We are picking one fight this weekend. Just one. Before we get into everybody putting their picks down and boldly stating one choice or the other, let me explain why.
I have loved a lot of what HBO and the promoters have done this year, but just like they did for Manny Pacquiao's December fight with Oscar de la Hoya, Golden Boy, Top Rank and HBO are offering us crap for a PPV undercard this weekend. I'll give some credit here:
- Top Rank tried to do Steven Luevano-Bernabe Concepcion, which is a good fight. It didn't happen. Putting Humberto Soto in against an "eh" challenger is about the best they could do considering they thought they were going with Luevano-Concepcion.
- There are good fighters who should be seen being showcased, both on TV and off TV. It's a who's who of Golden Boy and Top Rank prospects.
My issue for the purposes of our little picks competition is this: It takes no stones nor any wisdom to pick Soto, Daniel Jacobs (formerly James Kirkland), Erislandy Lara and Matt Korobov to win on TV Saturday night.
My issue for the purposes of a $50 pay-per-view broadcast are also simple and really boil down to one big thing: There is absolutely zero intrigue in any one of these fights. This is what killed the Oscar-Manny card and sent so many writers and fans into mini-hysterics, proclaiming it the worst PPV undercard of all-time. It just might have been, too. It was a joke. This one on paper doesn't shape up to be much better. Chances of it surprising and being genuinely good: 5%. Chances of it stinking the joint out, a la the Calzaghe-Jones undercard: 85%. Chances of it being a maddening, predictable mess, a la the Oscar-Manny undercard: 60%.
Your mileage may vary on this. But I've seen Jacobs, Lara and Korobov smash journeymen and cans, and I've seen Soto beat inferior competition that can't punch with him. There's nothing new. Put the three kids on Friday Night Fights and Shobox and B.A.D., put Soto in a fight where he's risking something. Give us some real fights on these money-sucking shows.
All that said, we're all happily gonna pay because the main is can't-miss, baby. We've been had again. Hats off. I also fully understand there's business to be concerned about, that Manny and Ricky are both making small fortunes for this one fight, and that fights don't come cheap. It's also not like we haven't been down this road before. I just feel like it's beyond tired, and I'm sick of the same old story every major PPV. I can understand it until the cows come home, but I'm not going to like it.
But let's move on.
Ricky Hatton v. Manny Pacquiao
12 Rounds - Hatton's Ring Magazine junior welterweight world championship on the line
Here we are. Two days out. Time to lay the cards on the table.
Ricky Hatton, junior welterweight champion of the world, almost four years running. Unbeaten at 140 pounds (43-0, 32 KO). Manny Pacquiao, the brilliant Filipino phenom who has taken the sport by storm the last few years, going from exciting, one-handed slugger to one of the best, smartest, most well-rounded fighters in the world.
Someone's gonna lose. Nobody's protecting an "0" and even though the money was an issue in negotiations, this ain't about purses. This is going to be a fight. Pacquiao and Hatton are two of the most driven fighters on the planet. Both of them want to be the best, and are willing to fight the best.
We don't get a lot of fights as genuine as this one. This is the Real McCoy, folks. This is a big one.
I've said already that I don't think Hatton has the physical edges that some people are making him out to have. Roger Mayweather briefly guested on "24/7" and made it sound like Pacquiao is 5'2" while Hatton is six feet tall. There's an inch of height for Hatton, two inches of reach for Pacquiao.
I rarely break down a fight like this, but I'll steal a page from many of the greats and go through the checklist. It's a fight that calls for it.
Hatton has mauling power, crushing to the body, leaning on opponents, wearing them down and out. He's never been a one-punch guy against top competition or even close to it, and though he did hurt Paul Malignaggi a little bit last November, he never had him in serious danger or anything like that. It's also worth taking into account that Malignaggi is about 20 times tougher than he looks, but Hatton didn't dent Juan Lazcano last May, either. The last guy he really hurt was Jose Luis Castillo, who looked like he'd rather be fishing or getting darts thrown at him that night. He stopped Malignaggi, but that was Buddy McGirt's call.
Pacquiao has flashier power than that. His lethality comes from his overall style, as the southpaw moves in and out at such a pace that it's damn hard for anyone to beat up on him, and he generally inflicts far more punishment than the man across the ring. Juan Manuel Marquez staggered Manny a couple times last March, but Oscar barely touched him in December. Marquez and Hatton are completely different fighters, too. Juan stood in the pocket, trying to get Pacquiao to trade with him, trying to catch him on perfectly placed counter shots. That is not Ricky's game. Pacquiao floored Marquez once in that fight and had him wobbled a couple other times. Oscar would have been chopped down by Pacquiao had he been any smaller of a man. David Diaz took a nasty beat from Manny.
Of Marquez, Diaz and de la Hoya, Hatton most resembles Diaz, though he's a much better fighter than that to be sure.
Ricky and Floyd are talking about Hatton's speed, and many analysts caution not to ignore that Ricky isn't a slouch in that department. I agree he's not bad in any way. He's got underrated speed, and he looks quicker than ever working with Floyd on the mitts. The Mayweather mitts routine is what it is, looks great for cameras, certainly means something, and I can't imagine the Ricky Hatton of the Billy Graham years being able to do that stuff so well. No knock on Graham, no knock on the Hatton of old, that's just how it is.
But let's also not try to kid ourselves or anyone else: Manny Pacquiao is a hell of a lot faster than Ricky Hatton. If there is one huge advantage for either man in this fight, it's Pacquiao's speed.
Mayweather is known as a defensive specialist as a trainer, and rightly so. It's the thing he best understands, best teaches, and preaches the hardest. As he says, the name of the game is hit and don't get hit. (The actual name of the game is boxing, but I'm not arguing with Big Floyd here.)
