On the scene: Wild weigh-in
Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton both have their fans in Las Vegas. Photo / Chris Cozzone-Fightwireimages.com
LAS VEGAS – LAS VEGAS – If the energy at the weigh-in is any indication, the MGM Grand Garden Arena is going to rock during the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight Saturday night.
A capacity crowd of 7,000 crammed into a cordoned-off section of the arena for the open-to-the-public event and a few thousand more were turned away for lack of room. And, of course, it was the boisterous Brits who dominated the scene.
They sang their soccer-style songs in support of favorite son Hatton, including the standard “There’s Only One Ricky Hatton,” sung to the tune of “Winter Wonderland.” The speakers couldn’t be heard much of the time, which didn’t’ seem to bother anyone.
The Filipinos, who seemed to be outnumbered, were just as fervent about their idol – waving flags, cheering, clapping, holding signs like “Pound for Pound No. 1” — but not as loud.
The weigh-in itself – in which both made the 140-pound limit, Pacquiao 138 and Hatton 140 – was almost an afterthought amid as festive an atmosphere as you’ll ever see in boxing.
“I’ve been to a lot of weigh-ins and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said television analyst Larry Merchant. “The atmosphere is really unbelievable.”
Pacquiao weighed in four pounds lighter than he did for his 147-pound fight against Oscar De La Hoya on Dec. 6, which Pacquiao won by technical knockout. He could weigh about 144-146 pounds at fight time, a bit less than the 147 he weight in December.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, said he’s satisfied.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “This is the best training camp we’ve ever had. Everything is perfect.”
Hatton, defending his RING junior welterweight championship, is expected to weigh about 150 at fight time.
Sibling rivalry?: Matthew Hatton is a capable professional but not even the best boxer in his own family.
No shame there. His older brother, Ricky Hatton, is one of the most-accomplished and popular fighters ever produced in Great Britain.
Matthew Hatton, who faces Ernesto Zepeda on the undercard Saturday, seems to have a healthy perspective yet is as determined as big brother to succeed in the sport.
He was asked whether he feels extra pressure being the brother of a star.
“I never look at it that way,” he said. “As brothers, we couldn’t be closer. We’re not just brothers, we’re best friends. He’s my manager, actually. He’s always behind my career, as I am for him. I’ve never been jealous or anything like that.
“I just try to concern myself with what I’m doing. As long as I’m boxing to the best of my ability, that’s all that concerns me, really. ÔÇª All anyone in boxing and life can do is be the best they can be. The only time I ever get down, frustrated is when I’m not boxing to the best of my ability. “
Matthew Hatton (36-4-1, 14 knockouts) is more of a boxer than his brawling brother but has been successful. If he beats Zepeda, he’ll be in line to fight for the relatively minor IBO welterweight title in the fall and then set his sights even higher.
“If I didn’t think I could go all the way, be a world champion, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he said. “There a lot of big names in the welterweight division and I think in time I’ll be ready for them.”
Quick turnaround: Daniel Jacobs’ handlers had decided not to tell him before his fight last Friday that he might fight on the pay-per-view portion of the Pacquiao-Hatton undercard if he came out unscathed. They wanted him to focus on the task at hand.
But somebody slipped and told the former amateur star. He knew before he faced Jose Varela that a quick knockout would serve him best.
Did it affect his approach to the fight? Nah. Fifteen fights into his career Jacobs already is a pro – although he did have a short work day. He stopped Varela with a single crushing right in the second round.
“I wasn’t thinking about getting a knockout,” he said this week, as he prepares to fight Michael Walker in an eight-round middleweight fight as a last-minute replacement for James Kirkland. “I didn’t want to get careless and get caught with something. I took my time and the opportunity presented itself.”
Now, he has the biggest opportunity of his career: A spot on the biggest card of the year only eight days after his last fight.
“I’ve been fighting once every month, maybe three weeks, not twice in eight days,” he said with a laugh. “This opportunity was too great to pass up, though, to fight in an event this big. I didn’t hesitate to take it. It’s not going to be easy. This is a tough opponent.”
In spite of the quick turn around this past week, and the fact he’s one of the better prospects in the world, Jacobs doesn’t want to rush things in his career. He sees world titles in his future – but at the appropriate time.
He still hasn’t had a 10-round fight.
“I want to get in a full 10 rounds before I even start thinking about that,” he said. “I want that experience before I take the next step.”
Fast track: Former Cuban amateur star Erislandy Lara (4-0, 3 KOs) will take on Chris Gray (11-7, 1 KO) in a four-round junior middleweight bout in the opening fight of the pay-per-view broadcast. After Saturday's fight, however, don't expect to see the talented and poised southpaw in any more four rounders.
You won't see him in any six rounders or many eight-round bouts, either. The former world amateur champ (2005), who had 320 amateur bouts (310-10), is on a fast track to a world title. His management and promoter (Golden Boy Promotions) believe that he will be ready to fight for a world title by the end of this year.
“After Saturday, Erislandy's next two fights will be eight rounders; he'll be fighting 10-round bouts by late summer,” said Luis DeCubas, Jr., Lara's co-manager. “By the end of the year, we think he'll be ready to fight for a world title. He can be champ before his 15th pro fight.”
Or maybe even sooner, according to his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya.
“I was talking to Erislandy about this. I was fortunate to win my first title [WBO junior lightweight] in my 12th fight,” De La Hoya said during Thursday undercard press conference. “He said to me, 'I can do it in seven.'”
So far, the 26-year-old former Cuban team captain, who defeated both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medalists during his storied amateur career, has the look of a very advanced prospect.
“He'll fight on ESPN on May 22, and then in June or July, and by then he'll be ready for contenders,” DeCubas said. “By the end of the year, we'll put him in with (title holders) Daniel Santos, Vernon Forrest, Cory Spinks; some of the most experienced fighters out there.
“We're that confident this kid is that good. You see U.S. prospects with 10 and 15 fights and they are still uncomfortable in the ring. For Lara it's like a walk in the park.”
Another De La Hoya quip: De La Hoya was conducting the news conference for the undercard fighters on Thursday when he forgot to mention Friday’s weigh in. He was reminded by co-promoter Bob Arum.
“Oh yeah, the weigh-in,” he said. “I’m nervous about weigh-ins now.”
That was a reference to his weight loss for his disastrous fight against Pacquiao in Dec. 6, which many believe left him depleted come fight time.
Chavez family: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has received most of the attention but Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. has another son who fights, Omar Chavez.
The 19-year-old junior welterweight faces Tyler Ziolkowski in a four-round fight on the undercard. Chavez (14-0-1, 10 KOs) had scant amateur experience (like his older brother) and is learning the fundamentals as a pro.