Friday, May 08, 2009

Pacquiao vs. Hatton Wrap-up

Below are three really good pieces - the first from distinguishing between 'very good' and 'simply great' and the next two from guys who picked Hatton, or were hedging their bets too much and for too long against Pacquiao. I also very much like the way Coleman presents his case, from a memory perspective. It will not be the present that will judge whether Pacquiao does indeed deserve to be mentioned with storied names such as Duran, Hearns, Leonard or Hagler. But Coleman makes a fine case nevertheless and I tend to agree with him though I'd not be as effusive. The jingoism (largely on the Philippine side) actually subtracts tremendously from the really great opportunity to enjoy Pacquiao's progression towards a more complete fighter, judging things from the perspective of the art and science of boxing. The flag-waving? It's nice and colorful but can also be mostly a bore.

If you've been trawling the net looking for great articles, you would have come across a huge number of essays that tried to pick apart Hatton and Pacquiao as the fight neared. Many bet on Hatton but few remarked the way Walker (below; second piece) has in simply acknowledging how wrong they were but in a spirit that also raised the beauty of the sport, largely due to its unpredictability (and the insane urge of even the most schooled boxing pundits to constantly make predictions). Here's what he said, before you dive into Coleman's take:

Coach Tim Walker sez -- "I made a bet with one’s readers and to pay my debt, “I, Tim Walker, though thoroughly experienced in boxing really didn’t know what the hell I was talking about when I picked Ricky Hatton to beat Manny Pacquiao. I was an idiot savant and you sir are the Man!”"

All thanks to the usual great


Pacquiao vs. Hatton: When Great Confronted Good
By Frank Lotierzo,

This past weekend’s Ring magazine/IBO junior welterweight title bout between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton was the case of a great fighter confronting a good fighter. It can be said via the world’s best wordsmith, but stating it any other way is simply window dressing.

In Pacquiao's case, he's not just a great fighter, he's one of the best pound for pound fighters in fistic history. Many fighters from past eras would've met the same fate as Hatton.

Usually, most boxing fans can identify a great fighter when they see one. We all pretty much know what they look like. However, one thing exhibited by all-time greats that's seldom mentioned or discussed at length is how often do we see them get nailed with their opponent’s Sunday punch during a fight. Sure, greats like Sugar Ray Leonard and Larry Holmes kissed a few right hand bombs while in their prime from life-takers like Thomas Hearns and Earnie Shavers, but those occasions were few and far between.

This brings us back to Ricky Hatton. Ricky, is/was a very good fighter. Nobody compiles a record like his without crossing paths with some other upper-tier fighters. Believe me -- he is a much better fighter than his showing against Pacquiao would indicate. His record of 45-2 looks spectacular, especially with Mayweather and Pacquiao representing the (2).

When all is said and done, Hatton's downfall was more the case of Pacquiao's freakish ability than his own ineptness. Ricky is who he is. It wouldn't have mattered a bit had Eddie Futch, Ray Arcel, or Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach prepared him for his last fight. The outcome would've been the same every time. And nobody understands that better than Roach, who told the boxing press that he had the better fighter and great will always beat good.

This past Saturday night Ricky Hatton got caught with Manny Pacquiao's Sunday punch, a punch he never even saw, and probably wouldn't have slipped it had Manny told him it was coming. Boxing history is replete with good fighters getting nailed cleanly when they fight great fighters. Ask Jermain Taylor, Jeff Lacy or Zab Judah. I've heard it overstated and understated since the fight occured. You can break it down to -- he wasn't looking for the right-hook or Pacquiao's punch variation all you'd like, the reality is great fighters are born and Pacquiao has shown he knows how to deliver his power. And the ability to routinely deliver it against the upper-tier fighters he's fought is one of the things that defines his greatness.

It's bewildering thinking about what Hatton was confronted with in the form of Manny Pacquiao for the nearly six minutes the fight lasted. How about an opponent with faster hands who possessed a bigger punch, who could put them together better from any spot in the ring. There's no doubting that during training camp Ricky worked hard on not coming straight in, leaving himself wide open during and after exchanges. Not only did he have to hope to make Pacquiao miss, but he needed to make him pay too -- in order to have a chance to score the upset. In the gym with big gloves and head gear on he probably looked good and showed marked improvement defensively. But doing it in the gym while sparring and on fight-night are a lifetime apart. Slipping and getting under punches sounds great and works every time against an imaginary opponent. In reality the list of fighters who can attack and push the fight and routinely make their opponent miss is quite short. And when the opponents whose offense is trying to be navigated go by the names Pacquiao and Mayweather, a lot of names will disappear from the list.

