This Week's Boxing Notebook

May 4, 2009

This past week featured a dominant performance in the premiere boxing event of the year. Here is a recap of the weekend's big fight, and some of the top happenings surrounding the sweet science:

Pac-Man's Coronation

Saturday night in Las Vegas Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao left little doubt as to who unequivocally deserves the title of best active pound-for-pound fighter, as he emphatically knocked out Ricky Hatton in just two rounds.

From the opening bell it was clear that Pacquiao's blistering handspeed and still-evolving offensive attack were too much for the overmatched Hatton. After dropping Hatton - the reigning linear Junior Welterweight (140-lb.) champ - twice in a dominant first round, Pacquiao ended it with a devastating left mere seconds before the bell sounded to end Round 2.

The win was the Filipino fighter's tenth triumph in a row, and earned him the International Boxing Organization junior welterweight world title. In addition, it established himself as the odds-on favorite to win his third (and second straight) honor as fighter of the year. Pacquiao's undeniably dominant performance was easily one of the most one-sided superfights since perhaps Mike Tyson's destruction of Michael Spinks in just 91 seconds.

Hatton's troubles began with a beautiful inside counter right hook by Pacquiao in Round One. The punch was an ominous sign for the Manchester, England native, because such right hooks are weapons that many southpaws, including prior versions of Pacquiao, lack in their repetoire. The fact that Pacquiao was confidently utilizing that punch in the opening round of such a big fight, only further demonstrates that even as a six-division champion, Pacquiao continues to improve as a fighter.

This new-found weapon dropped Hatton face down on all fours midway through the first round. The visibly hurt Hatton would rise and bravely try to endure the attack, but would be decked again under another fusilade of punches, culminated by a laser-like straight left just before the end of the round.

Hatton didn't receive much in the way of tactical advice between rounds, as his corner appeared to be just as shell-shocked as their fighter. Head trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. could be heard imploring his fighter to move his head, and jab his way inside, but it was all for naught.

At the outset of the second round, Hatton tried to rough up his foe along the ropes, but Pacquiao wisely stayed calm and used his superior footwork and athleticism to circle away. Once clear, Pacquiao would then dart in to land combinations before bouncing back out of the Brit's range. Hatton could muster up little in the way of a response, as a clumsy right hand that he landed about halfway through the round was probably his most effective punch of the evening.

The end would come with about 7 seconds left in the round as Pacquiao landed a monstrous left that may be one of the most ferocious single punches ever thrown in a big fight.

The shot left Hatton prone and motionless on his back in the center of the ring looking up at the lights. Veteran referee Kenny Bayless took one look at the sprawled out Hatton and waved the fight off at 2:59 of the second round, leaving Pacquiao, his corner, and millions of Filipinos from Vegas to Manila celebrating.

For its part, the sellout crowd was almost speechless in the aftermath, as if they didn't know what to make of the amazing performance that they had just seen. Even the numerous celebrity fight fans, former champs, veteran boxing writers, and scribes from various online publications were seen shaking their heads in disbelief, as if still trying to digest what they had just seen.

Pacquiao's Legacy

This was truly a career-defining win for Pacquiao. He didn't just beat Hatton. He didn't merely knock him out.

Instead, Saturday night's performance was history in the making, as the Filipino folk hero became the first modern fighter to claim lineal world titles in four weight classes (Hammerin Henry Armstrong once simultaneously held world titles).

In easily demolishing a recognized lineal champ who had never previously lost at his natural weight of 140 pounds, the post-fight buzz focused not on whether Pacquiao is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but rather on whether he is the greatest of all time.

Pacquiao had been considered the best fighter in the world at flyweight (112 lbs.), featherweight (126 lbs.), and junior lighweight (130 lbs.), to go along with his alphabet-title wins at super bantamweight (122 lbs.) and lightweight (135 lbs).

Saturday he dominated Ricky Hatton in a way no other fighter has done before — not even former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.

And, he did so while barely breaking a sweat.

However difficult it may be, we must attempt to put the Pac-Man's recent accomplishments in proper perspective.

Following his last three fights, Pacquiao has ascended to a new level of adulation and respect, even among hard-to-impress boxing purists.

However, the point has rightfully been been made by some that none of his last three opponents (lightweight David Diaz, welterweight Oscar De La Hoya, and now Hatton) were truly elite fighters at the time that he fought them.

Diaz is a solid and rough fighter, but best described as a journeyman. De La Hoya came close to greatness during a Hall of Fame career, but by the time he fought Pacquiao he was significantly faded. And Hatton truly never approached greatness, despite being an accomplished champion.

The most important criteria in establishing Pac-Man's legacy is his series of 7 fights against the Mexican trio of Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao went 5-1-1 against these three future Hall of Famers (the lone loss coming in his first fight with Morales, who he later destroyed in their two subsequent bouts), earning him the nickname "The Mexicutioner."

Despite only one official loss against these three men, both of his two fights with Marquez were razor thin decisions that easily could have gone the other way. Thus far, Marquez has proven to be the Filipino's perfect foil.

The Pride of the Philippines

Ever the humble sportsman, in the fight's immediate aftermath Pacquiao admitted that he was surprised at how swiftly and easily he had defeated Hatton, saying "I'm surprised this looked so easy." Then, almost embarassed at what he had admitted, he continued, "But we worked hard since the beginning of March, so this victory is as big for me as the De La Hoya victory."