Pacquiao is so much better defensively now than he was a few years ago that it's absurd. Hatton's offense will test that, both if he starts out trying to box and if he has to revert to his old bull-rushing ways. Ricky is a meat-and-potatoes defensive fighter unless Floyd has really made a huge difference. There is nothing to have learned from Hatton defensively against Malignaggi because Paulie couldn't get Ricky to respect him. He just doesn't hit hard enough to put a dent in Hatton, so Ricky could sort of take it easy defensively knowing that nothing that came through was going to rock his world or anything. That's not the case against Pacquiao, and he knows it. As much as Floyd may want to pretend Manny doesn't pose a great threat, Floyd knows it too. He'll have Hatton as prepared as possible.
As for Pacquiao, his best defensive quality isn't picking shots off or being so slick that you can't hit him, he just moves really fast. He's in, two-to-four punches later he's out. Hatton will try to break that down with a jab meant to blind Manny more than anything, which is something Michael Moorer predicted on "24/7" and something that makes a ton of sense. You can't slow Manny down if you can't hit him, and he's hard to hit. Hatton will have to use that blinding jab Moorer talked about and then try to kill to the body. He's got to take Manny's legs if he's going to have a real chance.
Don't expect and Mayweather shoulder rolls, let's put it that way. This fight won't be won or lost on pure defense.
Edge: Pacquiao, slightly
Pacquiao has been stopped twice, both so long and so many weight classes ago that they have about as much relevance now as Styx's Kilroy Was Here. Both were body shots. Here's the one against Rustico Torrecampos at flyweight in 1996. Here's the one against Medgoen Singsurat, also at flyweight in 1999. We're talking a decade or more and 35 pounds ago from his highest fighting weight, 28 pounds lighter than what he's fighting at Saturday.
In short, these things mean nothing. The Hatton camp is aware. It's jibber-jabber.
Hatton was stopped by Floyd in the 10th round because Mayweather is (1) an underrated puncher whose accuracy makes him more powerful than just pure muscle, and (2) a much better fighter than Hatton. It's no shame that he drilled Hatton with shots Ricky barely saw coming and put him down that night. Chin isn't an issue for either guy going in. They can take shots, though this is worth noting, and the only thing about size I think is worth noting: We still don't know how Pacquiao takes shots against a guy of Hatton's size and strength. My guess is that he takes it fine, but it's an open question for now.
Hatton ran out of gas against Mayweather and that played a part in him getting check hooked out of his undefeated record. He ran out of gas because he had to put forth so much effort and really didn't slow Floyd down at all because he just didn't hit him much. I can't remember the last time Pacquiao looked flat tired in the ring. Even in his last loss, to Morales in '05, he brought it through the 12th and final round. He went 12 nasty rounds with Marquez last year and followed that up with two fights he dominated so thoroughly that the only reason he broke a sweat was beating the hell out of the other guy takes effort, too.
Like chin, stamina won't be an issue, and I'm going push here, but if anyone has stamina issues, it'll be one of two things:
- Hatton punishes Manny to the body and takes his air.
- Hatton's between-fights lifestyle catches up with him against a guy that moves this much.
They've both got a lot of it, and that's the real statement here.
Now what I'm about to say might ruffle Pacquiao fan feathers -- keep in mind, Pacmaniacs, I'm one of you. Ricky Hatton knows that this fight would cement his legacy beyond any doubts. Manny Pacquiao has become a superstar, a guy that trains and Mark Wahlberg comes and sits in awe of him. Pacquiao has moaned a little about money for both of his last two fights. I think Pacquiao's a better fighter than ever. I would bet for damn sure this isn't the "hungriest" he's ever been.
But Hatton? I think he's about as driven as he's ever been.
But this is just BSing and I could be so completely wrong that it isn't even funny. Don't take it too seriously, don't get in an uproar about it. Neither of these guys will leave that ring having left anything less than everything in there.
Hatton and Pacquiao have both bled, but if either guy winds up with a serious cut my money would be on Hatton doing the bigger juicing. Neither have any major injury concerns.
Trainers don't fight the fights. Roach and Mayweather are both world class. Their guys will be prepared. Let's leave it at that.
I don't see any area where Ricky Hatton has an advantage, but I don't see any area besides the obvious (speed) where Pacquiao has a big advantage, either. This fight is about as even and intriguing as they come on this sort of scale. Hatton and Pacquiao are two of the best fighters in the world, a couple guys that are there to mix it up in their own ways. Neither one will back down. If it becomes a firefight, they've both got a chance to put the other man away.
If Ricky Hatton loses this fight, I could imagine him contemplating retirement. He's newly engaged, seems settled down in his personal life, has a son he'd like to spend more time with, and has done a lot in boxing. But Ricky Hatton is not Joe Calzaghe, who I genuinely don't see coming back, and he's not Oscar de la Hoya, who is old and lost his fighter's heart years ago. Hatton's 30, hasn't been in a lot of wars, is insanely popular, and that desire to fight will be there.
I don't see him having any advantages, and yet there's this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that Ricky Hatton's about to shock a lot of people. He won't do it boxing. He'll have to get reckless, throw caution to the wind, and make a stand in the middle of the ring. He has to bait Manny Pacquiao. There's only one Ricky Hatton, and the Mayweather changes may help him against most guys, but Manny Pacquiao isn't one of them.
I'm just feeling like Ricky Hatton's got this in him on this night, against this guy, in this fight. It might be the only time he ever does something of this magnitude ever again. That doesn't matter.
I see a brawl breaking out. I see two guys who have fought their guts out throwing heavy leather. I hear Lampley losing his voice. I see Hatton finding a thunderous left hook.
I see Ricky Hatton by 11th round TKO.