The problem is when a fighter gets hit during the heat of battle they revert back to what they feel most safe and comfortable doing. What we saw happen towards the end of the first round and into the second round was stimulated by a degree of panic and self preservation on Hatton's part. Unfortunately, Ricky didn't have the time or mindset to think his way through of what not to do while Manny was getting through with right-hooks and three punch combinations delivered with the intent of ending the fight. In fact, Pacquiao remarked after the fight that he knew after the first knockdown Hatton would be open for everything else. That's because fighters know.

After Ricky was dropped by Manny's right-hook, his thought process was consumed with, "What can I do to make this stop and stabilize the fight before it's over." Once that happened he drew on what he knows best, trying to inflict more hurt on the person who is hurting him and putting him on the canvas. The idea that by engaging Pacquiao might lead to his demise never entered his mind. Hatton’s thought was giving Manny something back to at least momentarily stop him from taking liberty with him. Once he was committed to that, there was no turning back. By that point Pacquiao had too much momentum and confidence. Even if Ricky fought like he had during his sparring sessions in preparation for the fight, there's no way Manny was going to allow him to fight smart and under control. He realized once the pressure was on he'd be able to force Hatton to engage with him.

When I hear it said that Hatton should've done this and shouldn't have done that, I ask myself, could those saying that really understand what pressure he was under and how fast everything was happening? Regardless of the training and film study a fighter puts in before the fight, greatness can't be simulated. That's what Ricky Hatton was dealing with the night of May 2nd, 2009.

The sport of boxing needs more Ricky Hattons. No, he's not a great fighter, but he stretched and got more out of his ability than a lot of other fighters who've won a title. He also never shortchanged the fans or himself. On top of that, he fought the best available opposition every time out. Believe me when I tell you, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao both respect Ricky Hatton. He just happened to walk into a trap set by Mayweather and was beaten to the punch by Pacquiao, two fighters who will most likely determine who was fighter of the decade when they meet sometime in late November or early December of this year.

Not every fighter can be Sugar Ray Robinson, Harry Greb, Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali. If all fighters were the equal of those greats we'd have no reason to marvel at them.

When good fighters confront great or all-time great fighters in the ring, it can end suddenly and painfully for the good or really good fighter. #

Manny Pacquiao: A Fighter for all Seasons, Years, and Time
By Anthony Coleman,
Ricky Hatton never saw it coming.

Fans never saw it coming and neither did members of the sports media. The only one who envisioned it was winner’s trainer, Freddie Roach, and even he was off by a round. The fact that Pacquiao stopped Ricky Hatton last night to capture the legitimate 140 pound title wasn’t too shocking (he was the favorite coming in and most picked him to win by the mid to late rounds), but very few saw him nearly taking him out in the first round and then finishing the job with an amazing left cross with one second remaining in the second round. Again just amazing stuff and that is why he has ascended to the realm of becoming the most popular fighter in the sport. Yet this victory is far more significant than any in his career. Now, it no longer is a question of putting him as the pound for pound number one fighter in the sport, because he has a lock on that top spot. No, it is time that we start to include Manny Pacquiao in the discussions of the greatest fighters of all time..

That might be difficult for some to digest, especially in this moment seeing that the sport does not have the same mass appeal that it had in previous decades, but all the evidence points to Pacquiao in fact being a truly once in a lifetime talent. He has defeated, in my opinion, three men who were in my top five pound for pound (Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Manuel Marquez) a good and much bigger Lightweight in David Diaz, and took out a top 15 pound for pounder in Hatton. Add into the mix that he has reached the historic four world titles in four different weight classes plateau (at Flyweight, Jr. Featherweight, Jr. Featherweight, and Lightweight), but most impressively he has now become the only man in recent memory to defeat the legitimate world champion in four different weight classes (Barrera at Featheweight, Juan Manuel Marquez at Junior Lightweight, Gabriel Mira at Flyweight, and now Hatton at Jr. Welterweight). Hell you can make a case that in his time that he was the best fighter at the Flyweight, Jr. Featherweight, and Jr. Lightweight division. In terms of accomplishments neither Roy Jones Jr. nor Floyd Mayweather can touch that. The only active boxer to claim to even approach Pacquiao’s run of greatness is Bernard Hopkins, and Manny’s quality of opposition outpaces him too. I think it is clear to me that he is the best fighter of his generation. Yet comparing him to other past greats, in some categories he outpaces them as well.

