2008 was a big year for Manny Pacquiao. He started the year as one of the most exciting, highly-regarded fighters in the world, pound-for-pound, and ended it as boxing’s newest bona fide superstar.
He kicked off 2008 in March, beating Juan Manuel Marquez in a long-awaited rematch of their 2004 classic. That controversial split decision win led to Pacquiao jumping from 130 to 135 just three months later, and he demolished a game but highly overmatched David Diaz to win the WBC lightweight title.
At the end of the year, Pacquiao was drafted in to face Oscar De La Hoya, who needed an opponent for a much-hyped move back down to welterweight. De La Hoya had intended to fight Floyd Mayweather in Sept. 2008 in a big rematch more on Mayweather’s terms, but Floyd “retired” again, and Manny got the call. Pacquiao destroyed and retired De La Hoya, which was an upset at the time.
Going into 2009, Pacquiao’s status as a welterweight was still in question. Would he really be able to compete against the top fighters at 147, or was De La Hoya just that weight-drained and shot?
Pacquiao opted instead to take a May 2 fight at 140 pounds with lineal champion Ricky Hatton, who had never lost at the weight and had only been beaten once, in Dec. 2007 against Floyd Mayweather at 147.
Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KO coming in) and Hatton (45-1, 32 KO coming in) were the same age, 30 years old. Hatton had taken up with Floyd Mayweather Sr as his trainer for his previous fight, a TKO win over Paulie Malignaggi in Nov. 2008. It was an oddball pairing — an aggressive pressure fighter paired with a trainer whose main focuses were defense and a good jab. Certainly, Hatton could’ve used some work in those areas, but in all reality he could’ve used that work when he was a teenager. At 30, with 46 pro fights in the rear view, a fighter is who they’re going to be, and aggressive tinkering can hurt more than it can help, even if it’s an area of concern.
Pacquiao-Hatton figured to be excitement, that much was sure, Manny would be facing a bigger fighter than anyone he’d faced other than De La Hoya, and a tough, relentless one at that. There was some doubt that Pacquiao could stand up to someone as big as Hatton.
This, of course, seems foolish now.
Speed. Speed and angles. Pacquiao had both in spades and he used them to thrash Hatton, who went down twice in the first round and clearly had no answer for Pacquiao’s strengths. Just before the bell in the second round, he opened up and was completely obliterated on a left hand from Pacquiao. It was over as soon as the shot landed. KO, round two, 2:59.
Hatton wouldn’t fight again for three-and-a-half years, making a comeback in Nov. 2012 in his beloved home of Manchester, facing the credible but mid-level Vyacheslav Senchenko in a welterweight bout. Hatton started off OK enough, and was up on the cards, but really only had so much gas. He was dropped and finished with a left hand to the body in the ninth round, and never fought again. Now 41, Hatton is a trainer, something that seems to have brought him joy.
Pacquiao, of course, just kept going, carrying an era of the sport with Floyd Mayweather. He’d prove for sure he could fight at 147 in Nov. 2009, dominating Miguel Cotto, and even won a paper belt at junior middleweight in 2010, beating Antonio Margarito in a 150-pound catchweight fight. Last year, Pacquiao, at 40, beat Keith Thurman to win the WBA welterweight title, his third straight victory following a controversial shock loss to Jeff Horn in 2017.