Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Early Thoughts On Hatton vs Pacquiao

When Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton square off on May 2nd, it will be a meeting of the two biggest stars in boxing. Not only is this a big fight in terms of significance, it is also an international event with the British superstar sure to bring his raucous following all the way to the bright lights of Vegas. However, the popularity contest is over once the bell rings, so what should we expect when it's time for the fists to fly?

Here are some early thoughts on the fight:

In the match-up between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, both men have vulnerabilities that play into his opponent's strengths. But I believe the chinks in Hatton's armor are more severe.

On one hand, Hatton's going to make it very uncomfortable for Pacquiao. This will be the first time in several fights where Pacquiao will have to deal with an opponent that has the ability and style to rough him up. Maintaining consistent distance from Hatton is nearly an impossible task because of his fulgurous speed of foot. He will get inside, and I'm interested in how Manny deals with Ricky's body shots.

On the other, Hatton has a history of getting hurt against southpaws. Counter punching specialist Emannon Magee dropped him for the first time in his career back in 2002. Luis Collazo badly staggered him in a 2006 fight, in which many thought Collazo had won. Juan Urango landed a crushing body blow that took the air out of Hatton and caused him to change his style from crowd-pleasing to sleep-inducing in order to ensure victory. Manny has strengths those guys don't; he doesn't just wait and counter like Magee, take rounds off like Collazo, or have slow feet like Urango. His style and hand speed is going to be tough for Hatton to deal with. Too tough.

I see Hatton giving a valiant effort, but eventually running into one too many counter right hands. I like Manny Pacquiao by late knockout.

-Michael Nelson

I couldn't possibly make a serious pick right now, but I may favour the Filipino at this point. The outcome of this battle will be decided by the feet of both men and the mindset referee, as far as I am concerned. Against two high quality southpaws, Hatton has struggled. Neither Juan Urango nor Luis Collazo bring the athletic package that Manny Pacquiao does, though it is true that both of those men are more likely to try to bring the fight to their opponent than the Pac-Man. Manny should bounce around from a distance and try to target his best shots up the middle, or smack a right hook around the side. He's got to let Ricky Hatton know that there is only one Manny Pacquiao.

(Photo © Ray Kasprowicz)

No one can deny that The Hitman is the bigger and stronger man, but does that necessarily mean he'll jump on the #1 fighter in the world, and rough him up for the win? Absolutely not. The question is, will he be able to make his advantages count? Also, will he be allowed to jump into a bunch of clinches every round without warning? Will he be able to control the clinch from the outset?

Hatton's foot speed is often overlooked. Can Ricky close the distance on this guy like he has been able to so many other times in the past? I believe that Manny will have a small advantage in the footwork, because I don't see him trying to stand his ground this time around. He'll probably attempt to stay at range and use some angles to set up his left hand down the middle. I just don't think the champion will ever be all that comfortable against lefties, and this is one of the most deadly we've ever seen.

If I had to make a pick today, I'd take Pacquiao by decision, with a clean knock down. Hatton could mug him in close, and that's where the ref comes in, but I think Manny will control the distance enough to win.

-Lee Payton

This is a highly intriguing match up between a fighter whose work I feel is vastly underrated and an all time great whose recent move up in weight may be overrated. To paraphrase Teddy Atlas, this fight will be all about distance.

I really have to question what kind of challenge Manny has been given by Diaz and De La Hoya. While David tries his heart out, he just is not an elite fighter, and I think I would pick Diaz over the version of Oscar that showed up in December.

Hatton is clearly elite and brings more speed to the table than Manny has seen in quite some time. It really comes down to Manny catching the champ on the way in and making him hesitant to advance. If he can do that, you have to like his chances.

Ricky needs to jab his way in instead of getting anxious and just wildy lunging inside. Hatton's foot speed is vastly under appreciated and I don't think film does it justice. Manny will be surprised by how fast Hatton can get on top of him. The jab is the key to avoid being timed and hurt. I also think Hatton's chin "issues" are overstated by the boxing community. Anybody that jumps into punches from pro fighters is going to get rocked. The Lazcano bout was his comeback fight after a devastating defeat. On top of that it was the first loss of his career. There are many mental hurdles to jump over there that do not even include the man standing across from you. Malignaggi brings little punch resistance and I liked that Ricky worked his way inside behind punches when he could have gotten by without doing it. It was the the most intelligent and disciplined fight he has delivered in years.

