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Forget the images: Time for Floyd and Ricky to tangle

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As much as I love HBO's "24/7" program, the minseries dedicated to Saturday night's huge battle between Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Ricky Hatton has done little to show us anything we didn't already know about the two men.

If you didn't gather in April, during the "24/7" build-up to Mayweather-de la Hoya, that Floyd's arrogant persona was at least partially a marketing tool employed to great effect, you might have gotten that this time around. Mayweather, by all accounts from doctors, family members, and others in his personal, everyday life, is a nice, normal guy who happens to be the best boxer in the world.

Carlos Baldomir, who lost convincingly to Mayweather last year, came into camp to help prepare "Pretty Boy" for his bout with Hatton. The Mayweather camp believes that previous fights with Baldomir and Arturo Gatti will help prepare them for Hatton's forward-moving, swarming style, or at least that's what they say publicly. Mayweather and Baldomir have been on good terms since their one-sided bout, and that's likely why Baldomir came in to spar with Floyd.

But -- and I'm glad people are finally picking up on this -- there is no way in the world that Mayweather really thinks Hatton is as simple a task as Baldomir was. Baldomir lacks power, and his greatest assets are a stone chin and an iron spirit. Floyd and his trainer-uncle, Roger, are undoubtedly aware that the best batch of footage they could cull from the personal library is that of Floyd's two fights with Jose Luis Castillo.

The image project by Mayweather on TV and in the press conferences is that of a man that doesn't respect his opponent, 43-0 record or not. He has slammed Hatton as a one-dimensional, predictable fighter who can't possibly trouble him. Mayweather seems to be a man who figured out months -- maybe years -- ago how to handle Ricky Hatton without breaking a sweat.

But, that is surely not the case. Floyd and Roger will be more than prepared. Anyone hoping that Hatton will surprise Mayweather is living on a prayer -- nothing about Ricky Hatton is going to surprise Mayweather. They know what they're in against.

As for Hatton, we've similarly gotten nothing new from his side of the story. He's a regular bloke, still has a laugh with his mates and joins them for darts and Guinness at the local pub. He's an everyman, and a likable type that offers something more easy to relate to than does Floyd. A loving father, son, grandson and brother, Hatton comes off like a regular schlub that happens to be a damn good boxer.

But, let's get real. Baring your ass, pouring water on a kid's head at the gym, fucking around with your friends -- none of that will matter on Saturday night. It makes Hatton easy to like, but it doesn't make him something he's not. Hatton is not the best fighter Mayweather has ever faced. Nor is he, as Mark Staniforth suggests, "the current boxer best equipped to dethrone Mayweather," a title that I think has to belong to Miguel Cotto, who has been impressive in wins this year over Zab Judah and Shane Mosley. That's sort of a ladder in itself: Judah -> Mosley -> Mayweather.

I have gotten more useful knowledge out of Hatton's trainer, Billy Graham, than I have Hatton of late. Graham describes Hatton in vibrant color, and paints a real picture of why he truly believes Hatton has a legitimate chance at topping Floyd.

Has it made me change my mind? Do I now think Ricky really has a shot?

I was almost swayed by "The Preacher." But, no.

If you've seen Tombstone, you'll remember a scene that springs to mind. Val Kilmer, in his finest performance (as Doc Holliday), is near death in bed. Fast-handed outlaw Johnny Ringo has challenged Doc's friend, Wyatt Earp, to a one-on-one gunfight.

Having thought it over for hours, Earp asks his dying friend, "I can't beat him, can I?"

It takes Holliday but a moment to respond. "No."

Hatton will not have this conversation, in all likelihood. Billy Graham will never tell his man that he's not good enough for Floyd. For one thing, I think he genuinely believes Ricky will win the fight. Why fight at all if you don't think you can win? But, if you ask around, the resounding answer is going to come back: No, Ricky Hatton cannot beat Mayweather.

But this is a fight. One punch can change everything. If Hatton lands the perfect counter shot, it could all be over. Or maybe Floyd just stays at a distance, pops Hatton repeatedly with his lightning-fast punches, and works his way to another 12-round decision win.

One thing I no longer believe is that we'll be seeing Mayweather knock Hatton out. I don't think he has the power to do so at 147, and I don't think it's in his gameplan to come forward enough to break Hatton's spirit. If there's one thing that has come from the image-making the last two months that I do believe, it's that Mayweather will have to seriously hurt Hatton to keep him from moving forward.

It's almost time to stop speculating, though. In just a few days, two men who are not at all natural welterweights will fight for the welterweight championship, risking their unblemished records for glory, fame and fortune.

And when the opening bell sounds, it won't matter that Mayweather has 100 cars, rolls with 50 Cent, or carries $30,000 in cash in his gym bag. It also won't matter that Hatton mostly trains in a dingy old gym, pumping iron and beating on the body bag until Graham is due to pass out. For up to 12 rounds, all that will matter is who is best prepared for the other man.

On many levels, it's a very compelling matchup. The only thing missing is the true aura around it that says anything could happen. I think the majority of us feel that one thing is certain, which is Floyd Mayweather, Jr., still standing tall on December 9th.