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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Catch Pacquiao, Hatton while you can

Saturday’s Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight at the MGM Grand is expected to be one of the last opportunities for fans to see either man in action regardless of who wins.

The two, both 30 years old, have expressed a desire to leave boxing at or near the top of their game, likely within a couple of fights of this week’s junior welterweight showdown at the Grand Garden Arena.

Both have a variety of options outside the sport.

Pacquiao, who has already run for Philippine public office once, losing a bid for a congressional seat in 2007, figures to pursue politics in his homeland.

Hatton plans to devote his energy to his fledgling boxing promotion company in his native England. All too aware of the less-than-stellar reputation of the profession, Hatton promises he’ll be an honest boxing promoter — the kind who helps young fighters and doesn’t rip them off.

Pacquiao, in a recent interview during his training camp, said he is officially undecided about his future in boxing after the Hatton fight.

His longtime trainer, Freddie Roach, however, mentioned three potential opponents who could vie to fill two openings on Pacquiao’s card before he calls it quits:

• Juan Manuel Marquez, who has fought Pacquiao twice, losing a split decision last year and recovering from three first-round knockdowns to salvage a draw in 2004.

• Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose supposedly imminent un-retirement date should be the subject of a betting proposition at one of those offshore sports books.

• Shane Mosley, who looked terrific in a ninth-round stoppage of Antonio Margarito in January.

“I would like to see Manny fight two more times after Hatton,” Roach said. “I’d like to see him fight Marquez one more time because everybody wants to see that fight. That would be a great fight. And of course Floyd Jr. is talking about coming back. That’s definitely a possibility. If Shane Mosley wants to come down a little bit in weight, that’s a possibility.”

Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, mentioned Miguel Cotto, who beat Mosley in 2007, as another possibility. Cotto and Mosley both fight at welterweight, 147 pounds, though a potential match with Pacquiao could take place at an agreed upon weight between the recognized weight divisions, Arum said.

“Manny is Manny and his characteristics are his characteristics and as good as he is you wouldn’t want to put him in with a middleweight or a super middleweight,” Arum said. “And all of these guys were, in effect, limited by their size. Oscar (De La Hoya) was limited by his size when he went up to middleweight. He wasn’t at all effective, as was shown by the Bernard Hopkins fight.

“But that being said, I think there are a sufficient number of opponents which will establish (Pacquiao’s) legend and greatness. Ricky Hatton is one of those fighters. Oscar was one of those fighters. There are welterweights out there who he can compete with, like Cotto or Mayweather, who would make very interesting fights in the years ahead. So I am not concerned with his smaller frame. He matches up really well with some of the top welterweights.”

Hatton, so confident in his abilities that he recently advised British boxing fans to literally bet the house on him against Pacquiao (we strongly advise not doing this, even if you are predicting a win for Hatton), has vowed to accept only megafights from here on out. He would like a shot at Marquez and would entertain the possibility of a rematch with Mayweather, who stopped Hatton in the 10th round of their 2007 clash at the Grand Garden Arena.

Hatton was inspired to hire Floyd Mayweather Sr. to train him after the loss to Mayweather Jr., ho-hum victories against Luis Collazo and Juan Lazcano and a knockout of a washed-up Jose Luis Castillo. In his first fight under Mayweather Sr., Hatton scored an impressive TKO of Paulie Malignaggi in November.

“I think the Mayweather fight was a fight which really changed my career in many ways,” Hatton said. “There were too many fights that were getting so similar tactically and style-wise. I think if you look at the Collazo fight, it was like 100 miles an hour. I was trying to steamroll my opponent. I tried 100 miles an hour to steamroll Floyd. The Castillo fight, my tactics would stay much the same, just get stuck in there, although that was one of my best wins.

“That Lazcano fight, I was just trying to steamroll him as well. I don’t think there’s any real thought into the way I was fighting. And it all accumulated with the defeat by Mayweather. That’s why I opted to go with Floyd Sr., because I thought to myself, ‘Well, I know I can fight. What’s the areas I need to work on?’ And the areas were my defense, my left jab, my head movement, my footwork, my combinations, my speed. And I think you saw the difference in the Malignaggi fight.”


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