Pacquiao-Hatton: Four misconceptions
Manny Pacquiao stops on the red carpet for a television interview as actor and boxing fan Mark Wahlberg strolls by Monday in Hollywood, Calif. Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – As silly boxing news conference themes go, this one was fairly appropriate.
Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton – the two biggest stars in boxing now that Oscar De La Hoya has declined – walked the red carpet as if taking part in a film premier as a few thousand star-struck fans lined both sides of Hollywood Boulevard on Monday evening.
And like the opening of a movie, complete with searchlights, onlookers jumped up and down with excitement as their idols made their way into the historic Roosevelt Hotel for a news conference to promote their May 2 fight in Las Vegas.
“Manny! Manny!” dozens or even hundreds of Filipinos screamed as their beloved countryman – boxing’s greatest fighter pound-for-pound – walked by and waved.
Once they stepped into the hotel, though, focus shifted at least in good part from the glitter of Tinseltown to warfare in the ring.
And among so many intriguing comments made by both fighters, as well as their trainers and promoters, what stood out most for me was this: Several statements I believe to be misconceptions about themselves or the opposing fighter.
Here are four head-scratching statements – two by each camp – and why they might be misguided:
1. Statement: Ricky Hatton was asked repeatedly how he could expect to cope with Pacquiao’s now-legendary speed and each time he had the same answer: “They said the same thing about Paulie Malignaggi, how he was too quick for me and how he was going to outbox me. And look what happened in that fight.”
Where he went wrong: Many experts did favor Malignaggi in their November fight, in which Hatton won by 11th-round TKO. Hatton’s mistake is equating Malignaggi in any way to Pacquiao. Malignaggi is a fairly quick-handed, capable fighter. However, one thing opponents often say after fighting Pacquiao for the first time is they underestimated his amazing hand speed, not to mention his foot speed. And Pacquaio’s not just a capable fighter; he’s a great fighter, perhaps one of the best ever. Like so many before him, Hatton might be very surprised on May 2.
2. Statement: Pacquiao was asked immediately after he stepped off the red carpet how he felt about the common perception that one reason Oscar De La Hoya lost so miserably to Pacquiao was that he lost too much weight. He became as rankled as he gets. “Alibis,” said Pacquiao, his way of saying excuses. “It’s not good, it’s not good.”
Where he went wrong: Pacquiao deserves all the credit in the world for a magnificent victory over the sport’s then-greatest star in December. He did what he had to do – and then some. However, the reality is that a depleted De La Hoya stepped into the ring that night; he had nothing. And it wasn’t just age or wear and tear. He could barely throw punches. Thus, while the victory was an important moment in Pacquiao’s career, we shouldn’t read too much into it. It was as if he were fighting a fringe contender at best. As Hatton said, “You know boxing. Is that the De La Hoya we’ve come to know? I don’t think so.” The rough, tough — and wily — brawler Pacquiao will face on May 2 will present a much bigger challenge.
3. Statement: Hatton is obviously irked that people keep asking him whether he can handle Pacquiao’s power after the manner in which the Filipino took apart David Diaz in June and De La Hoya. Pacquiao, he said, should be wary of his power because he’s the natural 140 pounder while Pacquiao started as a flyweight. He was asked whether he believes Pacquiao has lightweight (135 pounds) power. “I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want it to come back and bite me in the ass but, I mean, I would say so.”
Where he went wrong: De La Hoya said flat out that Pacquaio didn’t have much power at 147 pounds; if he had, De La Hoya feels he would’ve been knocked out cold. However, Pacquiao did hurt De La Hoya enough that the Golden Boy had to hold the top rope to remain upright in the seventh round. And, at 135 pounds, Pacquiao pounded Diaz – who is very durable, if little else – into submission. That’s only one weight class below 140. Pacquiao probably doesn’t have one-punch knockout power at junior welterweight, particularly against a sturdy opponent like Hatton. The Filipino does have the power to hurt Hatton if he puts his punches together, though. Don’t be surprised if Hatton ends up flat on his back with the referee waving his arms overhead.
4. Statement: Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, was asked point-blank whether this would be a hard fight for his prot├®g├®. He shook his head. “No, it’ll be easy,” he said. “His defensive skills are too weak; he’s too easy hit. And he’s had problems particularly with southpaws [as Pacquiao is]. Look at the (Luis) Collazo and (Juan) Urango fights.”
Where he went wrong: Roach, who looked like a genius after the De La Hoya fight, might prove to be right. Pacquiao might be too fast for Hatton and overwhelm him. That’s not difficult to imagine. At the same time, this just doesn’t smell like an easy fight for either fighter. Hatton is a natural 140 pounder who knows how to impose his will against other natural 140 pounders. It’s not difficult to imagine him being too big and strong for Pacquiao, who started his career at 106 pounds and has fought only twice over 130 pounds – against Diaz at 135 in June and De La hoya at 147 in December. And, again, those fights didn’t prove much.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]