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Monday, May 4, 2009

Gambo: No one can beat Pac Man right now

Like many boxing fans I plucked down the $60 bucks on Saturday night to get the Manny Pacquiao - Ricky Hatton fight. And like many I fully expected a competitive fight between two great fighters. But what transpired was another butt whupping at the hands of Pacquiao.

Now, I know a thing or two about boxing, having managed a couple of world champions. And I can honestly say that Pacquiao is one of the best I have ever seen. Despite his diminutive size he is as complete a fighter as there has been in the sport in decades.

I don't believe I have seen a fighter this good since Julio Cesar Chavez was in his prime. The night that Chavez took out Edwin Rosario was the night I became a big Chavez fan. But it has taken me time to warm up to Pacquiao. I have picked against him several times always siding with the bigger fighter. Even after he demolished Oscar De la Hoya I still doubted that he would be able to overwhelm a tough power puncher in Hatton. But the fight was no contest. It was over before it started.

Did I get my money's worth -- absolutely. I watched two rounds, three knockdowns and a clinic put on by the Filipino.

As I watched the fight over and over (tivo) I tried to comprehend what makes Pacquiao so special. There is not one answer.

He is short and his punches are compact not looping, giving him the power. He has power in both hands -- which is extremely rare for a fighter. His defense is outstanding as he uses his short stature to his advantage by ducking under jabs and straight right hands. His timing is impeccable as he counters as good as anyone I have ever seen. His speed is tremendous -- allowing him to hit his target square off the counter punch. Pacquiao has great ring generalship as he controls the center of the ring and forces his opponent to fight while moving backwards. And to be a great fighter you have to have solid footwork. Watching Pacquiao plant his right foot right in between Hatton's two legs and fire away gives him total control of his body. He is never off center, never out of position and never caught off guard.

After watching Pacquiao's performance Saturday night I have to wonder just what the heck Floyd Mayweather Jr. is thinking in coming out of retirement. It is inevitable that Mayweather will end up fighting Pacquiao, he can't come back and duck him. And when he fights him I can't see how -- even as good as Mayweather is -- he can beat this man.

All boxers have a hard time saying goodbye to the sport, especially when there is more money to be made. So Mayweather will come back win a fight or two and then cash in on what will become one of the biggest marquee fights of all time when he challenges Pacquiao.

In his last two fights the Filipino has retired De la Hoya and now likely Hatton as he contemplating hanging up the gloves. He will do the same to Mayweather -- this time for good. Mayweather may see $$$ but he will be seeing **** if he gets in the ring with the best pound for pound fighter in the world.

If I was advising Mayweather I would tell him to stay retired. The fight fan wants to see the bout in the worst way and Mayweather can seal his legacy as one of the best ever if he defeats Pacquiao. But I just don't see it happening. And a loss, especially if it is by knockout, will tarnish the Mayweather legacy to some degree. So stay retired Floyd, because right now no one can beat Pac Man.


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Heartbroken Hatton lost for words in Las Vegas

The fastest mouth in boxing stayed tightly shut on Monday as Ricky Hatton peered through the fog of his concussion and saw the unwanted spectre of a future outside the ring.

No snappy one-liners. No quickfire claims to an exalted place in the pantheon of British prizefighting. Not after being rendered senseless by Manny Pacquiao and hurried to hospital for brain scans.

The Hitman who feared no man inside the ropes could not confront the reality of his high-octane career approaching its end.

Hatton had spent months in denial after his first defeat, at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jnr. The referee that night, Joe Cortez, was tortuously rationalised as the culprit, even though Manchester’s pride and joy was outclassed en route to that knockout.

But there is no talking his way out of Saturday night’s two-round slaughter in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, so he said nothing.

Defeat is the loneliest of all the isolated places in the solitary sport of boxing but it is unusual for a leading practitioner not to emerge after a night of combat, win or lose.

Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Prince Naseem Hamed et al came out to face their public after being knocked out.

Hatton could argue Pacquiao’s lightning fists had said it all. Yet by declining to explain himself to the world’s media he effectively refused to speak to the thousands of fans who journeyed here in support of what became his last shot at boxing’s mythical pound-for-pound crown.

Perhaps there is a commercial edge to his silence. Gareth Williams, the lawyer who is chief executive of Hatton Promotions, indicated that the Hitman will at their new state-of-the-art gymnasium in Hyde, Greater Manchester two weeks from now.

But will the world still be listening?

The unspoken message suggests he knows that his fighting days are over but cannot bring himself to admit it.

Thankfully, the medics pronounced his brain free from permanent damage after one of the most profound knockouts in boxing history. The state of his mind is another matter.

