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Monday, May 4, 2009

Ricky Hatton has a serious decision to make after Manny Pacquiao defeat

For the defeated, deflated Hatton, felled by a crunching left hook which left him prone on the canvas, there was a hospital visit for a CAT scan which, thankfully, revealed no legacy of damage to his health. The lasting scars may be more about creeping doubts.

For the victor, the spoils, as witnessed by as sell-out 16,262 crowd, and millions on television. Pacquiao, £15 million richer, the International Boxing Organisation and The Ring light-welterweight titles now in his possession, enjoyed an hour of karaoke on stage at the Mandalay Bay Resort after his perfect plan came together. Three knockdowns, six minutes' work, one cut on his face from a Hatton elbow. Job done.

Boxing is a brutal, dark trade, and can play tricks on a man's mind. The estimated £10 million Hatton will glean will do little to ease the 30-year-old fighter's agony over his worst career defeat. Glory has always been his goal.

If Hatton was desperate following his first defeat against Floyd Mayweather Jnr 16 months ago, the unravelling of his second attempt at boxing's pound-for-pound king may leave him desperate, but with serious decisions to make. A question mark now remains about his punch resistance, and whether he aged dramatically in this fight.

In his defence, of which he inexplicably showed little of against Pacquiao, his only defeats have come against two fighters destined to be viewed in time as the leading fighters of this generation, both sublimely skilled. Pacquiao with speed, Mayweather with a sublime feel for boxing. Hatton should not be too hard on himself.

Retirement will be pushed forward as the chief option, given the manner of defeat. Hatton recovered quietly with his family after being given the all-clear from medical advisers, and although his father, Ray, insisted his son's future was a matter for the fighter, the writing is on the wall.

Both trainers involved in the fight said as much, without really spelling it out.

Floyd Mayweather Snr, Hatton's trainer, against whom the whispers of recrimination are beginning to emerge, was adamant that any decision about ending a 45-2 career should be made by the British fighter. "I can't tell nobody when to retire, and I wouldn't suggest he retire," Mayweather said. "He should do that on his own. It is the best way, and it up to him.

"Some people may want to try it again or one more time, and only the individual can make that decision. He tried twice [against Pacquiao and Mayweather Jnr] and he failed twice. It's his choice at the end of the day."

Mayweather's assessment of Hatton's performance clearly indicated that Hatton had strayed from the game plan. "Ricky made an error and Pacquiao capitalised on it. He should have kept his hands up better, if you want to talk about mistakes.

"I've been preaching and preaching it. He went in open, [with his hands] low. Defence is what I've been telling him to do, to catch the punches, to throw punches and bring his hands back [to his chin].

"A lot of the time in boxing when fighters get knocked out – and I'm not saying this about Ricky or any particular fighter – when they get knocked out they are not the same any more."

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's coach, offered a similar assessment: "There are a lot of guys Ricky can beat out there, but he has had mega-fights, and a great career. He has been a multi-world champion. He has a son, a family, he has enough money. Why fight on? With a devastating knockout like that he has to think about retiring but that's up to him. But he should take some time out, make a decision, but not make it in haste. He'll take some time off and he'll make the right decision."

Mayweather denied there had been rifts in the camp, insisting that the media has twisted his words. "It is not true that there were differences in the camp. I spoke to some people and those things were twisted and turned around and smoothed out."

However, Mayweather's comments will do little to dispel the reports that he is going to split with Hatton after just two fights in charge. Insiders from Hatton's entourage had closed ranks with a wall of silence after the fight, not one of them prepared to speak about the issues rumoured to have bedevilled the training camp.

Pity Hatton, for he will see this knockout time and again as it gets replayed on KO reels. Pacquiao, the victor over three No 1 rated fighters in three divisions – Hatton, Marco Antonio Barrera (featherweight) and Juan Manuel Marquez (super-featherweight) – is beginning to rewrite the record books.

"They say I'm the best trainer in the world," Roach said. "That's only because I've got the best fighter in the world training with me. Manny is incredible. He just gets better and better."

Hatton, when his head clears, will have some serious, serious thinking to do. On this showing, it looks like the time may have come to consider the dreaded 'R' word. But he will loved no less by his fans, the media and fellow sportsmen. Let's hope Hatton is not too brave for his own good


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