I hate to be critical of Pacquaio's opponents in Diaz & Oscar, because whatever your assesment of those two are, Manny destroyed them like a true champion. He will have the speed advantage here and Pac has really grown as a fighter in the last few years. Freddie Roach and Pacquiao have demonstrated the ability to come up with a game plan and put it to work. That is going to be critical here, as he will need to remain disciplined and calm in the eye of the storm. Hatton has shown a tendency to get wrong footed against southpaws and that is the last thing he wants to do against a pit bull like Manny. Pacquaio needs to work on fighting like a classic southpaw here. He should concentrate on using traditional southpaw foot movement and serving more as a matador instead of the bull. If he can pick him apart that way early he can turn into the bull later on.

After a fantastic opening month for the sport, we can all look forward to a true Super Fight in May between two of the best fighters and nicest guys in boxing. I, for one, can't wait.

-Mark Lyons

This is a competitive fight, particularly compared to a lot of high profile fights of the last few years. And the Filipino and British fans should give this fight a genuine buzz. I think people are underrating Hatton a bit these days. I think Paquiao will win, but this will be a more difficult fight than Delahoya. Oscar was washed up, dried out and soft as butter. Hatton might not be at his peak anymore, but he should still have a strength advantage, and his ugly mauling style works best when up against a smaller man.

Still it’s quite amazing that Paquiao, who picked up his first title at flyweight, is likely to be a betting favorite against the 140 lbs champ, considered to be a solid fighter, and even ranked in the top ten P4P ratings by Ring Magazine. Not an official pick but Pacquiao by decision in a tough fight. And if he does win, he’ll just be adding to all-time great credentials and making a case that’s one of the best fighters in the past few decades.

- John Vaci

I'm a Pac-Man fan, so I'll be rooting for Manny, but I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other about who's going to win, as I think it's the type of match-up that could go either way depending on the night.

I will say though that how the ref chooses to handle the fight will be very key. Hatton's going to want to get physical in there, and to what extent he's allowed to will have a big impact on how the fight plays out.

It should be fun.

-Andrew Fruman

I would expect Hatton and Pacquiao to provide freewheeling action early, but over the first several rounds, as Hatton realizes that Pacquiao's foot speed is his real barrier to winning, he will fall into the familiar Hitman pattern of jumping in with a punch or two and then clinching and grappling, looking to manhandle the presumed smaller man. As it happens Manny stands 5'6" to Ricky's 5'7", and enjoys a two inch reach advantage over the Brit. It also would be fair to say that Pacquiao's "run" at 147 has been more impressive than Hatton's bouts with Collazo and Mayweather, and supports the argument that in this case, size doesn't matter.

If Paquiao's elite stretch at 126-147 has proven anything, it's that he is adaptable to master brawlers, master boxers, and everything in between, and I'd imagine that after a round or two of wrestling, Pacquiao will crank up the movement, and begin strafing Hatton as he comes in, elusively darting away after popping his foe in the beer chute.

I look for a competitive fight, in which Pacquiao makes Hatton fight on his terms. No doubt Hatton may have his moments, and his toughness, grit and determination will offer him opportunities to change the fight, perhaps with a withering body attack, but if he is to do so, he must be able to catch the Filipino, and to do that he may wish there were more than only one Ricky Hatton, to lend him a hand.

-Jeff Pryor

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GG said...

I'm not sure that Hatton can stay with him. Both guys are active so it's going to be a great fight, but I think I'd have to take Pac right now.

Lee Payton said...

The athletic difference between the two is minimal, so I can see why some would take the bigger, stronger guy who maximizes his advantages in every fight. However, I think Pac has the overall speed and foot work to make things rough on Ricky from the outside. I think Hatton is gonna have a hard time hitting him with clean punches with any consistency while taking the odd sharp on in the face. I can see his brow busting up along the way, as well.

Should be a very good fight, with an all-time atmosphere.

Boxing tickets said...

Hatton will definately be going in as the under dog for this fight - Pacman's speed will definately cause him problems. I'm just really looking forward to the trip over and hope its as entertaining as it should be - two aggressive fights