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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fight analysis and prediction: Pacquiao vs. Hatton

We have formally entered the post-Oscar de la Hoya era. Boxing fans are hungry, searching, and yearning for a fresh face of the sport. No longer are Roy Jones, Jr. and Bernard Hopkins the flag bearers.

2009 as a Critical Period

The balance of 2009 will be the most critical time period for boxing for the next five years. No period for the next five years will be more important than what transpires in 2009. May 2nd can help to answer the question: "how buoyant and resilient is the sport of boxing?" The four major challenges are: (1) the development of multiple mainstream personalities, (2) the arrangement for marquee bouts that capture the public's imagination, (3) corporate sponsorships as drivers for enhanced media channels and visibility, and (4) matches that allow promising fighters and the cream of the crop to showcase their talents against quality opponents.

The Battle of East & West is also a Battle for Attention

What distinguishes the youth and middle-aged followers of sports in the late 2000s is the very high level of ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder - and extremely short attention spans. People in general, including sports fans, want instant gratification. When they turn on the channel, they want something exciting to happen within 10 seconds or they are flipping the channel. Worse, recessionary times have elevated the standard by which consumers dish out cash to attend live events. Baseball, to an extent, has suffered from this, and has had to quicken the pace of their game.

May 2nd's Significance

1. How much will the mainstream embrace (or be apathetic to) Manny Pacquiao?
2. Will the business feature attractive financial performance to induce major corporate players and media outlets?
3. Can Ricky Hatton's efforts produce an exciting bout to maintain or elevate boxing's station in its competition against a host of other sports, such as basketball, football, baseball, tennis, soccer, etc.?

Fight Analysis

Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood. - Gen. George S. Patton

Ricky Hatton

* Hatton has no choice but to close the distance between himself and Pacquiao. The Hitman has an impressive ability to quickly eliminate the gap between himself and his opponent, especially in the early to mid-rounds. A critical success factor for Hatton is to quickly eliminate the gap and grapple with the speedy and quick Pacquiao.
* Assuming Hatton can get a significant portion of the fight within close range, he stands a chance of frustrating the Pacman, and making Pacquiao uncomfortable with body shots, clenching, elbows, holds, and other rough and dirty tactics. Hatton can risk a point deduction or two against a clean fighter like Pacquiao, in the hopes of frustrating the Filipino. A frustrated Pacquiao will be much more tempted, and inclined, to brawl with the Hitman.
* A cool and level-headed Pacquiao spells doom for Hatton. A clear-headed Pacman will anticipate movements and strikes from the slower Brit. An angry or frustrated Pacman, however, who wants to brawl, will be susceptible to surprise hooks and crunching blows to the body. Ricky Hatton did significant damage to Jose Luis Castillo's ribs when they fought in 2007. Secondly, a Pacquiao that is hurt to the body can be subject to a combination of devastating uppercuts and hooks to the head.

Manny Pacquiao

* Manny is the faster, quicker, and more powerful puncher of the two. Additionally, he possesses a 67" reach while Hatton has a 65" reach. Manny can slowly, methodically, and predictably break down Hatton with his lightning quick jabs and lead lefts. Most likely, he will end his combinations with tags to Hatton's body that should begin to wear down the Brit's legs by the fourth or fifth round.
* Manny's lateral movements - and especially, his ability to throw effective, accurate counters while often backing up, will be critical. Fight fans are not used to seeing Pacquiao back up continuously. In this fight, he will have to step back from time to time more for purposes of risk management. It is better for him to create temporary distance than to get hit by a staggering surprise. Erik Morales is the last fighter to have beaten Pacquiao (in 2005), and the longer Mexican was able to hurt Manny from a distance. Unfortunately for Hatton, he does not possess the superior technicals that Morales once had.
* Telegraphing Hatton's moves. Knowing what Hatton does. Understanding the Brit's thought processes and intentions inside his head and in real time. Manny has evolved into a smart fighter. Now, he can often see things before they happen. That will be his biggest mental edge.


Hatton comes on as a strong and charging close-range fighting cavalry - a schoolyard bully - the first three or four or so rounds. Doubtless, Manny's accurate and successful flushes to the head will wear down the Brit by the fourth or fifth round. Secondly, Manny's blows to the body should take out Hatton's legs by the fourth or fifth round. Thus, Hatton only has a four round window with which to win this fight - the first four rounds. His best chances for a victory come most likely by a surprising blow to the head - that staggers Manny, followed by a combo - or a surprising blow to the body, most likely while Manny is being frustrated or grappled - ala Jose Luis Castillo. Unfortunately, Manny is simply too quick, fast, and elusive here. Perhaps on fight night, "Pacman" should take on the moniker "The Fast & Furious." I see a low-risk game plan by Pacquiao's camp to slowly but surely reconfigure Hatton's face - patiently landing high percentage "free throw" shots, not "three pointers."

In the "Art of War," you do not fight your enemy's fight. You make the enemy fight your fight. As Hatton's diminished legs prevent him to quickly close the distance gap, doom is inevitable. The shark smells and sees blood, and chomps viciously. Pacquiao by KO or TKO in round six or seven.

Post Fight

Pacquiao's win will be a critical mass event for boxing in the post de la Hoya reality. People are sick and tired of watching weekly replays of fights that happened in the 1960's and 1970's. Are you kidding me? From 50 years ago? Mike Tyson is no longer fighting. Muhammad Ali has his debilitating disease. The greats are looking toward the ring to inspect if there is a worthy all-time great upon which to obsessively fixate one's eyes and mind.

Elite fighters are waiting for Manny (before the current pound for pound champ retires). There are juicy implications that can generate further inroads for the sport. As of this writing, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. are on an earth-shaking collision course. Humility vs. Flamboyance. Generosity vs. Personal Accumulation. Country vs. Self. Honor vs. Status. The American aircraft carrier is sailing East yet a massive Pacific Typhoon is squarely blocking its way. Both by the Mariana Trench. The one losing sinks into the freezing depths.


A Hatton win really throws in a wrench. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. may gun for Hatton instead, as opposed to aiming for a Pacquiao showdown. Juan Manuel Marquez will always pursue a fight with his nemesis. A Hatton win somewhat diminishes the luster of Pacquiao - Marquez III. And fighters like Miguel Cotto, Timothy Bradley, Nate Campbell, and the rest, can aid in bringing in more spotlight towards the Brit as they search for their next big payday.


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