The heads on his mantle is more prestigious than the scalps claimed by both Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker (though the divisions they too both won titles in multiple weight classes and were dominant in the divisions they settled into). His quality of opposition defeated is also greater than Thomas Hearns and Hagler’s and he has nearly matched the latter in sustained longevity. For comparisons sake the only fighters over the last thirty-five years who I believe were clearly better were Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran (and he is closing in on Leonard). In short Pacquiao ranks among the very best fighters in the modern era, and in the pre-multiple belts era he probably would rank even higher. Again this is from a guy that even though five years ago was a true future-Hall of Famer (and by the time of the draw with Juan Manuel Marquez he had earned his ticket to Canastota), nobody truly considered him to even be on the path of joining the super-elite fighters of all-time. The result of this can be traced to his hunger to be the best and his willingness to improve.

Again we have had too many fighters in recent memory who has claimed to be the best, had the talent, but when it was time to get down to business and face the best they often chose to take the road of least resistance in order to fatten their wallets. Yet Pacquiao is different. He loves the thrill of being the best and relishes open combat. In 2004, after his then career defining triumph over Marco Antonio Barrera, he could have easily taken the low road and asked for an easy HBO payday. Instead six months later he decided to take on Juan Manuel Marquez (who was avoided like a plague at the time), just for the glory of claiming to have him on his ledger (and to snatch his two featherweight belts). He wanted to be dominant and from that point on, except for 2007, he has continued the trend of fighting naturally bigger and elite level men. I know I sound like a broken record but I’ll say it again; this is the mark of a true all-time great. The other ingredient to his success has been his willingness to improve his technique.

He was once purely a physical freak, mixing outlandish power and speed while exhibiting mediocre to poor technique. However, by time of his rematch with Erik Morales that fighter was dying. He officially died in his one-sided beatdown of David Diaz last summer. Now he maintains balance when he punches, throws every punch in the book with power and in combinations, and his creativity is superb. Leading with right hooks instead of opening with the jab, going to the body with a hook followed by an uppercut, slipping punches with deft head movement then countering, and staying patient as he continues to batter his opponent Pacquiao is now a true ring technician, something I never though I’d say. All of this can be traced with his relationship with Freddie Roach.

It is fair to say that these two men have now joined the likes of Dundee-Ali and Thomas Hearns-Emmanuel Steward (and it must be said that Steward was calling Pacquiao a top ten pound-for-pounder as early as his fight with Emmanuel Lucero in 2003) among the pre-eminent boxer and trainer tag-teams. Freddie’s contribution to Pacquiao’s success should not be understated. We often give too little credit to a coach when a fighter wins or becomes successful, often claiming that they didn’t need them to be great when many times it is far from the truth. While it is ultimately the boxer’s job to go out and win the fight it is also their duty to be a student and for the trainer to be a teacher. It would be foolish for any of us reading this article to assume that Pacquiao’s complete turnaround in technical proficiency is a mere solo act and not the result of listening to Roach. As I said in my year end awards that in time Roach might join his mentor Eddie Futch at the seat at the table for the all-time great trainers, and while I’m not comfortable enough to make that case just yet, he is definitely in the room now. Without him we probably would not be calling Manny a true living legend.

As a boxing fan it has been a pleasure to see the maturation of the “Pac-Man,” and his reign is not over yet. Indeed it might not be over for sometime. At 30 years of age it looks as if Pacquiao is peaking and showing the ability to maintain his speed, strength and power he is a match to much bigger men. How far the elevator goes is beyond my vision. Could he fight the winner of Mayweather-Marquez? A rematch with Marquez would get boxing fans pumped, but a showdown with Mayweather would be the boxing event of the decade. Will he take on Miguel Cotto if he were to get past Joshua Clottey? How about a confrontation with the Shane Mosley? Either way from this point on it is no longer a question of if he ranks in the all-time best fighters in history, but what number will he be at when he retires. Right now we should all be happy that we are seeing an athlete who is performing at a historically high level. #

Pac Man wins and I’m Eatin’ Crow!
Ricky HattonBy Coach Tim Walker –

On Saturday, May 2, 2009 boxing fans were treated to an amazing show of speed, power, timing and ring generalship when Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2 with 37 KOs) took on Ricky Hatton (45-2-0 with 32 KOs). After considering every variable of this fight, going thru three or four scenarios per round, evaluating both fighter’s resumes and talking with other people I consider informed on the finer points of boxing I came to a prediction. I openly stated how I thought the fight would play out. Let me remind you:

I felt the fight would live up to all the hype. The feeling out period would be short if at all. I didn’t feel that Hatton could be taken out easily but wasn’t sure that he was ready for the aggressive southpaw style of Pacquiao. I felt that the Pac Man, on the other hand, was a wider puncher and would be more susceptible to getting caught trying to land his own punches. Thus my prediction was Hatton by mid round knock out! Man was I wrong!

