Boxing


Requiem for a Hitman!

Ricky HattonBy P.H. Burbridge: Redemption time for Ricky ďThe HitmanĒ Hatton. When he first hit the scene I wondered why he chose a nickname that was already made famous by Thomas ďThe HitmanĒ Hearns. But, over the years Iíve forgiven him for that because if anyone deserves to be called the Hitman its Hatton. Heís earned it.

As he rose through the ranks and his name entered the discussion in the U.S. there were plenty of detractors who labeled him a protected British fighter who built his name on soft opposition. But, not me. I immediately enjoyed his style and to a certain extent considered Ricky to be fighting in what is sometimes called ďthe Mexican style."

Swarming your opponent and cranking left hooks to the body. Basically, wearing your man down. Itís the hardest style to be successful with. Obviously, itís not exclusive to Mexican fighters. The Great Joe Frazier was a master of this style but in recent times people have began to make the correlation between that style and Mexican fighters. Julio Cesar Chavez has a lot to do with it. So, I wasnít surprised when Hatton also picked up another nickname ďThe Manchester Mexican."

I believe it came about from a Marco Antonio Barrera comment about his fighting style where he essentially called Hatton a ďWhite Mexican." It doesnít look that great in print but obviously he meant it in a complimentary way and coming from a Mexican icon like Barrera thatís one hell of a compliment. Itís a sign of respect from one of Hattonís good friends. Again, in my opinion Hatton deserves it. Over the years his star has ascended to unbelievable heights in England and he has also established a legion of fans in the U.S.

He was one half of one of the biggest fights in recent memory when he took on ďPretty BoyĒ Floyd Mayweather Jr. He didnít win that fight but he attacked the naturally bigger man as you would expect him to. Somehow after that loss people started dismissing his many accomplishments which to this day I strongly disagree with. Out of 46 fights the man has lost only once. Heís knocked out 32 men and some of the guys who have managed to go the distance with him wished they hadnít.

Still, there are those who give him very little chance to beat the current #1 pound for pound fighter in the world Manny ďPacmanĒ Pacquiao. I understand the logic. Manny because of his win over Oscar De La Hoya has arrived at the highest point of his career both in popularity and credibility. He deserves all the accolades and I certainly agree with the Ring magazine which I donít do very often that Manny is the heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

His resume speaks for itself and four world championships in four different weight divisions is no accident. We canít understand just how huge Manny has become in the Philippines. If I had to throw a comparison out I would compare him to Joe Louis and how he was revered in the African-American community. Heís a source of great pride. Manny started with nothing. Heís a self made man and heís a great person.

Heís charitable and a kind hearted guy. The man is a hero thereís no other way to put it! As a fighter he doesnít engage in disrespectful banter back and forth with his opponents. He has a level of class in and out of the ring that cannot be taught. Heís a natural fighter who conducts himself as a professional at all times. As fans thatís exactly what we want and Manny Pacquiao has never let us down.

I much prefer a big fight where the fighters focus on strategic elements rather than insulting each other. In this fight I expect all the nonsense to come from the trainers not the fighters. These guys respect each other and are great representatives for our sport. Both are smart enough and experienced enough to know that May 2nd is going to be a tough day. A day where their outlook on life will be dramatically altered from when they wake up in the morning to the time their heads hit the pillow that night.

This match up sells itself. Fight fans know when the stakes are so high that the boxing landscape will be changed by an event. This is one of those events.

Bottom line this is no easy fight for either one.

On the day of the fight you can expect Manny to look equally as big and cut up as Ricky so there will be very little difference in their frames. That will be misleading. In terms of punching power and overall physical strength Ricky has the edge. You might even see him manhandle Manny in spots. Manny may have a very slight speed advantage but for the most part theyíre near equal in that department. They both have been cut and they both have been swollen up in fights so that could also be a factor. I see Ricky applying constant pressure in a manner that Manny has never seen before. Remember most of the fighters Manny has faced were smaller men who approached him with caution. Manny was the bigger stronger fighter in those fights but not this time.

People have this sense that Manny is much stronger than he actually is based on his performance against Oscar. Oscar barely landed against him so you canít use that performance as a barometer. Oscar didnít have the legs to keep pace with Manny and he essentially quit to spare himself further embarrassment. I donít believe he was ever wobbled or in serious jeopardy in that fight. Manny bruised his ego.

Ricky has the legs and the stamina to match Manny. Hatton will no doubt use his mauling tactics in spots to sap Mannyís strength and bring him off his toes. Thatís one aspect of Hattonís old game that will work well for him in this fight. Iím positive Floyd Sr will direct him to use the old things he excels at along with some of the new techniques heís been taught.

The speed match up will at times be similar to Mannyís fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. In the 2nd Marquez fight Manny won but he struggled. It wasnít the power of Marquez it was the angles and the speed that left Pacquiao swollen and cut at the end of that fight. Hatton is capable of delivering harder shots than Marquez and can match the speed. He is also committed to the body which I believe will be an important aspect of this fights outcome. When Manny gets hit he takes chances. He wants to respond immediately and that will play right into Hattonís hands.

Hattonís herky-jerky head movements and shoulder feints will force Manny to engage and that will pretty much be the ball game. A lot is said primarily by Freddie Roach that Hatton will revert back to his old style once he gets hit and that may be partially true but I think Manny has also shown those very same traits. Now, if Manny can replicate PBFís performance then he might win this one but I donít think he can.

Floyd Jr is a much slicker fighter and is harder to land solid on. Donít forget Freddie Roach had a very difficult time correcting Mannyís defensive deficiencies and some would argue that he still has a way to go. He has been so successful offensively that itís practically canceled out his need for defense.

Plus when youíre able to take punches from smaller men and give the appearance that youíre not being hurt then the casual observer thinks your defense is better than it actually is. It was his legs that have kept him safe against De La Hoya and in the end he flat out ran him into the ground. Hattonís got the legs to stay in Mannyís range and that completely changes the dynamics of this fight.

Itís going to be intriguing but it wonít be a work of art. Itís going to be ugly at times and pretty damn grueling. Expect that. Ricky showed in his fight against Mayweather Jr that he can fight extremely fast and could even push the bigger man around. If you put the smaller Pacquiao in the ring that night I think Hattonís performance would have been enough to do the job. Now you combine some of those same elements with Mayweather Sr as head trainer and I think the stage is set. This fight is more than winnable. There was never a problem with Hattonís offense it was his defense that critics pointed to. In the fight against Malignaggi he showed tremendous strides in defense and he looked as strong as ever. He also looked fast and intent on punching through Malignaggi.

Thereís a renewed commitment and energy in Hatton and this opportunity against a fighter he matches up well against is the opportunity heís been waiting for to correct his past sins. A win gets him closer to what heís always said heís wanted. Another go at Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Ricky and Floyd Sr know something we donít and I think Hatton emerges from this fight as the biggest star in the sport and thatís exactly what will lure PBF out of retirement.

My only question is will Ricky be acknowledged as the best fighter pound for pound in the world if he does as I expect him to? Will the fight press and the pundits finally show him the respect for his accomplishments?

If Ricky gets Manny out by KO or deals out a one sided beating then heíll be #1 P4P as far as Iím concerned.

I only hope that Iím not the only one.

(Please feel free to contact P.H. Burbridge via email at PHBboxing@yahoo.com with any comments or feedback.)

Article posted on 12.03.2009



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