Friday, April 10, 2009
Training camp is already in full swing for this season’s top boxing event. The May 2nd affair, which is quickly creeping up on us, will showcase two deity-level athletes from differing corners of the globe. They are as different as night and day, north and south, and the aforementioned “hand and foot”. If you were to inquire about the “most popular sport in the UK”, you’d find that football (aka soccer, for those of you that still muddle the difference between American and European football) reigns supreme followed by cricket, then rugby. Use the same parameters to search for top categories in the Philippines and you’ll see boxing edge out basketball. Further comparison only adds to their dissimilarities considering football/soccer is a feet-based sport and boxing/basketball, even though it’s a stretch, can be dubbed a hands game.
From a writer’s standpoint, the proposed fight between the Philippine’s Manny Pacquiao and England’s Ricky Hatton was free-flowing gasoline just waiting to be lit. There were many areas to be compared, contrasted, and contemplated.
It’s been a good couple months since the multiple-revision contracts have been signed, sealed, and out of the way and we are now at a stage where boasts from both camps will come flying even harder and stronger.
One thing that worried me a great deal during the promotional tour is the fact that Hatton, who is fighting for the fifth time in Las Vegas, kept reiterating his readiness yet cited that he can still lose more weight. To his credit, he blamed Oscar de la Hoya’s horrible “Dream Match” performance on the idea that he lost too much weight too early in his training regiment. Another thing is he disputed Manny’s pull as a prizefighter and criticized how he stood his ground on the purse split yet was surprised to find so many Filipinos at the tours and conferences in the UK. More and more I fear that the talk of underestimation which once stood heavily on Pacquiao’s shoulders now slowly inches its way towards Hatton. One thing’s for sure, Hatton says he’s willing, ready, and confident that he’ll represent his countrymen well. I have never really doubted the Hitman’s professional approach because he normally delivers. Even through his fluctuating weight phases and prior to and following strict media/fan criticism, he still makes weight and barring the loss to Mayweather, he shows he can still win. In a recent UK interview Hatton states that when he is fighting in Las Vegas (NV, US), he’s leaving the “Manchester” comfort zone behind and this invigorates and “brings out the best in him”.
For the Pacman, he can probably stick to the same game plan that was perfected in fights against Diaz and De la Hoya but the downside would be that it’s too clear cut of an approach, thus giving hint and ample time to Hatton’s camp to figure out how they should address this. But regardless of how much we can see the game plans in advance, can a fighter really change his demeanor to the point where his opponent’s entire preparation can be deemed futile?
Floyd Mayweather Sr. has recently embroidered the idea that he will send his pupil out against the pound for pound king in a “controlled aggression” tactic to negate Pacquiao’s superior hand and foot speed. I’m not really sure how he will implement that in a game plan but the idea, as presented, isn’t such a far fetched design to blue-print. I hope the Hatton camp is ironing out any wrinkles because a recent ESPN.com poll on the mega fight revealed that the battle will be a brawl as brutal as they come. Fifty-five percent of over seven thousand viewers see Manny Pacquiao emerging as the victor by knockout. Twenty percent see a decision for Pacquiao over Hatton. For the Hitman, he can only claim a measly fifteen percent for a knockout in his favor, and eight percent for a decision win. Fewer than two percent of the voting community sees a possible draw (and Hatton would keep his belt).
So how and why has the predicted outcome shifted?
I think it has a lot to do with how the last couple performances have been for both men. Pacquiao is coming off phenomenal feats with multi-division runs while Hatton hasn’t been nearly as impressive by comparison. So the views of the boxing public might have been curved by the Filipino’s momentum big time, and rightfully so might I add. A swing is a swing, whether it be a positive or negative shift. Neither Freddie Roach nor Floyd Mayweather can see the fight going past four rounds. Roach was the first to call his take on the bout in saying that his pupil will stop Hatton inside of three rounds. And we all know a rebuttal from Floyd Sr. is definitely a given. He saw Roach’s forecast as being clouded since the fight would’ve already ended a round earlier, in his opinion. The victor? Hatton via second round stoppage.
Even with all that said, remember that the Briton’s knockout rate is just a shade under seventy percent, topping Pacquiao’s who sits comfortably around sixty eight percent. So we cannot neglect the power factor for either man, especially Hatton since he is starting to settle into the underdog spot. Ricky has been working and weeding his way through this division since he got into the game. Surely it’s become second nature! But how can we really abandon Pacquiao’s abilities? This man has been lighting up the scene the last couple years of years. The only way Hatton could’ve even equaled, or surpassed, what Pacquiao’s rating is right now is if he had beaten Mayweather.
I’m sure the fight will be one to remember. I’m already jittery just thinking that it’s only three weeks away this upcoming Saturday.
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