Thursday, June 08, 2023  |



A day in the life of a promotion

Fighters Network

Hey, wait a minute: Isn't Ricky Hatton supposed to be bigger than Manny Pacquaio? Well, at least Hatton will have a big target when he digs punches into his opponent's midsection. Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Ricky Hatton, one of boxing’s roughest brawlers, walks menacingly toward the camera, folds his arms, glares into the lens and bellows: “I’ve punished all who have entered my domain.”

If this seems out of character for the mild-mannered Englishman, it isn’t. In fact, he was IN character.

Hatton was reading scripted lines at the direction of filmmaker Leigh Simons in a make-shift studio at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel a few hours before a news conference to promote the Hatton-Manny Pacquiao fight May 2 in Las Vegas.

The video Simons shot will be used by HBO and cable companies across the nation to help sell the fight. And that was only one leg on the fighters’ busy schedule on a day promoters hope will lead to big pay-per-view numbers and a sellout at the MGM Grand.

This isn’t what Hatton and Pacquiao train so many grueling hours in the gym for. However, it’s part of the business of boxing – generating interest and in turn income, including their own – and they approach it professionally.

Each fighter is guaranteed to make $12 million but will also earn a percentage of pay-per-view profits, assuming there are any.

“This is something we have to,” said a bleary-eyed Hatton, who arrived the previous day from England. “If I want to become better-known in America, this is the way to do it. I got up at 5 in the morning because of the time difference. That’s what giving me trouble, not this.”

2:30 p.m.: A visitor walks into a long meeting room in the Roosevelt and gasps: Six hundred gloves – to be signed by the fighters and used as promotional items – are laid side by side on two tables that stretch about 50 meters each. Two hundred more are in boxes.

Hatton had earlier signed about 150 gloves and then left, saying he’d return to finish the job. “What are the odds he’ll really come back?” someone quips. Pacquiao arrives later to fulfill his part of perhaps the most-mundane duty of an elite boxer.

3 p.m.: Hatton shows up late for his half-hour session with Simons. Once he arrives, though, it becomes clear that he’s done this before. He’s a pro.

The well-spoken fighter, looking fit and wearing the specially made glittery trunks and matching shirt he’ll wear into the ring, begins by doing audio that will be heard by those who call their cable and satellite companies.

“Don’t miss Pacquiao vs. Hattton. The Battle of East and West. 9 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m Pacific. Live on pay-per-view.” He reads the line from a script repeatedly until Simons is satisfied and then continues reading. “Live on Comcast Cable, live on Time-Warner Cable, live on Cable Vision ÔǪ”

Simons and Hatton then move swiftly into the next stage of the shooting — a conversation about the fight itself, about Hatton’s approach to the fight, what he needs to do to beat the best fighter in the world. Later, in editing, his comments and those of Pacquiao will be part of the promo show.

Then comes the most entertaining part of the shooting, the posing and dialogue.

Hatton stands against a black background with bold lighting, which creates a dramatic effect. Instantly, a common bloke who likes to have a pint with his mates at the local pub in working class Manchester becomes a male model.

And he seems perfectly comfortable.

“OK, hold that Ricky,” Simons says as Hatton poses. “Give me a close up [cameraman] Alex. OK, now give us a profile with your arms crossed. Good. Give me head to toe Alex and snap [quickly zoom] in. OK, turn your side to the camera Ricky with your arms like this [on his waist]. OK, now give us a profile with arms crossed. Snap in Alex. Good.”

Then the scripted dialogue. Simons plays Pacquiao’s role.

“I’ve dominated every weight class,” Simons says.

“I’ve punished all who have entered my domain,” Hatton says.

“We come from opposite ends of the world.”

“On May 2 we’ll fight to see who’s the best in the center of the ring.”

“It’s ‘The Battle of East and West.'”

“Don’t miss it, Saturday, May 2, 9 p.m. Eastern and 6 p.m. Pacific, live on pay-per-view.”

Simons is pleased. “Beautiful, beautiful,” he says.

Finished, Hatton makes his way to another video session in the next room.

3:45: Pacquiao arrives and Simons goes through the same routine, only the soft-spoken Filipino, whose first tongue is Tagalog, has difficulty with the pronunciation of some words.

However, he seems to accept his verbal limitations and does his best. He reads his lines over and over until they’re satisfactory. He answers Simons’ questions about the fight but, unable to articulate well in his second language, offers only short responses. Again, though, Simons gets what he needs.

The posing comes easily; he has no trouble with movement. And, perhaps surprisingly, he seems to have fun with the last round of dialogue. He just finished making his eighth film in the Philippines so English is the problem more than the acting.

“I’ve dominated every weight class,” he says with conviction and a scowl and then breaks into his charming grin. Pacquiao says a lot with that smile.

7 p.m.: A few thousand fans are lined up along a roughly 75-meter red carpet outside the Roosevelt, on both sides of Hollywood Boulevard. Search lights are set up at one end to complete the movie-premier theme of the news conference.

A handful of celebrities – Mickey Rourke (a friend of Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach), Mark Wahlberg, Willie McGinnest and UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland, among them – make their way down the carpet as fans and journalists seek autographs and interviews.

Ultimately, around 7:30 p.m., Hatton slowly makes the walk – engaging grateful fans with his down-to-earth charm – and is followed by Pacquiao, who makes the Filipino fans swoon with his mere presence and that smile. The fighters seem to truly enjoy this unusual promotional gimmick.

“This is fantastic, isn’t it?” Hatton said as he turns the corner into the hotel.

8:30 p.m.: Hundreds of people fill a ballroom inside the Roosevelt for the formal news conference.

Floyd Mayweather Sr., Hatton’s trainer, steps to the microphone and offers one of his only mildly amusing poems. In this one, he pokes fun at his counterpart, Roach, who is polite when it's his turn at the mic. “I’m trying to be like Angelo Dundee and not say anything bad about anyone,” he said earlier. “But it’s not easy.”

Hatton and Pacquiao then reiterate many of the things they said in their interviews with Simons, the things about the fight we’ll hear many times over in the next month. Then they sit with dozens of reporters at round tables and politely answer question after question until their handlers, well aware of the long day, decide enough is enough.

And, just like that, a day in the life of a promotion has ended. Now, promoters can only wait and see what seeds were planted that day.

“You work hard to get the fight done,” said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, Hatton’s promoter. “You work to get it signed. You work to line up the sponsors. You work to get a deal done on the site. You work with the (TV) network to get that done. You coordinate all the various pieces. Then, in a way, the day of the press conference ties the whole promotion together. It basically sets the stage to go forward and promote a great event.

“This was fun but there’s also tension now. Each fighter has a big guarantee. We need to do a certain amount of (pay-per-view) homes to break even. The press conference is like the foundation of the event. And, as you know, the house will crumble if you don’t lay the proper foundation.”

If it crumbles, it’s not the fault of Hatton or Pacquiao. They did their part.

Michael Rosenthal's column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at [email protected]