He was well enough to host a pool party in the VIP swimming area at the MGM but not ready to discuss the weighty implications of being pounded into oblivion by the Filipino idol who is the greatest fighter in the world today. Hatton will never boast that accolade and the IBO and Ring Magazine belts of his four-year light-welterweight dominance have gone with it.

Of themselves, those titles were marginal but their loss leaves Nottingham’s Carl Froch as Britain’s only current world champion following his dramatic late stoppage of America’s Jermain Taylor in Connecticut the Saturday before the Hitman bit the dust in the Nevada desert.

We must wait to find out exactly how Hatton feels about that, but by the time we do, attention will be turning to David Haye and Amir Khan as they ready themselves to challenge Wladimir Klitschko and Andreas Kotelnik for their respective heavyweight and lightwelter world championships.

Pacquiao has recharged the hard old game with box-office excitement.

Mercifully, unless he commits the folly of ignoring the mother of all warnings he has been given here, boxing leaves Hatton with his faculties apparently intact.


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Clearly, Ricky Hatton intended to clinch, hold and roughhouse all night long had he not been flattened early.

If indeed there was a new and improved Hatton he and his trainer Floyd Mayweather, Sr. crowed about, there was not even a glimpse of it. What we saw was a confused and crude brawler who would sneak a right shot to the belly while his left arm seized Pacquiao’s neck or right arm.

Against Pacquiao, Hatton was clearly the glorified club fighter some critics derided him to be. In fact, he certainly looked much more respectable against the slippery Pretty Boy Floyd whom he could not manhandle the way he did Jose Luis Castillo. It was with the latter on whom Hatton had probably the greatest success with his formula of wrestling, pushing, holding and banging away. Rattled very early by Pacquaio’s bombs, the Mancunian brawler could not show any of the improvements he and his trainer claimed he has acquired in camp. Abundantly fed illusions by his trainer that he “can beat this guy everyday of the week”, he seemed unaware of the fact known to millions: if Pacquiao were a warplane, one could say he has flown the most dangerous sorties dropping hundreds of smart bombs right on target.

Confronting such lethal precision, Hatton couldn’t fight dirty as much as he wanted using mixed martial arts techniques of pushing, wrestling and holding which are part of his dubious arsenal. To the eternal credit of referee Kenny Bayless, Hatton’s dirty tricks department was on check, forcing him ,most of the time, to observe the standard of clean fighting set by the Filipino pound for pound king. Stripped of his dirty tricks long passed on as boxing skills, his severe limitations were exposed. He walked directly into the line of fire, had a porous defense and had no Plan B. These are limitations which a rowdy, boisterous hordes of beer guzzling supporters cannot compensate for.

Publicly, unlike his cocky trainer, Hatton showed respect towards Pacquiao and the Filipinos. The disrespect, however, was reserved in the ring because it was part of the battle plan and because he knew of no other way to fight despite professing to be a “new fighter who can box and will shock the world” or words to that effect.

True enough, as Freddie Roach proclaimed, it would be too late to change Ricky Hatton. After he gets hit, the sober minded Freddie would say, Hatton would inevitably revert to his old habit of brawling, pushing, wrestling. Against the clean fighting Filipino, the Briton’s roughhousing tactics became pretty obvious albeit controlled.

Fortunately, the fans didn’t have to endure seeing these tactics for more than six minutes. Unfortunately, though, the fans had to endure Mayweather Sr.’s inane poetry, sheer arrogance and insensitivity for weeks. His crazy antics continued even after the fight, putting all the blame on his fighter and insisting he is a better than “joke coach Roach”.

Fittingly, the clean (Pacquiao) and the meek (Roach) triumphed in this fight to inherit the earth – even if it is just the fleeting world of fame, fortune and now, bigger prizes. Not very bad, isn’t it?


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Manny in the money after Las Vegas win

The Filipino knocked out the plucky but outclassed Briton in Las Vegas on Saturday night -- earning him by a conservative estimate at least $2 million dollars per minute.

Hatton, who could well now hang up his gloves, will pocket more than $8 million as a consolation.

Pacquiao's all-action style is popular with boxing followers and in his native Philippines the theaters which screened his fight live with Hatton were sold out well in advance with a ferocious demand for tickets.

But the really big money lies in the Pay Per View (PPV) revenues generated by the U.S. Home Box Office (HBO) network.

USA Today reported Monday that early indications from cable companies were that the scheduled 12-round light-welterweight bout could get as many as two million buys.

Co-promoter Bob Arum was delighted with the figures especially as initial estimates were suggesting about one million boxing fans would shell out their cash.

"We know based on those early numbers and based on experience the event will perform extremely well. If I had to guess, anywhere between 1.6 million and two million homes, which is a home run," he said.

The record for a PPV event is the 2.4 million buys for 'Golden Boy' Oscar De La Hoya's May 2007 fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., which generated a staggering $134 million in revenue.

