The Big Fight:
Merchant, Lampley, Steward Weigh In
By Nat Gottlieb Courtesy of HBO.com
The Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight has the boxing world buzzing. Everybody seems to have an opinion on who will win. Pacquiao is the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world and the betting favorite. Those who favor Pacquiao point to his speed, power-packed fists and strong boxing ability. Hatton's backers feel he will win because he's naturally bigger and stronger and has underrated boxing skills and speed. So who will it be?
For insight we interviewed HBO commentators Larry Merchant, Jim Lampley and Emanuel Steward, who discussed Pacquiao's ability to fight bigger men, the effect Hatton's new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. can have on the outcome and more.
Pacquiao exposed Oscar, and it was a masterpiece of its kind. Give him credit for that. The story of that fight was how sophisticated of a fighter Pacquiao was. He has evolved into a boxer-puncher. There's no question that he can take on junior welterweights.
Hatton is stronger than Pacquiao. But strength is relative. Muscles don't win fights. Pacquiao has the single most devastating punch in boxing -- a short, quick and powerful left hand the likes of which no fighter has ever faced before. It's shocking to them. How will Hatton deal with it when he comes in on Pacquiao? Mayweather can help. And Hatton showed more versatility against (Paulie) Malignaggi. There's a good possibility that he can survive Pacquiao's left.
The short version of the fight is, 'Can Hatton get through the early rounds and not get busted up and hurt?' He's very strong at this weight. We're talking about a guy who walks around at 170 to 180 pounds. But with strength versus quickness, quickness usually wins. Hatton has to do some damage himself in the early rounds, so he will have to be a bit more defensive and not get hit a lot.
The big thing about Hatton is he is still a tremendously motivated, ambitious and hungry guy who will have thousands of British fans at the fight. That gives him a lot of emotional life. Those two things -- his strength and his emotion -- make him tough to deal with. He is not a fighter who has lost his zest for combat.
Pacquiao has to do what he did against Oscar: hit and not be hit. In this fight, I think Hatton will be more aggressive than Oscar, so Pac has to put some doubt in Hatton by making him pay for his aggression.
I don't like to predict who will win a fight. Pacquiao is the favorite, and for obvious reasons it would be an upset if he lost. He deserves to be the favorite. He earned that role. If Hatton gets past the early rounds, he is a very physical mauler -- not brawler -- and in close quarters he is able to use his strength to wear guys down. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Hatton could grind Pacquiao down. If he does, he can win.
I don't think it will go the distance mainly because of Pacquiao's power. I don't know if Hatton can knock Pacquiao out. If there is a knockout, it is certainly more likely it will be Pacquiao who does it.
I don't think Pacquiao's victory over Oscar proved he can fight bigger fighters. Point one: That was not like beating Oscar in his prime or even close to his prime. Oscar was badly compromised and looked like he had nothing. You have to lend some credit to Hatton's analysis that the victory over Oscar was a fluke. He's obviously trying to provoke Pacquiao and get under his skin. But I do concur that Pacquiao's victory over Oscar doesn't mean he can beat 147 pounders, or tell us anything about what Manny can do at 140 pounds.
Manny's advantage over Hatton is that he is slicker, faster and has better boxing skills. I don't think that Hatton can get inside and force Manny into the kind of fight on the ropes that he did with Tszyu.
The man who is able to dictate the kind of fight it is will win. If Hatton can crowd him and make him fight in a phone booth, that would favor him. But if Manny uses the center of the ring and gets in and gets out without being hit or trapped, that kind of fight would favor Pacquiao.
What Hatton has to answer is 1.) Are you fast enough to find Manny and do damage when you do? 2.) Can you break Manny down over 12 rounds like you did against Tszyu? Because Manny is faster and more explosive at this point in his career than Tszyu was. 3.) Is there something new Floyd Mayweather Sr. can change that Hatton can use against Pacquiao?
Against Malignaggi, he out-boxed Paulie, and that quick first step of Hatton's had something to do with that. Manny is much quicker and slicker than Malignaggi.
The big story for Pacquiao is how much he has improved at this point of his career. He has something special going with Freddie Roach. Before he was with Freddie, he would double jab and left cross, over and over, which worked well for him. Freddie has added to that a brilliant jab and an almost unstoppable uppercut because fighters can't see that punch coming. What's amazing is that Manny has done all this with a tremendous amount of distraction and the weight of the number of people he supports. If you told me after the first Marquez fight that Pacquiao would improve this much in four years, I would not have believed it.
How do I see this fight playing out? I think in the first two rounds Hatton is going to see if his jab and boxing skills -- of which he is so proud -- are on the level of Pacquiao's; if he can fight a boxing match. If he can't then he is going to have to bull his way inside and lean on Pacquiao's chest and shoulders. The risk he takes in doing that is he might get caught by a hook or uppercut.
By the fifth or sixth round Hatton will be bleeding, and it will become an all-out war. I think the fight will be stopped on cuts. The hook and uppercut are what makes Pacquiao so difficult to fight. The left hand you expect and can see coming. The left hand is what made him extremely good. The right hand has made him great. With the development of the right hand, and his compact boxing style, Pacquiao needs to take fewer risks than before and is harder to hurt. I don't expect the fight to go the distance. Both guys' best formula would be to win by TKO.
The general public has a different opinion of Pacquiao's fight with Oscar than some people in the industry. The public thinks Manny is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and didn't give as much value to Oscar's weight problem. On the street, people you meet say there is nobody who can beat Pacquiao.
I put a lot of value on it (Oscar's weight problem). In Pacquiao's last two fights against bigger guys, he looked great. But David Diaz is the slowest man I have ever seen in my life, and Oscar was ridiculously unhealthy. If Oscar had trained the way he normally does and then he lost, I'd say okay, that shows Pacquiao can beat bigger guys. You can't fault Pacquiao for winning, but we have created him a lot bigger than some people think he is. Look at Pacquiao's last two fights with Marquez. In each instance, if you take away one of the (Pacquiao) knockdowns, Pacquiao loses. (Actually, Marquez would have won the first fight, and the second would have been a draw)
Ricky is a fast, strong fighter. Size does make a difference. That's why we have all these different weight divisions. Ricky is naturally strong at 140, and Pacquiao is a good 135-pound fighter. Mayweather may well be the best defensive trainer in history, and what he is teaching could make it more difficult for Pacquiao.
I see the fight as a close one, nip and tuck all the way. If I was a betting man, I'd have to give a slight edge to Ricky. Ricky is just a bigger guy. Manny is a tremendous puncher, but we don't know what effect his punch will have against a 140 pound boxer.
In Ricky's fight with Floyd (Mayweather Jr.), Ricky got aggravated at the ref and was not focused. Floyd took advantage of that. You saw a much more controlled Ricky Hatton for his last fight with Malignaggi.
People talk about Pacquiao's speed, but Ricky's speed is going to surprise you. He has pretty good hand speed and footwork. At some point in the fight Ricky is going to start muscling him, and that could be a problem for Pacquiao. Manny likes to move in and slash and move out, and it will be more difficult to do that with Hatton than he thinks.
The crowd for this fight will be unbelievable. We're going to see an international explosion of emotions. I'm very excited. It's going to be a genuine 'big fight.' You have the entire European world market, as well as the Asian. You have two guys who are great for boxing. Pacquiao loves to be in the limelight and share his time and money with people. Ricky is the same kind of guy. These are fighters people can relate to. We are blessed to have them.