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Monday, April 6, 2009


It took more than a year, but finally, Manny Pacquiao got hit clean on the chin. Not since last year's title fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, which Pacquiao won, have we seen the Filipino boxing icon get smacked silly on the face and it took a skinny street baller named "The Professor" to do it. It happened on March 22 at the LA Convention Center when the Ball Up Street Ball players laced it up for a good cause against celebrities like Pacquiao, Tyrese and Donald Faison. Skinny 5'10 street baller Grayson Boucher, also known as "The Professor" from the AND1 Mixtape tour, hit Pacquiao with a basketball on the face as he pulled off a move called "off the heezy".

Now before you Pacquiao fanatics cry foul, let me remind you that it was all in clean fun and moves like that are normal in street ball. The proceeds all went to charity so nothing should really be made out of the incident. However, What caught my attention was the fact that Pacquiao has been running around participatig in a lot of these activities lately during this particular training camp compared to those in the past. From acting in movies and a television series to his involvement in politics back in the Philippines, left and right it seems like his camp has been interrupted. Not to mention his public disputes with TV networks and the recording of the new single that he intends to use for his entrance song on May 2. The way Pacquiao has been so easily available for public appearances and the audacity of Freddie Roach to predict a 3rd round knockout of Ricky Hatton got me Pacquiao and his camp underestimating Hatton and being a little too overconfident?

Allow me to try and answer my own questions. I guess, coming off the biggest victory of his career and the manner in which he obliterated De La Hoya, how can you blame Pacquiao if he does feel a little confident coming into this fight? After all, following the De La Hoya victory, he did receive the grandest celebrations he had ever seen and, fair enough, it doesn't get any bigger than beating the sport's biggest draw on the sport's biggest while making the most money he's made thus far in the process. That being said, with success comes the trappings and, historically, Pacquiao has not been one to shy away from those trappings as his vices and partying have become the stuff of legend in his home country.

Prior to his rematch with Marco Antonio Barrera in October of 2007, Pacquiao was again involved in a lot of out of the ring controversy that resulted in a lackluster effort despite the lopsided decision victory. At the time, it was obvious that the
biggest threat to beating Pacquiao was himself. In 2008, he did a good job of avoiding those type of distractions and ended up having one of the best years ever in the ring as a boxer. However, for this particular fight, things have been a lot more loose as of late. Is it just me or is Pacquiao poised for a letdown? Is team Pacquiao still honeymooning from their victory over De La Hoya? Is Pacquiao doing too much and too distracted to be anywhere near as focused as he was during his fights in 2008? It almost seems like the Pacquiao camp is already looking past Hatton and looking ahead to Money Mayweather. Furthermore, Pacquiao has huge political aspirations and may be thinking too much about his personal ambitions than what he currently has on his plate come May 2nd.

I know I've raised more questions than answers, but I truly believe that if Pacquiao is going to lose, this would be the best opportunity for someone to beat him. It happens all the time with elite teams in sports like basketball and football. Imagine the Lakers coming off a victory against their arch-nemesis only to lose to one of the worst teams in the league, like the Bobcats. Or how about the New England Patriots getting stomped last year by the Miami Dolphins? Pacquiao may work like a machine when he trains, but the last time I checked, he is still human. The way he's been going about things lately gives me more than enough reason to hypothesize that he might not be as focused as he usually is.

Ricky Hatton is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. He's in his prime and has been on this type of stage before. Apart from his strength and natural tenacity, his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the fact that he teamed up with Floyd Mayweather Sr. may be the two biggest factors that could push him past Pacquiao. Hatton is hungry, determined and focused and as much as you love or hate him, Mayweather Sr. can do wonders for any boxer. Hatton may be the strongest and hardest puncher Manny has faced thus far in his career and one fact that's been lost in the shuffle is that the 140-pound division is Hatton's stomping ground. Hatton is comfortable and undefeated at that weight and, unlike De La Hoya, he doesn't need to cut down or dehydrate himself to clash with Pacquiao.

I just can't hide this hunch in me that this might be Pacquiao's most dangerous fight yet. In fact, I can't even be sure if he will defeat Hatton. Fighters as good as Pacquiao only come once in a generation and when they're that good, they're pretty much the only ones that can beat themselves. Pacquiao definitely fits that mold. If he doesn't come in to this fight with his A-game and 110% focused, Hatton might very well knock him on his socks before he realizes what hit him. I still give Pacquiao the edge over Hatton because of his speed and technique, but I would not be shocked to see Hatton make the fight closer than most people expect or even worse, pull off the upset.


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