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Pacquiao-Hatton collapse spoils strong start in ’09

21
Jan

Boxing was off to such a good start this year.

Why couldn’t Manny Pacquiao just accept the money that was on the table for his proposed May 2 showdown with Ricky Hatton?

With a guaranteed $12 million and a piece of the pay-per-view revenue that would have easily netted him $20 million when it was all said and done, Pacquiao and his advisors in the Philippines should not have been playing games earlier this week.

With the Andre Berto-Luis Collazo barnburner already in the books, another welterweight war on tap for this Saturday and more quality fights like next month’s Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz lightweight clash coming up, the first quarter of ’09 still looks pretty good.

But with Hatton-Pacquiao to look forward to in May, the ’09 boxing schedule was almost too good to be true. Now that the junior welterweight championship has been called off, the sport loses what was the only bona fide super fight of ’09 and fight fans suffer their first major letdown of the new year.

Pacquiao’s refusal to accept the terms of the Hatton deal is baffling, especially when one considers that he was only guaranteed about half as much ($6.6 million) to face Oscar De La Hoya in December.

Some in the industry have wondered whether there were other factors in the stalled negotiations, such as Showtime’s serious interest in the fight, but Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum says that had nothing to do with the deal not getting done.

“Richard (Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions, Hatton’s U.S. promoter) and I saw eye to eye on the terms of the deal,” Arum said. “We had gotten to a 52-48 split (favoring Pacquiao) plus the $12 million (guarantee). We met with both HBO and Showtime about distributing the fight, but no decision had been made as to what network would televise the fight in the U.S. It never got to that point.”

And that’s a damn shame.

Beyond the money both fighters would have collected, the fight made so much sense.

For Hatton, Pacquiao represented the highest-profile fighter not named De La Hoya or Floyd Mayweather, a potentially winnable fight and a style that would have likely complimented his and made for an entertaining outing.

For Pacquiao, Hatton represented a measuring stick as to how good he truly is above lightweight, plus an opportunity to win world championship recognition in a sixth weight class (yes, I said sixth; his 2003 victory over Marco Antonio Barrera was the for the linear featherweight title).

And the fight would have had tremendous international appeal as Hatton and Pacquiao have arguably the largest and most loyal fan bases in the sport.

The only difference is that Hatton’s fans in Britain have more spending power than Pacquiao’s followers in the Philippines, which is why the Manchester native’s team did not want to back off the original offer to split revenue 50-50.

There’s no doubt Pacquiao is the more accomplished of the two fighters, and the better boxer pound-for-pound, but that doesn’t mean the Filipino icon deserves a bigger cut than Hatton.

Both Mayweather and Pacquiao were better fighters than De La Hoya at the time they fought the Golden Boy, but both had to settle for lesser cuts of the revenue for those fights and we all know why. De La Hoya didn’t just bring in fans, he brought in the money. Hatton is second only to De La Hoya in terms of his earning power.

The Mayweather-Hatton fight did 850,000 pay-per-view buys in the U.S., but it broke Sky Box Office pay-per-view records in the UK, attracting between 1.2 and 1.4 million buys (and earning the Hitman between 15 and 20 million Pounds, which translated to more cash than ‘Money May’ took in considering the conversion rate at the time).

By contrast, most Pacquiao fights are on commercial television in the Philippines. His fights can be seen live without lengthy commercial interruptions at closed circuit locations, but the revenue those theaters bring in pale in comparison to Hatton’s pay-per-view numbers in Britain.

“The Philippines is an emerging nation. Their wealth is not as vast as Europe, from a purely monetary point of view,” said Schaefer, who believes that Hatton not only brings in more money than Pacquiao but may have more fans.

“What is (the) criteria to gauge that? How many people do you bring out? How many people will watch in your home country? It’s difficult to say. If you balance everything out, though, I don’t think any fighter in the world gets the kind of support Ricky Hatton does. I was there when 58,000 people watched him fight in Manchester City (England, versus Juan Lazcano last May). It was absolutely unbelievable. Ricky Hatton has the largest fan support of any fighter in the world.”

Hatton will use that fan support as leverage to land another high-profile opponent for the May 2 date, the biggest name being Mayweather, who Pacquiao would also like to lure out of retirement in a showdown of No. 1 pound-for-pound kings.