Mayweather, who also beat Hatton in another 'superfight' at the back end of 2007, astutely chose Saturday night in Vegas to announce he was coming out of retirement.

Mayweather, nicknamed 'money' because of the enormous revenues he generates, will face Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18 in his return to the ring.

But the talk of the boxing world is an eventual match up against Pacquiao with the notional pound for pound title at stake as well as a massive pay day.

"If Mayweather wants a piece of the 'little Filipino', just be my guest," Arum said before the dust had barely settled on the Hatton fight.

With the flamboyant De La Hoya retired after being handed a painful beating by Pacquiao at the back end of 2008, the mantle of PPV king is set to fall to one of the two men who ended his ring career.

Despite the global recession, the appetite for top prize fighting remains strong, but it is the more flamboyant characters who draw the biggest audiences.

Last November's HBO clash between former pound for pound champion Roy Jones Jr. and the brilliant undefeated Welsh world champion Joe Calzaghe drew less than 250,000 buys.

The only potential obstacle to a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout, the dangerous Marquez aside, is the relative sizes of the two men.

Mayweather is a natural welterweight and would want a fight at 147 pounds, with Pacquiao, who started his remarkable career at light-flyweight, wanting the match at a lower weight.

But big business and money is set to talk and many predict the showdown will come late this year, almost certainly in Las Vegas.


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Hatton camp hits back at Mayweather comments

Ricky Hatton and trainer Floyd Mayweather could part ways, according to Hatton Promotions chief executive Gareth Williams.

The British fighter was brutally knocked-out by Manny Pacquiao in their IBO light-welterweight clash on Saturday night. Reports pointed to unrest in the Hatton camp, especially between Mayweather and assistant trainer Lee Beard, as one of the reasons why Hatton was so easily beaten.

"It's an interesting point but the one person to blame is Pacquiao," Hatton Promotions chief executive Gareth Williams said.

"Lee's a lot more involved with Ricky Hatton than Floyd Mayweather is. Floyd Mayweather was brought in for 12 weeks to do a job and that's the end of it. "

Mayweather said afterwards that Hatton had failed listen to his instruction to keep his hands up and that's why he lost. The trainer was also quoted as saying that Hatton should retire now, but Williams hit back by saying it wasn't Mayweather's place to say what Hatton should do and hinted their link-up could be over.

Williams said: "He's (Mayweather) finished now and we don't know what's going to happen. Lee Beard's with Hatton Promotions 365 days a year, Floyd Mayweather's there for 12 weeks before a fight and that's the difference."

Meanwhile, Hatton himself apologised to his legion of fans, who had travelled from Britain to witness the second round loss and held a poolside party for them at the MGM Grand Hotel.


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Pacquiao gunning for sixth world title at welterweight

LAS VEGAS: Manny Pacquiao achieved a measure of boxing immortality with his sensational victories against Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, two of the best and most popular fighters of their generation.

Now, he wants to solidify that legacy, aiming for a record sixth world title at welterweight, possibly against Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr., or even Shane Mosley.

“No, I don’t think they’re really big for me,” he said of his potential opponents during a conversation with a small group of Filipino journalist during the long drive from here to Hollywood, California.

“Actually, I feel good at my weight against Hatton,” said Pacquiao, who won his fifth world title at junior welterweight, with a devastating second round knockout of Hatton on Saturday night. “I can fight at welter, because I’ve done it before against Oscar De La Hoya.”

He added that he would fight Juan Manuel Marquez again, should he win against come-backing Mayweather in their July 18 fight at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao, PacMan to his legion of fans worldwide, said he would take his family to a holiday in Australia by the end of May, after spending time with his children in the Philippines who were unable to join him and wife Jinkee for his last fight.

‘Lethal Weapon’

Pacquiao earned the accolades of top boxing scribes following his Saturday win over Hatton, which was described as his most dominant win since campaigning in different weight classes in the United States.

“Manny Pacquiao can no longer be identified as a boxer. Lethal weapon, maybe. Or destroyer missile,” said Los Angeles Times’ Bill Dwire. “Whatever the definition, he is unquestionably the sport’s top gun.”

“The man from Manchester was manhandled,” said Dwire, a veteran sports pundit.

The Ring Magazine’s Michael Rosenthal said PacMan’s amazing run of victories, especially in the last few years, has earned him his place among the world’s all-time boxing greats.

“In his last fight, he embarrassed the biggest star in the sport, Oscar De La Hoya, at 147. And on Saturday … well, how do you describe that?” Rosenthal said.

“Ricky Hatton is one of the toughest fighters on the planet, an accomplished champion who has proved his mettle over a full decade. And 140 pounds is his natural weight; he is strong and confident there.

“And Pacquiao smashed him like a cheap glass vase.”

