James Lawton: Game over as Hatton is destroyed by Pacman
Published 04/05/2009 | 00:00
It was billed as the Battle of East and West but long before the quick and brutal destruction of Ricky Hatton it looked more like a collision between Earth and, say, Mars.
Manny Pacquaio certainly burned so ferociously he might have been something produced on the red planet from the moment he got up from his prayers, crossed himself and answered the first bell.
Yet for all the coruscating brilliance of the man from General Santos City, Phillipines, and his absolute confirmation of his status as the best pound-for-pound fighter currently at work, there was another bleaker conclusion that no amount of patriotism could ignore.
It was that Hatton had been deluding himself from the first moment he believed he could live with a fighter in his prime and at the top of his extraordinary class.
He tried it once before, against Floyd Mayweather Jnr here 17 months ago and if he was humiliated then, what happened to him in the smalls hours of yesterday morning opened up wounds which will surely never heal.
Retirement was already being urged upon him, most persuasively by Pacquaio's trainer Freddie Roach, before he was taken to the Valley Hospital for a brain scan after regaining consciousness following the massive left hook by the Filipino which brought the slaughter to an end two minutes, 59 seconds into the second round.
Roach said: "I really think Ricky should retire after a defeat like this. He has had a good career and I'm happy to hear that he no longer needs to fight for financial reasons. So why would he carry on?"
After Mayweather's surgically delivered 10th round victory, Hatton nursed his scars by claiming that he had fought the wrong fight and been hampered by the intrusive officiating of referee Joe Cortez. This time such camouflage will provoke only mockery in the hardest concerns of the fight game. This time there was simply no hiding place. This time Ricky Hatton was laid bare.
Any possible cover was simply ripped away by Pacquaio's demonstration that he belonged in an entirely different, and superior category, to the Mancunian Hitman whose supporters could not have been more stunned by the neon-lit reality had scales just been removed from their eyes.
Roach also confirmed the suspicion that when on the eve of the fight he partially withdrew his claim that the fight would be over in three rounds, saying that he had been merely winding up his trash-talking rival trainer, Floyd Mayweather Senior, he was speaking rather less than the truth.
"Partly I didn't want to embarrass Ricky, but the fact is we would have been very disappointed, after studying all the film over two months, if the fight had gone any longer. Michael Moorer (assistant trainer and former world and light-heavyweight champion) and I concluded that Ricky could only fight one kind of fight, and that he kept fighting it over and over in his career, and that this would make it very easy for Manny.
"Ricky's a sucker for the right hook and that's what we worked on through the training camp. Another thing is he pumps his fists before he throws a punch and so that also made him easy to read.
"It also helped a lot that Manny boxed so beautifully. On this form he could beat anybody. If people say I'm a great trainer it is because of Manny Pacquaio. He deserves the credit."
Pacquaio made it clear that whoever that anybody happens to be next is entirely a decision for his promoters. "I don't mind who it is, I'm just doing my job, training, keeping a 100 per cent. I hope everybody is happy with my performance tonight."
The big money fight would be the 32-year-old Mayweather Junior, who came out of retirement officially just a few hours before Saturday's fight with the announcement that he would meet Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18. Roach believes, though, that Mayweathe might be reluctant to face the furies of the Pacman, saying, "At least Ricky came to fight. I'm not sure Floyd will. We won't hang around, we could fight Miguel Cotto or Shane Mosley (holders of different versions of the world welterweight title) if they are prepared to come down to around 140 lbs."
Hatton's relatively insignificant IBO and Ringside junior welterweight titles now belong to Pacquaio but they are the lightest of window dressing for a dazzling product: a fighter of stunning pace and astonishing balance in the art of throwing a punch of genuine power and timing.
Before going to hospital, Hatton conceded that he hadn't seen the decisive punch. "He's a great fighter."
Pacquaio had an armoury which took him utterly beyond the reach of Hatton's resources. Before the fight, Hatton claimed to have a re-modelled attack, built on already established assets of good technique, ability and 'great footwork.' As it turned out, he was not only whistling past the graveyard, he was also locked in deep fantasy.
This was cruelly apparent almost as soon as he landed a couple of early blows — and was than consumed by the speed and cleanness of Pacquaio's hitting.
Roach's belief that Hatton was ‘wide-open' to the right hook was confirmed with the first of two knockdowns in the first round. Pacquaio put him down with the punch against which Hatton could not raise a sliver of protection. It was the same with the left hand that returned him to the canvas. It was already a much dramatic version of what we had seen against Mayweather Jnr. Hatton was attached to tramlines. Pacquaio was bourn by the wind.
In the second round, Hatton gamely attempted to engage his tormentor but almost every effort was met with a withering response. Fight statistics can sometimes actively mislead. But here they mirrored the total ascendancy of one fighter. Pacquaio landed 73 blows to Hatton's 18, while the latter connected with just two jabs. Lee Beard, Hatton's assistant trainer, said that his man had got "over-exited", caught early, and could not recover from the damage, physical and psychological, sustained in the first round. In its way, it was an accurate enough assessment but it did not begin to cover all the terrain that separated the fighters.
Hatton can rebuke himself for the rest of his days but whenever he does it he is obliged to face up to a certainty which will never go away. It was that when he came to retrieve his career he tried to do it against a great fighter, a man who fought all the way up from flyweight and had grown stronger every step of the way.
Hatton had claimed, it seems so forlornly now, he was fighting at his natural weight — and that his opponent wasn't. The trouble was that a weighing machine could never have measured the difference been Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquaio. That, properly, was the work of the boxing heavens.