Castillo. The fight against the normally rugged Castillo would end in what some would term "the shot that was heard around the world". A very fitting choice of terms because after the emphatic stoppage, the world began to warm up to the thought of Hatton facing Mayweather, which was tipped off when Hatton called the pound-for-pound fighter out at the end of the same live HBO telecast. Mayweather was just coming off of a huge victory over Oscar De La Hoya, and his spirits couldn't have been any higher. After going through an international press tour that featured both sides yelling every expletive in the book, the moment of truth had finally come. Early on, Hatton held his own and did a very good job keeping Mayweather off balance, but as the fight wore on, Mayweather would give the wild British faithful in attendance a reason to never question his greatness again. After slowing down considerably and being outworked and essentially picked apart, Mayweather would catch Hatton with a shot that could only be rivaled by the picture perfect game ending swish of Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals at the mercy of the Utah Jazz. The check hook that he used to counter a lunging Hatton would send him into a ring post - WWE style - and mortalize a man who had apparently began to read too much of his own press. The loss for Hatton left him not only humbled, but in his own words, "crying like a woman" for days.

Years ago it was Pacquiao who vowed never to let his nation down again, and to this day he hasn't. After the Mayweather loss, it was Hatton who vowed the same, and that has so far held true as well. Trouble is.....we now have two men with the same vow, but in the end, only one can win!

Tune in Saturday night at 9pm EST on HBO-PPV to see how it all unfolds......

(Check out the rest of this weeks countdown to Pacquiao/Hatton...schedule listed below):
Fri. - 'Call Em Out Fridays': Pacquiao/Hatton - Small Statures, Big Stakes
Sat. - Keys to victory, Four to explore, and Official fight prediction (strategy, four critical elements to watch for, and official prediction)

(Got questions or feedback? Contact ESB's Vivek Wallace at and 954-292-7346, follow more of his work at 8CountNews and The Examiner, or show some love at Facebook and Myspace).

Article posted on 30.04.2009

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