Likened to Sugar Ray Leonard

Rosenthal said Pacquiao could be the best fighter since Sugar Ray Leonard, adding this says as lot about the Filipino icon.

Other great fighters came after Leonard, including Pernell Whi­taker, Roy Jones Jr., Julio Cesar Chavez, Evander Holyfield and a handful more, he said.

“However, none of the above combined explosive speed and power against the highest level of opposition over such a long period time like Pacquiao. And, obviously, he has won consistently: he’s 17-1-2 [14 knockouts] against some of the best fighters in the world since hiring Freddie Roach as his trainer in 2001,” Rosenthal said.

He noted that Bob Arum, who worked with the likes of Mu­hammad Ali, Marvin Hagler and Leonard, thinks Pacquiao ranks among them.

“I think he may be the best,” said Bob Arum, who earlier said he is working on another Pacquiao megafight, possibly in the last quarter of the year.


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Mismatch yet again

Forgive me for playing boxing pundit again, but I think we could all be allowed more than a little bit of euphoria. Manny Pacquiao gave us Christmas in the middle of summer.

It’s really so good to be a Filipino when Manny wins. I know one Filipino who intentionally watched the Manny vs. Ricky Hatton fight in Nomads Club, an exclusive club tucked away inside Merville, ParaƱaque, that has more European, mostly British expatriate members than Filipino members. He was supremely confident of a Pacquiao victory and the boasting rights that go along with it. Of course, he wasn’t disappointed.

Freddie Roach was right all along. The loudmouth Floyd Mayweather Sr., can talk up the game all he wants, but as Roach said, he really had the better fighter. As it turned out, Pacquiao was way, way better. It was clearly a mismatch against Hatton in favor of the Filipino, just as it was when Pacquiao fought against Oscar De La Hoya.

They never gave Manny a chance against De La Hoya and he proved doubters wrong. Even when he won against the Golden Boy he didn’t get full credit. Hatton said Pacquiao won’t be fighting against a dehydrated De La Hoya this time. His trainer Mayweather said De La Hoya was over the hill when Pacquiao got to him. Mayweather didn’t consider for one second that it took his son Floyd Junior all of 12 rounds and a very controversial split decision to win against De La Hoya.

What they were saying was, it wasn’t just Pacquiao; that Manny’s opponents were just not at their best when they fought him (contrary to what Manny’s opponents were boasting all along before the fights).

It’s the same thing they said of Manny’s victories against Barrera and Morales. That Morales was dehydrated and had trouble making weight. That Barrera was too old. That Morales was too old. Excuses, excuses. They just couldn’t accept that Manny is that good, and is even getting better. But that is the solid truth—Manny was just the superior fighter.

All throughout, Manny, whether before or after his fights, made no empty boasts, and promised only to do his best and leave it all up to God. That’s why Filipinos and foreigners alike embrace Manny. He is the champion any country would like to have. He remains humble and God-fearing and treats his opponents with respect even after he demolishes them in the ring. He told De La Hoya, “You will always be my idol.” He gave Hatton credit for hitting him hard, and didn’t even mention that the British boxer was playing dirty by holding him and hitting him at the same time.

Manny does his talking on the ring and exacts his revenge through his victories. And it’s sweeter that way.

Watching the Pacquiao-Hatton 24-7 on the eve of the fight made by blood boil, I tell you. Hatton and Mayweather never gave Manny one ounce of respect. They called him an amateur among many other things. Never have I prayed for an overwhelming Pacquiao victory, one that would shut up critics once and for all.

Just remember that Floyd Mayweather Junior, that other loudmouth who is just like his father, who hit and ran away from De La Hoya, had trouble against Hatton and only got to him by the 10th round. But against Pacquiao, Hatton never stood a chance; he never hurt Manny, and went down in two rounds.

Who is left for Manny Pacquiao? So he retired the great Erik Morales. He retired the great Marco Antonio Barrera. The third part of that legendary Mexican triumvirate, Juan Manuel Marquez, he beat twice. He retired Oscar De La Hoya. Now, we hear people saying Ricky Hatton should call it quits too after that vicious head blow from Manny.

Manny Pacquiao is now not only the pound-for-pound king. People are saying he could very well be the greatest boxer ever, a title which once belonged only to the revered Muhammad Ali, who had none of Pacquiao’s humility during his prime.

Manny deserves all the accolades. I wish him the best. Most of all, I wish that he can retire in his prime, like I mentioned in a previous column. I don’t like him to retire a defeated fighter like his opponents. I don’t want him to retire hurt. Of course, he gives us so much joy and enormous pride when he’s fighting, but I still don’t want him fighting too long, long enough for father time to catch up with him. I want him to be able retire a champion, on his own terms, and at his best.


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In your opinion, how will the Pacquiao-Hatton fight will end?

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