BOXER Ricky Hatton's career looked to be over today after he was brutally knocked out in the second round by Filipino Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas.
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The Mancunian, who took 25,000 fans to watch him, was floored by a crushing left hook with one second remaining in the second round of their Light-welterweight world title fight.
Hatton, previously unbeaten in the 140 pounds division, was battered to the canvas twice in the first round before he was finally poleaxed at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Referee Kenny Bayless took one look at the prone boxer and immediately ended the fight as Hatton's corner rushed into the ring to attend to their fighter. There was immediate concern for the fighter's health.
Fiancee Jennifer Dooley, watching from ringside, screamed out when he took the punch. His worried family, devoted supporters, and millions of fight fans watching on TV looked on in horror as Hatton appeared to struggle to regain consciousness.
He was on his back, on the canvas, for at least three minutes before he was helped onto a stool brought into the middle of the ring.
Hatton was well enough to walk unaided from the ring, back to his dressing room, albeit minus his IBO and Ring Magazine light-welterweight title belts. But there were no interviews with him as he was taken for a hospital check up.
Depending on his health, he is expected to hold a press conference and answer questions about his future later today.
Pacquiao, who went to his corner to mutter a prayer after the shot, was clearly thinking of Hatton as he gave his post-fight interview with medical treatment still being given to the defeated man.
"I'm always doing my job in the ring, doing my best to make people happy. It's nothing personal for me, I'm just doing my job,'' he said.
Pacquiao, who had been escorted into the ring by WWE wrestling champ Batista, launched wild celebrations among his devoted fans – who would now like to se him battle Floyd Mayweather Jr, who announced yesterday he was coming out of retirement.
Both have beaten Hatton and are arguably the best "pound for pound" fighters in the world today.
Asked whether he might want a shot at Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pacquiao said he would take on anyone.
He said: "I can fight anybody, it will depend on my promoters. I'm just a fighter, doing my job, training and keeping at 100%."
Hatton, whose record now stands at 45-2, had been all business as he entered the ring while Pacquiao, now 49-3-2 (37 KOs), walked into the arena with a big grin on his face before reaching his corner and kneeling to pray.
Pacquiao had plenty of reasons to smile after a first round in which he launched an all-out assault, twice sending the Englishman to the canvas.
Hatton had started brightly, landing his jab as promised but he was soon on the backfoot as the Filipino warmed to his task.
In a torrid final minute, a right hook caught Hatton on the chin and sent him to the deck. He took the majority of the count from referee Kenny Bayless on his knees before rising calmly to his feet but with 40 seconds left to the bell he was quickly in trouble again.
A straight left sent Hatton onto the floor in front of his corner and this time he rose he had the relief of hearing the bell.
Hatton again began the second round well and appeared to rock Pacquiao back on his heels early on but he would not have him in trouble again.
Pacquiao believes the Englishman did not know what had hit him as he unleashed his devastating trademark left hook.
Pacquiao claimed Hatton had played into his strategy by trying to avoid his left hook, only to discover that he has a very strong right as well.
* Ricky's brother Matthew Hatton stayed on course for his IBO welterweight title fight later this year when scored a unanimous points victory over Mexico's Ernesto Zepeda at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas. Hatton moved his professional record to 36-4-1 (13 KOs) by outpointing veteran Zepeda, who saw his record slip to 39-12-4 (34 KOs).
Earlier in the evening, Manchester featherweight Joe Murray continued his winning start to life in the paid ranks with a unanimous decision victory over Californian Missael Nunez.
The 2008 Olympian followed his successful pro debut on March 28 by winning all four rounds on the judges' scorecards.
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