I figured there would be a bunch of speed, power, great positioning and ring generalship in this fight. I was right about that. What I didn’t figure is that it would be possessed by only one fighter, Manny Pacquiao. My view of the fight began to change when I watched the weigh in. My instincts about the fight began to shift a bit. Still, having already openly predicted I couldn’t go back and change my pick. What I noticed was that Hatton looked virtually skeletal and frail while Manny looked thick and ripped. I started getting the feeling that maybe getting to 140 pounds was too costly. Cutting weight is one of those little nuances that general boxing viewers won’t understand. One or two pounds too much and you can lose the fight before the first bell dings.

If you have ever read my work then you know I make every effort to be even-handed and I don’t make excuses for fighters. It doesn’t matter if you just started boxing, are a seasoned vet or should have stopped fighting 2 or 3 fights ago. You lace ‘em up, you go in the ring, you take your lumps and deliver as much pain as you can. Having said that, here is my take on things as they stand now.

Manny Pacquiao

A lot of us moved Manny into the number 1 spot I think prematurely. His resume is outstanding and he looked excellent against Oscar Dela Hoya but I also considered the fact that Oscar agreed to go down to 147 pounds for that fight. A weight that Oscar had not attained since facing Arturo Gatti in 2001. I felt the weight loss was too much and possibly affected Oscar’s performance. But the Hatton bout was at 140 pounds. A weight that was very normal for Hatton. Hatton even stated that he had no problem making the weight. It was amazing how dominate, quick and powerful Pacquiao was against Hatton. When comparing how Pacquiao and Mayweather faired against Dela Hoya and Hatton it is worth noting that Pacquiao’s performances were better.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

If you haven’t heard, Floyd Mayweather is back. If you’re a true fan then you know he never really left. Still, Mayweather hasn’t fought since his tenth round knockout of Hatton in December 2007 and he has never lost as a professional. At the time of his departure he sat atop the Pound for Pound rankings. The reality for Floyd is the bar of accepted achievement is higher than it is for most other fighters. His record is impressive but it’s the names that we don’t see on it that makes fans dismiss his claim of being the best boxer on the planet. For every Castillo there is a Sosa. For every Dela Hoya there is a Gatti. What aren’t on his resume are names of any of the other fighters in his division currently considered upper level. No Cotto, Mosely, Margarito or Williams. I will stop there because that is how high the bar is set for Mayweather. I can’t mentally gauge the uproar we would hear if Mayweather announced he was fighting Berto, Clottey or Forrest. But it isn’t only this that plagues Mayweather. His detractors find ways to dismiss his victories regardless of his performance by claiming that his opponent wasn’t that good, was too old or something similar. He is scheduled to face Juan Manual Marquez, considered Pound for Pound #2 in the world, in July and his detractors consider it a mismatch. Wow! I spoke with one fan who said even if Mayweather beat Pacquiao, Cotto and Mosely he still wouldn’t look at him as an all time great. Again, wow! That is his cross to bare I guess.

Pacquiao vs. Mayweather

This fight is inevitable. It’s got to happen. But it doesn’t only need to happen for Mayweather it must also happen for Pacquiao and for boxing fans all across the globe. Pacquiao is in a new league known as the 8-figure payday club and there are only a few matchups that will offer him that kind of money. A fight with Mayweather is one of them. The other 8 figure fights for Pacquiao and Mayweather are possibly Cotto (unless he loses to Clottey), Mosely, Margarito (once reinstated) and possibly Williams (if he fights at 147 again). I fully expect to see Pacquiao/Mayweather by the end of 2009. Having said that, based on Pacquiao’s recent performances and activity I can’t put Mayweather ahead of him in the Pound for Pound rankings. Stating this as clearly as I possibly can, “Pacquiao is legitimately the Pound for Pound #1 boxer in the world!” Maybe the king of the hill (Mayweather) didn’t get knocked off the hill but a New King (Pacquiao) definitely built his own hill on a firmer resume.

Coach Tim Walker

I made a bet with one’s readers and to pay my debt, “I, Tim Walker, though thoroughly experienced in boxing really didn’t know what the hell I was talking about when I picked Ricky Hatton to beat Manny Pacquiao. I was an idiot savant and you sir are the Man!” It’s all in the fun.

No comments: