Hatton’s arrival on the scene reached its apex in 2005 at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester in front of an adoring hometown crowd when he stopped longtime reigning 140-pound champion Kostya Tszyu in the eleventh round. Ricky’s mauling, brawling style would not go over quite so well in the US as it did in England but his quirky personality made up for any limitations he showed as a fighter in crossing him over into stardom. His Guinness soaked charm made him a natural at press conferences, interview sessions and ultimately on HBO’s 24/7 documentary series as he prepared for his big opportunity against then pound for pound king welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather.
Hatton’s conclusive knockout loss to Mayweather at first seemed to have taken a bit of the fire out of his belly. His subsequent performance against Juan Lazcano was shaky at best. (Hatton insists he was ill at the time.) Whispers of “damaged goods” were eventually followed by the breakup with longtime trainer and confidant Billy Graham. Was this yet another example of a fighter laying all the blame at his trainer’s feet after a devastating loss? Or did Hatton finally realize that as good a pair the two were for all those years, in order to compete at a higher level of competition something more was needed?
The split wasn’t quite amicable but under the tutelage of new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. Hatton appears to have rebounded. His win over slick but feather-fisted Paulie Malignaggi can be viewed as very impressive if only for the glaring fact that in no way did Hatton respect Malignaggi’s power or lack thereof. He could fight as recklessly as he wanted to because Paulie had nothing to throw at him to keep him at bay. Still, Hatton showed a very good jab and a few new defensive wrinkles that he will definitely need against the even faster power punching Pacquiao.
As the fight draws closer many who once predicted an easy Pacquiao victory are now hedging their bets – at least slightly. As easy as it is to envision the version of Manny Pacquiao
who clobbered De La Hoya and previously WBC lightweight champion David Diaz into submission dealing the onrushing Ricky Hatton
a similar beat down, it is also realistic to assume that Hatton’s roughhouse tactics and bullish strength could disrupt Pacquiao and take him completely out of his game.
And then there is the possibility of a cut, something even trainer Freddie Roach has admitted that Pacquiao does not handle particularly well. With Hatton’s style an errant elbow or forearm, or clean punch for that matter, could alter the fight dramatically should he draw blood.
All in all this match up should produce plenty of thrills for however long it lasts. A Pacquiao victory will probably be just enough to induce Floyd Mayweather back into the ring for a mega showdown at the end of 2009. However, it’s probably safe to assume that ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd has little interest in facing Hatton again, but then money talks and as long as he’s getting paid and paid well Mayweather just might agree to a rematch should Hatton pull off the upset. And with his estranged father in the opposing corner the pre-fight buildup would be hilarious, endless and, depending on just how much Mayweather you can stomach, mind-bendingly absurd.
Until then the intrigue behind Hatton – Pacquiao on May 2nd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas will keep boxing fans more than satisfied. Hopefully the fight itself will exceed the growing expectations as we await the opening bell.
April 10, 2009