Mayweather-Pacquiao is obviously a bigger event in the U.S. than Mayweather-Hatton II, but the rematch would probably still do big numbers in the UK. And given the Mayweather’s history of taking “safe” fights, plus his acrimonious relationship with Arum, he would probably lean toward Hatton.

(And who knows? The good folks at HBO Sports might believe Mayweather-Hatton II is worth the investment with the story angle of the Englishman being trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr. and the potential trash-talk triangle between Floyd Jr., Senior and Roger that could be exploited by another ’24/7′ series to help move pay-per-view buys in the States. This writer has to fight off waves of nausea at the mere thought of it. The first African-American president of the United States was just sworn in this week; let’s not taint the soaring black image with more televised Mayweather family dysfunction.)

The fact that both Marquez and Diaz are promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, which deals with Hatton’s U.S. affairs, doesn’t bode well for Pacquiao getting the winner of their Feb. 28 clash for THE RING world lightweight title.

So who does that leave for Pacquiao?

Edwin Valero?

Urbano Antillon?

Humberto Soto?

Pacquiao wouldn’t clear more than $2 million for any of those fights.

“You tell me,” Arum said when asked about his fighter’s options. “I don’t think Pacquiao and his advisors had a plan B when they rejected the Hatton offer.”

What about the favorite in this Saturday’s welterweight clash, Antonio Margarito?

The WBA 147-pound titlist, who is set to defend his belt against Shane Mosley, would be the most dangerous fighter Pacquiao has ever faced, but at least the Mexican mauler has name recognition.

“He’s become a huge attraction,” said Arum, who’s ecstatic over the certain sellout Margarito-Mosley produced at L.A.’s Staples Center. “I never envisioned Margarito would be this popular, even after the Cotto fight. I was in Mexico last month and everyone asked me about Margarito and his plans for this year. They told me the fight they want to see him take more than any other would be against Pacquiao. I guess it’s the revenge factor.”

Keep dreamin’, Bob.

Then again, with the advice Pacquiao’s been getting lately, maybe you and Margarito will get lucky.

GYM NOTES

Margarito’s gym wars are legendary in the Southern California area. The bigger and tougher his sparring partners are, the bigger the hurt he usually puts on them.

Rashad Holloway, a 9-1 junior middleweight prospect who served as Manny Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner for De La Hoya, was sent home with a busted eye socket after a particularly rough session with Margarito at the Mexican mauler’s gym in Montebello, Calif., ruining a scheduled Jan. 31 bout for the talented North Carolina resident.

However, the little guys Margarito worked with during this camp have given him quality rounds. Some, like junior welterweights Said El-Harrak and Henry Mitchell, even had their moments against the big, relentless welterweight despite their lack of size and experience.

During one sparring session two Saturday’s ago, El-Harrak used his quick hands and lateral movement to evade almost all of the looping punches Margarito lobbed his way during their first round. The 21-year-old Brit who now makes his home in Las Vegas, where he is trained by Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, also landed well-timed right hands against Margarito, who stayed on top of the youth but ate constant jabs and occasional hooks every step of the way.

El-Harrak’s record is 3-0 (one KO) but he looked like a veteran of 30 fights against Margarito as he easily blocked, countered and stepped around his forward-marching antagonist in rounds two and three.

However, Margarito also began to catch and parry El-Harrak’s jabs in the third as he backed the gutsy young man to the ropes. In rounds four and five, Margarito quickly closed the gap between them, aggressively cornered El-Harrak and swarmed the smaller fighter with blunt right crosses, hooks and uppercuts after the boxer of Moroccan descent nailed him with hard body shot at the start of the fourth.

To his credit, El-Harrak still managed to sneak quick right hands down the pike as the Tijuana Tornado picked up velocity, but by the fifth round he was more concerned with holding, blocking shots and maneuvering away from Margarito’s high-volume attack than landing his share of shots.

Still, if the sparring rounds were scored like a professional boxing match, El-Harrak probably won three out of the five. However, he didn’t feel like a winner when he left the ring.

“I’ve been in camp for three weeks but this is the first time I’ve had a mark on my face,” said El-Harrak, who sported a scuffed shiner around his right eye. “It’s not as easy as it looks to box this guy.

“He’s going to beat Shane. That’s for sure. Mosley will be competitive. He’s always competitive, but around the eighth round I think he’s going to have that confused look on his face that he gets when things don’t go his way. That’s what Margarito does to fighters.”

Doug Fischer’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected]

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