Will Hatton inevitably beat Pacquiao?
By Geoffrey Ciani: In the lead-up to his December bout with Oscar De La Hoya, I was convinced Manny Pacquiao was in way over his head. After all, he simply had too many obstacles to overcome, chief amongst them, the gargantuan size advantage enjoyed by De La Hoya. Oscar was four inches taller, had a six inch reach advantage, and also spent the better part of the previous decade campaigning in either the 154 or 160 pound weight class. Pacquiao, on the other hand, had just one fight north of the 130 pound division in his entire career, which began when he weighed just 106 pounds.
Article posted on 30.04.2009
De La Hoya had been in against some big strong fighters, and with the exception of a perfectly timed left hook to his body compliments of Bernard Hopkins, he was always able to absorb the best shots these bigger foes could muster. On the flip side, Pacquiao had been rocked by smaller fighters Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez, and had never stopped anyone bigger than 135 pound David Diaz.
Anyone who thought Pacquiao could beat De La Hoya was crazy!
Not only was Pacquiao too small for De La Hoya, but he also was too small for 140 pound champion, Ricky Hatton. It was never a matter of Pacquiao not being good enough to beat these bigger fighters. After all, he became the logical heir to King Floyd Mayweather on the mythical pound for pound charts when young Floyd decided to “retire”. He later solidified this claim when he subsequently annihilated WBC lightweight champion David Diaz. The De La Hoya-Pacquiao contest represented something unprecedented in recent times. We had the best pound for pound fighter in the world taking on a considerably larger foe he had no chance of beating, and yet, even in defeat, Pacquiao would still rightfully be viewed as the best fighter in the world. As good as he was, Pacquiao was simply too small for Hatton, and he was certainly too small for The Golden Boy.
Exuding with confidence in my predictive prowess, I penned a piece I called “De La Hoya will inevitably beat Pacquiao”. Well, this was not the first time I was incorrect with a fight prediction, and unfortunately, I am certain it shall not be the last. However, I am not sure it is possible for me to be as wrong as I was in predicting an easy win for De La Hoya. Pacquiao was nothing short of sensational. In fact, his victory was so dominant and one-sided that it becomes difficult to gauge exactly how good he really is following that performance. He essentially jumped three weight classes, and looked better than ever in doing so, dominating a man who had never been dominated inside the squared circle at any point in his long and illustrious career.
Prior to his fight with De La Hoya, I would not have given Pacquiao much of a chance against Hatton, but in light of what transpired, the question becomes: What did Pacquiao's victory over De La Hoya really show us?
In many ways, the fight said more about De La Hoya than it did about Pacquiao. Of course, Pacquiao proved that he could still punch and he proved that he still has blazing hand speed and top notch skills. This illustrated that he could be competitive north of the lightweight division, which is something I was not entirely expecting. Regardless, many questions were still not answered because De La Hoya was never able to provide much resistance. Even prior to the Pacquiao fight, it was clear that De La Hoya was on the downside of his career. Against Pacquiao, he was also weight drained and obviously had trouble moving back down to 147 pounds, so this may have all been a matter of extremely good timing for Pacquiao. De La Hoya looked slow and lethargic and had no snap on his punches—he was a shell of his former self. He has since retired from the sport after the devastating beating he received at the hands of Manny Pacquiao.
The De La Hoya fight, as impressive as it looked, was not a really good indication of how well Pacquiao might fare against bigger foes. With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that De La Hoya was damaged goods, and therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that this fight has absolutely no bearing on how a fight between Hatton and Pacquiao might play out. Hatton is still the naturally bigger, stronger fighter. Unlike De La Hoya, Hatton is still at (or very near) his prime, and under the tutelage of Floyd Mayweather Sr., he even seems to be improving, as evidenced in his most recent fight against Paulie Malignaggi. He is strong, tough, determined, and experienced, and unlike De La Hoya, he is still hungry.
It is also worth noting that De La Hoya was primarily a one-handed fighter who was never known for roughing up opponents on the inside. Once Pacquiao was able to neutralize De La Hoya's left hand, things became fairly easy, because Oscar lacks the one punch which Manny is most susceptible to—a straight right. Hatton, conversely, can punch with both hands and is an especially good body puncher. He can rip shots to the midsection with either hand, and is often known to maul opponents on the inside with his phone booth brawling tactics. De La Hoya was never able to land much of anything on Pacquiao, but that will not be the case with Hatton, whose punches are sharper and more menacing than anything a fading Oscar was able to offer.
There is no doubt that Hatton will land against Pacquiao. The big question becomes, how well can Pacquiao take a full-fledged flush shot from a 140 pound fighter? De La Hoya never managed to land much of anything against Pacquiao, but he did land one decent shot about 20 seconds into the fourth round. It was a rare right hand from Oscar, and it appeared to catch Manny flush on his chin. We have already established that right hands are not Oscar's forte, but still, it was a decent shot and Manny appeared that he may have been hurt by it. At the very least, Oscar must have thought it was a good shot, because after it landed, he momentarily leaped in and flurried. Pacquiao, to his credit, took the shot fairly well, but what will happen if he is forced to take several such shots from Hatton in the early going of this contest?
Manny's ability to take a flush shot is one of the key aspects to this fight. The other key question pertains to referee Kenny Bayless and how quickly is he apt to break the fighters apart when they are in close quarters. If Bayless is quick to break the fighters apart, this plays to Pacquiao's advantage much in the same way referee Jay Nady's officiating benefited Roy Jones when he won a portion of the heavyweight crown from John Ruiz. On the other hand, if Bayless allows the two pugilists do battle when clinched or semi-clinched on the inside, then this becomes a huge advantage for Hatton. These two elements—Pacquiao's ability to take a punch and the involvement (or lack thereof) of referee Kenny Bayless—will most likely be key in determining the outcome of this fight.
Thinking things through logically, I am inclined to believe Hatton should emerge victorious. In fact, if this was Manny's first fight since Diaz, I would be certain that, barring some freakishly unforeseen circumstance, Hatton's victory would be inevitable. Even that he did beat De La Hoya, I understand that this fight changes very little because De La Hoya was no longer the same fighter, so I would still be inclined to predict a Hatton victory. Regardless of this, Pacquiao seems to be one of those special fighters whose unique set of skills, instincts, desire, and raw talent can enable him to overcome obstacles like being at a natural size disadvantage. He may not be as fast, as strong, or as technically sound as Mayweather, who was able to stop Hatton with a perfectly timed hook, but he is almost as strong, almost as fast, and unlike Floyd, Pacquiao is relentless in his efforts to inflict damage upon his opponent.
In the end, perhaps against my better judgment, I think Pacquiao's advantages in speed and hunger see him to victory in a closely contested battle that sees Ricky begin to fade in the middle rounds. Through this point, many will be shocked by Pacquiao's ability to take a punch and they will be equally shocked by how easily Pacquiao gets his punches off. A distinct advantage in hand speed will become apparent early on. As we enter the later rounds, Hatton's work rate will be noticeably slower and there will be less snap on his punches, as Pacquiao begins finding the mark with his power shots with much more frequency. The accumulation of sharp blows from Pacquiao will prove too much for Hatton, as the bout is mercifully stopped in the middle of the 10th round.
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