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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hitman's fans stunned by knockout

"There's only one Ricky Hatton," goes the British fighter's anthem.

But there needed to be two, three or four Ricky Hattons in the ring on Saturday night to cope with the phenomenal Filipino Manny Pacquiao.

Pacman, as he is known back home in the Philippines, gobbled up the Hitman with an awesome array of punches at dazzling speed, and a final fearsome left hook.

Hatton crashed to the canvas with a second to go in the second round, never looking likely to beat the count.

'Shocked and gutted'

The Mancunian hero was later taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up.

It was a stunning ending to the fight and shocked the 20,000 or so Hatton fans who had ignored the economic hard times to travel to Las Vegas to see their hero.

Rob Melbourne, from London, was in the arena with his girlfriend Katie Audsley and he said: "We're shocked and gutted. I can't believe it happened."

But he added: "Total respect to Manny Pacquiao, he totally outclassed him."

Katie said: "I'm still pleased we came all the way out here because the atmosphere was amazing."

Neither of them wanted to see Hatton forced into retirement after such a performance and Katie said: "He has to go out with a win. He mustn't go out like that."

Tim Marshall, an expat who lives in Tokyo, said he felt Hatton looked tense beforehand while Pacquiao looked "super-relaxed".

'Just too quick'

He said: "After he was knocked down twice in the first round it was just a question of when and not if he lost."

For him there is a silver lining. "My wife Lori is Filipino. She's stayed at home with the kids but she will be very happy.

"Pacquiao has done the Philippines proud. The whole place comes to a standstill when he's fighting and the fight was shown live on TV there with thousands in the street."

As for Hatton, Tim thinks he needs to think long and hard about whether he should continue in the fight game after such a devastating defeat.

Bal Johal and his friends Surjit Rai and Gee Punia, all from London, were in despair.

Bal said: "We came over for the Malignaggi fight but this time we are so disappointed. There was 100% effort on Ricky's part but Pacquiao was just too quick."

Would it ruin their weekend, I asked.

"No. This is the party capital of the world. We knew Ricky was the underdog and we are still determined to enjoy the weekend," said Bal.

While thousands of British fans went off to drown their sorrows in the bars and fleshpots of Sin City, their Filipino counterparts prepared to party into the night.

Joseph Palmes had travelled all the way from South Cotabato - the same province where Pacquiao hails from - just for the fight and he was overjoyed.

"Nobody beats Pacman. He is the strongest and the fastest," he beamed.

So who next for the mighty Pacman?

Floyd Mayweather, the only man to have previously beaten Hatton, looms large on the horizon after he announced earlier in the day he was coming out of retirement to fight Juan Manuel Marquez in July.

At the press conference after the fight, promoter Bob Arum said: "If Mayweather wants to pick on a little Filipino, just be my guest."

Pacquiao-Mayweather would be another monster fight and there is little doubting who most of Ricky Hatton's fans will be rooting for.

In victory Pacquiao was as charismatic and humble as Mayweather was arrogant and insensitive.


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