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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pacquiao proves he's the real man

FILIPINO southpaw Manny Pacquiao confirmed his status as the world's best boxer, flattening Ricky Hatton in the second round in Las Vegas yesterday, taking a historic victory with a devastating left to the chin that put the Englishman in hospital.

Pacquiao equalled a boxing milestone with a title in a sixth weight class by slamming a powerful left-hand blow into Hatton's chin to buckle his knees and send him to the canvas on his back unconscious.

"It was a hard punch. It was a solid punch," Pacquiao said. "I hit him on the chin and I didn't think he would get up."

Referee Kenny Bayless knelt over the unmoving Hatton and halted the fight after two minutes and 59 seconds of the second round, giving the Filipino a victory and the International Boxing Organisation junior-welterweight title.

"Everybody is surprised. Me, too. I didn't expect this would be so easy," Pacquiao said. "But I have worked hard in training camp. Nothing personal. I was just doing my job."

Hatton awoke and walked from the ring to the locker room but was taken to a nearby hospital as a precaution.

"It was a hard loss but I'm OK," Hatton said. "I didn't really see the punch coming, but it was a great shot. I know I will be OK."

Pacquiao, widely considered the world pound-for-pound champion, won his 10th fight in succession, improving to 49-3, with two drawn, with his 37th early stoppage coming on a spectacular punch for the ages.

"That was the best knockout punch I've ever seen," Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach said. "It was the perfect shot. That rarely happens."

Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum said his charge would be considered the best fighter in history by the end of his career.

But he may face a challenge from Floyd Mayweather Jr for the title of world's best.

Former undisputed welterweight champion Mayweather ranked himself atop the list of boxing's best a few hours before the fight by announcing the end of his 17-month retirement and a comeback on July 18 in the same arena against Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez.

Mayweather abdicated the pound-for-pound throne that Pacquiao has claimed by winning four consecutive fights in as many weight classes.

"Manny is unbelievable. He's the best fighter in the world," Roach said. "He is in his prime right now. Anyone in the world, he could beat them all."

However, an agreement on what weight the pair would meet at - Pacquiao is comfortable at 140pounds, while Mayweather will fight Marquez at 144 - could prove an insurmountable impasse.

Roach said Mayweather feared facing Pacquiao at a similar weight.

"Mayweather, he just had to wait one day and he could have fought Manny. I think he's afraid of Manny," Roach said. "He made the fight maybe not happen. We're not going to wait for him. There are other great fighters out there."

As for Hatton, who has also been floored by Mayweather, Hatton's trainer - Mayweather's father - said that after two devastating defeats the "Hitman" should call it a day.

"I would suggest he retire. At the end of the day it's his decision," Mayweather Sr said. "He tried twice. He failed twice. He lost to my son and to lose to someone below that, it's time to leave the ring.

"He made a good profit. Sometimes you have to go when your prime is still there.

"A lot of times in boxing when a fighter gets knocked out - I'm not saying this particularly about Ricky - they are just not the same anymore."

Meanwhile, millions of Filipinos danced in the streets and joined raucous parties yesterday as the impoverished southeast Asian nation celebrated Pacquiao's win. Motorists waving the national flag drove through major cities tooting their horns and shouting out of the windows after Pacquiao's victory.

The Philippines' usually jammed highways had been deserted before a delayed broadcast of the Las Vegas fight was screened on free-to-air television, and police said even criminals took the day off.

"It's zero crime rate today," national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome said. "We wish Manny would fight every day so we will have no problems in security."

Troops fighting Muslim militants on Jolo Island also watched the fight, while President Gloria Arroyo took time out from an official visit to Egypt to comment on the win.

"President Gloria Arroyo joins the entire nation in gratitude of God for the spectacular victory of our Manny Pacquiao," her spokesman Cerge Remonde told Filipino radio by telephone.

At least 10,000 people watched a free live screening in Pacquiao's dirt-poor home city of General Santos, while in Manila's depressed Tondo area another 2000 people packed an airless gym to watch the fight.


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