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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rhymes and reason for Pacquiao-Hatton

LAS VEGAS – Boxing news conferences aren’t known to produce rhyme or reason, but there was both Wednesday. Floyd Mayweather Sr. brought the rhymes. Everybody else brought reasons for picking Manny Pacquiao or liking Ricky Hatton Saturday night at the MGM Grand in a junior-welterweight fight marketed as timeless, yet also significant for what it says about the game’s immediate pay-per-view prospects in the post-Oscar De La Hoya era.

“It’s over, so quit wishing on a four-leaf clover,’9 Mayweather, Hatton’s trainer, said to Pacquiao in nonsensical verse that was entertaining and century or so beyond Rudyard Kipling.

If Mayweather has never heard of Kipling, he is not alone. Kipling’s name gets an occasional mention in English Lit. But at a boxing news conference, Kipling might as well be a great American heavyweight. He doesn’t exist anymore, or at least he hasn’t until Professors Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, and Richard Schaefer, of Golden Boy Promotions, borrowed from Kipling’s 19th century verse on Afghanistan and named the fight, The Battle Of East & West.

The battle between Pacquiao, a Filipino, and Hatton, a Brit, promises to be a lot less poetic. Punches don’t rhyme. They damage and disable.

“So I hope you know, Hitman Hatton by KO,’’ Mayweather, trainer-turned-bard, said as he concluded a routine that started with another salvo at Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach.
“Joke Coach Roach, or should I call you cockroach?’’ Mayweather said.

By now, Roach has heard it all, or at least most of it. Still, there are times when Roach admits that the the well-rehearsed routine angers him.

“Yeah, sometimes it gets to me,’’ Roach said after the news conference.

It sounded as if Wednesday might have been one of those times. Unlike Mayweather, however, Roach didn’t need a rhyme or Kipling to express himself. He was blunt, which is what he expects Pacquiao’s punches to be in what he says will be a stoppage of Hatton. Roach ripped Mayweather for not doing his job. In training camp, Roach said Mayweather has been late to a Hatton workout.
“He show s up late for eight rounds of sparring before a world championship fight,’’ Roach said. “That’s sickening. I’m not ever going to show up late for any of Manny’s workouts. Never.’’

The unabridged trash-talk is the fight within the fight. Mayweather and Roach continue to get much attention as Hatton and Pacquiao. From Mayweather’s perspective, it’s schtick, a lousy lounge act. But Roach isn’t always laughing. It is hard to say what the sideshow will do to the respective fighters. The quiet, yet charismatic Pacquiao says little, so it virtually impossible to get read on what he thinks of Mayweather.

But don’t be fooled by Mayweather’s clowning, says De La Hoya, Hatton’s promoter, who was trained by both.

“Strategy-wise, Floyd is more technically-sound,’’ said De La Hoya, who a few weeks ago announced his retirement after deliberating his future in the wake of his devastating loss in to Pacqu iao in December. “He’s crazy, but from-round-to-round, Floyd knows what he is doing.’’

If Roach’s confident assessment is accurate, however, Mayweather might need to be a magician in addition to master tactician for Hatton to have a chance against the left-handed Pacquiao. In Pacquiao, Roach says he simply has the better, more complete fighter. In the eight years that Roach has been the Filipino’s trainer, Pacquiao has matured with the slow, yet steady addition of skill, especially over the last two years. A more versatile Pacquiao with defensive ability was especially evident in an understated, yet significant decision over Marco Antonio Barrera in a 2007 rematch.

Hatton has been with Mayweather for only one fight – an 11th-round stoppage of Paulie Malignaggi last November. Mayweather says he has re-created Hatton, turning him into a more complete boxer instead of a brawler. At some point, however, Hatton will revert to the brawling style that has defined him, says Roach.

“The first time Hatton gets hit, he is going to move forward,’’ Roach said. “…He is a good fighter, but not a great fighter. He can’t deal with southpaws and Manny’s kind of speed.

Hatton didn’t hear Roach’s dim evaluation of skill that doesn’t seem to leave him with only a puncher’s chance at an upset. Then again, Hatton has read and heard pretty much the same thing throughout the media.

“I think you’ve made your mind up already,’’ Hatton told a ballroom full of journalists. “The fat, beer-drinking Englishman is going to have to shock the world again.’’


Pacquiao’s mom, Dionisia was introduced at the news conference. She has never watched her son fight from a ringside seat. She might not this time. She said she plans to stay in her room at Mandalay Bay, where Pacquiao always stays in Las Vegas. Through an interpreter, she said she plans to pray throughout the bout.

· In a visit to Hatton’s Manchester, Hatton’s hometown in the UK, De La Hoya said he was amazed to see the British junior-welterweight attract a crowd of 60,000. De La Hoya tried to compare that to a night when he fought in front 45,000 in El Paso, Tex. “Most of them were women,’’ De La Hoya joked.

· Arum loves to talk about Pacquiao’s generosity. A big percentage of his money is invested in Filipino classrooms, hospitals and the poor, according to Arum. “The Philippines hav e the best social system in the world and it’s called Manny Pacquiao,’’ he said.

· Bernard Hopkins, a De La Hoya partner in Golden Promotions, says Pacquiao’s success could be his undoing. Marvin Hagler once said it was hard to get up at dawn and run after sleeping in silk sheets. Years later, Fernando Vargas said it was tough to be a fighter when you could afford silk underwear. “I guarantee you, Pacquiao has some upgraded underwear,’’ Hopkins said. “That’s probably going to play a role in the fight. It’s very hard to fight poor when you’re rich.”


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