For Pacquiao, a fighter who started his professional career as a 16 year-old, 106-pound light-flyweight, the win culminated a fascinating rags to riches story, one that could only be possible in the sport of prize fighting.

Such was the level of desperation and depth of poverty in Pacquiao's childhood that legend has it Manny's father once killed and ate his son's pet dog, leading the boy to run away from home and live a life on the streets. During those early years, Pacquiao was often forced to sleep in cardboard boxes, until the sport of boxing offered him a lifeline.

Now when Pacquiao fights, virtually all Filipinos, including warring factions in various areas of the country, drop whatever they are doing to watch their countryman secure yet another victory. Singlehandedly, Pacquiao has brought pride to a nation that has been battered by financial problems and political divisions, and following his victory over Hatton, Filipino President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Sunday a “national day of celebration” to honor his win.

Up Next . . .

The desert was already buzzing with anticipation heading into the year's first genuine "SuperFight," but, ever the showman, former Pound-for-Pound champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. managed to briefly steal some of the shine from Pacquiao on Saturday afternoon when he announced his return to the ring with a mid-July fight against Juan Manuel Marquez.

The announcement, made only hours before Saturday's fight, was a clear attempt to upstage the impending Pacquiao-Hatton showdown.

After announcing his return, Mayweather was then asked whether he planned to stick around and watch the night's festivities. He balked, stating that he already had plans to take his daughter bowling.

Good thing for Floyd, because if he had seen Pacquiao's 5 minutes and 59 second destruction of Hatton (a man Mayweather took 10 rounds to vanquish), he might have realized what most fight fans already know - that the future of boxing lies in the furious fists of the Filipino phenom.

While there is hope that Mayweather-Pacquiao can happen sometime before the end of 2009, Mayweather must first come through in his July fight with Juan Manuel Marquez unscathed. And even then, all Mayweather may be able to do is wait in line.

The road to greatness now runs through an unassuming Filipino fighter who truly does let his fists do the talking.

For his part, Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum says Pacquiao will wait until Miguel Cotto's June 13 fight with rugged Ghanian Joshua Clottey, before deciding upon a next opponent.

Roach meanwhile, took the opportunity to fire the opening salvo in what is sure to be a prolonged state of psychological warfare with Mayweather by dismissively stating to reporters, "I think he (Mayweather) is scared of Pacquiao." Roach then told media sources, "If (Miguel) Cotto wants to come down a few pounds or if Shane Mosley wants to come down a few pounds, we can make that happen."

In fact, newly crowned welterweight champ Sugar Shane Mosley could be an intriguing potential opponent for both men.

Curiously, Roach seemed to have a much higher opinion of Mosley's merits as a fighter, saying, "The most dangerous guy out there for Manny right now is probably Shane Mosley. They both like to fight and his (Mosley's) pace is dangerous."

As for Pacquiao's views, he simply told media sources that "My next fight will probably be in October or November."

Although it's not likely to happen immediately, the odds of a Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown are very good because there's just too much money involved for it not to occur.

If so, one has to admit that Pacquiao already has won Round 1. On a day that began with Mayweather trying to steal some thunder by announcing his comeback, Pacquiao ended that chatter by going into the ring and showing why he is unquestionably one of the most exciting things to happen to boxing in a long, long time.

End of the Line for Hatton?

Hatton, who had never previously lost at his natural weight of 140 pounds, ended Saturday's fight flat on his back for several minutes before finally being assisted to his feet.

The 30-year-old was taken to hospital to have a precautionary brain scan which, according to his father Ray, revealed no damage.

"He’s perfectly all right," Ray Hatton later told BBC Radio Five on Sunday. "They’ve checked him out. He’s had all the tests and everything and he’s not got a mark on him."

Asked about his son’s likely future in boxing, Hatton replied: "We will support him in whatever he does and we’ll leave that with him."

Shortly after the much-hyped bout had ended with Pacquiao’s stunning left hook to Hatton’s jaw, the Englishman’s assistant trainer Lee Beard said there would be no rushed career decision.

"The one and only focus right now is Ricky’s health," Beard told reporters. "Only he can make that decision and it’s all about what he wants to do."

Hatton's future is unclear, with former world featherweight champion and current analyst Barry McGuigan of Ireland urging him to hang up his gloves, saying his career is over following his defeat.

"After a loss like that there is no point talking about a future in the ring," McGuigan wrote in London's Daily Mirror. He then added, "He was a world class boxer, one of Britain's finest, no question. Now it is time to go."

He said Hatton "need not come down hard on himself," since Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were "two of the greatest fighters to have laced gloves."

"It won't ever undo the defeats of the past 18 months and he has no chance of avenging them at this stage."

Jacobs Continues to Impress

Undefeated junior middleweight propsect Daniel Jacobs improved to 16-0 with an impressive 8 round unanimous decision victory over tough veteran Michael Walker. The twenty-two year-old Jacobs, a native of Brownsville, Brooklyn, won despite having last fought just eight days prior to Saturday night's fight. Jacobs showed impressive handspeed and ring generalship in besting the tough Walker, who dropped to 19-2-2 with the loss.

Jacobs was a late replacement against Walker after fellow prospect James Kirkland of Austin, Texas, was jailed when he was allegedly found to be in possession of a firearm. Kirkland had previously served a 30-month sentence for armed robbery, and reportedly violated terms of his parole with his latest arrest.

At the present time, a disposition has yet to be reached in Kirkland's new case.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for

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