Tomorrow night's welterweight title fight between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and 140-pound champion Ricky Hatton may not be quite as big as Mayweather-de la Hoya, but it's big. Really, really, really big.
In fact, what makes Mayweather-Hatton even bigger than Floyd's bout with Oscar is the international aspect of it all. Ricky Hatton is a national hero in England, a superstar beyond any American boxer in the States, even Oscar. And his American popularity has increased in the last few years, too. He's a boxing celebrity over here, if not a superstar.
Mayweather is the heir to Oscar's throne as far as revenue goes. His nickname (for himself) is "Money" Mayweather, and he's earned it. Oscar had done huge money before, with great fighters like Trinidad and Mosley, and great opponents like Mayorga and Vargas. But it was with Floyd Mayweather, past Oscar's prime, that he set all-time records.
Mayweather is a combination of the Vargas/Mayorga dynamic and the great fighter dynamic. He's a trash talker that people love to hate (or, in some cases, just love), and he's also the best boxer in the world. Boxing doesn't often get a guy like Mayweather. Roy Jones, Jr., had a similar demeanor and comparable skills at his peak, and he was arguably the biggest star of the 1990s. But he never approached the numbers Mayweather did with Oscar, or the numbers expected for tomorrow night's fight.
Mayweather: Experience Will Count
For Floyd, he has a lot of past fights to draw upon on Saturday. Hatton's plan is to bully and pressure Mayweather, after Oscar de la Hoya said that Floyd doesn't respond well to pressure.
Honestly, I think Oscar's opinion is only sort of true. It wasn't really pressure that had de la Hoya performing well, but a very effective jab, and, more importantly, the fact that Mayweather has no business fighting at junior middleweight.
Is Hatton's jab good enough to do what Oscar did for half the fight? I don't think so. Actually, pretty much everything I want to say right now was already said by our own Matt Miller in his debate with Ian McNeilly at Boxing on the Box, so let me just quote Matt:
The best pressure attack against Floyd, ever, came from Jose Luis Castillo. And Mayweather won those two fights. He didn't win them easily, but he won them.
Hatton: Opportunity of a Lifetime
Fellow Mancurian Noel Gallagher said in 1995, at the peak of Oasis' popularity, "This is it. It doesn't get any better than this. This is it."
(What's the Story) Morning Glory? had just been released, a massive hit on both sides of the pond that established them as one of the bands of the 1990s. They were the biggest band in the world.
Ricky Hatton, tomorrow night, will be in the world's biggest prize fight. This is it, Hitman. It doesn't get any better than this.
Of course, Oasis creatively and commercially went downhill after '95. Most are expecting Hatton to go downhill starting at the opening bell tomorrow.
How can Hatton win? Christmas miracle, maybe. Look, as Roger Mayweather said in a recent ESPN.com chat, every fighter has a chance. But Hatton's chances rely not only on him giving a performance that dwarfs that of his career-defining victory over Kostya Tszyu, but Mayweather being a little bit off. Floyd would have to turn in one of his worst performances.
I'm not knocking Hatton. He's a very good fighter. He's better than Gatti, better than Baldomir, and probably about on par with the Castillo that Mayweather beat.
But Floyd is such a defensive master, and such a chess king once the fight is underway. Ricky Hatton and Billy Graham both say they've seen fighters like Mayweather before, but they haven't. Not even close. Hatton knows Floyd is fast, but I believe he's going to be overwhelmed by Mayweather's footwork, defense and punching accuracy.
I don't think Floyd will knock Ricky out, but I think he's going to dominate the fight.
But upsets happen in boxing. Huge upsets. Don't focus on Rocky, because that's not what this is. This is real life. "The Cinderella Man," Jim Braddock, made history once upon a time. And there are countless other stories that fill the sweet science's history with colorful tales of little engines that could -- and did.
Is Ricky Hatton going to join the ranks of the legendary underdogs, or is he just the 39th win in the career of "Pretty Boy" Floyd?
The sun'll come out tomorrow. And the story will unfold at the MGM Grand.