By Ziggy Shah: After witnessing the weigh-in for the fight, I could not help but notice how relaxed Manny Pacquiao looked. The four weight world champion and pound-for-pound king seemed physically and mentally ready for his showdown with Ricky Hatton. He constantly smiled and waved at the thousands of British fans and seemed unnerved as the chants of, “There’s only one Ricky Hatton” reverberated around the arena..
But what tactics will we see employed by the Pac-Man? And how confident is he and his trainer Freddy Roach of beating Hatton who is undefeated at light-welterweight?
There have been many analyses and predictions by commentators and supporters alike about what the outcome may be, some say Hatton, but the majority say Pacquiao. Personally, I favour the Filipino for this one, but only if he plays his cards right. Here’s what I think he will need to do in order to win the fight.
In his previous fights Pacquiao has always fought with an extremely high guard, but in this one I would expect this to be slightly lower, in a bid to offer more protection to the body. Team Roach may rubbish claims that they are concerned about Hatton’s body shots, but the reality is that they need to be prepared and cautious.
As the saying goes, ‘a straight punch always beats the hook’, so I would expect to see Pacquiao use a majority of straight punches down the pipe against Hatton, a natural hooker with little head movement. Incidentally, Team Roach believe that Hatton will resort back to his ‘old swinging ways’ after a couple of hard rounds so I expect to see Pacquiao firing in clusters of straight shots by the third onwards.
Contrary to what you may have heard; Pacquiao should not shy away from fighting on the inside, as he could surprise Hatton with his speed and willingness to carry out ambushes with deadly pin point precision. Successful raids will also give him the physiological edge as he beats Hatton at his own game. In close, Pacquiao should rely heavily on the defensive roll as he looks to counter effectively by rolling and stepping inside and hitting Hatton with angles. This will also help rob Hatton of the chance of leaning on his opponent and using his natural size advantage.
The ‘Pac-Man’ should also resort to countering in small bursts, as was seen in the Mayweather – Hatton fight. Floyd Mayweather waited for Hatton to lunge forward before he attacked successfully with his left hook. This would be effective for Pacquiao as he fights out of a southpaw stance, and this ensures that Hatton’s head is closer to Pacquiao’s deadly arsenal.
Pacquiao should also look to use a lot of lateral movement rather than in and out, and try to keep off the track because Hatton is effective boxing in straight lines. I would expect Pacquiao to move continually to his left, as Hatton’s right hand is less inferior to his left. This would also give Pacquiao the opportunity to line up his opponent with his back hand. However, any movement to his right should be exercised carefully in case he walks into a Hatton left hook.
‘Keep off the ropes’, is an instruction that will have been ringing loud and clear in Pacquiao’s ears throughout the whole of training camp and quite rightly so, because it is the only place in the ring where he may lose the fight, so for that reason Manny will need do everything he can to stay in the centre of the ring and boss the fight.
A lot is being said about the strength and raw power of Hatton, but don’t be surprised to see Hatton pushed back, if not by Pacquiao’s physical presence but, by a barrage of his fast accurate punches.
As Freddy Roach says, “Speed kills,” and come May 2nd, I believe speed, aided by the ferocity and work rate of Pacquiao, along with the technical knowledge of Freddy Roach, will be the decisive factor between the Pac-Man and the Hit-Man.