The Same Old Ricky Hatton

Pacquiao_Hatton(This piece appeared in 8CountNews on May 5, 2009)

by Mark Lorenzana

When the left hand that smashed into Ricky Hatton’s jaw finally took out the Hitman and left him in a heap, it wasn’t surprising to see the reactions of the people in the stadium – both Pacquiao and Hatton fans alike. It was a picture of awe, disbelief, and horror, all rolled into one.

Awe and disbelief, because not a lot of people expected Pacquiao to dispose of the supposedly bigger and stronger fighter in such devastating fashion, and in as early as the second round. Horror, because you had to fear for Hatton’s safety as he lay down on the canvas in the center of the ring in a semi-conscious state. I have to add that it was a good thing to see Hatton being able to walk out of the ring on his own.

What surprised me, however, are a couple of things.

First, Pacquiao’s vastly improving boxing skills. It wasn’t a stretch when Freddie Roach stated in the post-fight interview that Pacquiao’s right hand is now much better than his left. It showed in the course of the short fight, where Hatton was repeatedly tagged by right jabs and hooks. In fact, it was a cannonball right hook that knocked down the unsuspecting Hatton for the first time in the fight.

Also, who would have thought that Pacquiao could still pack one-punch knockout power in his fists despite having debuted at 106 pounds?

Pacquiao also showed that now, he isn’t a fighter who relies on offense alone. Hatton soon found out that what stood in front of him was an elusive and fleet-footed gazelle, a far cry from his previous opponents who were stationary targets and who were suckers to his brawling, mauling style and body punches. Pacquiao repeatedly bobbed and weaved, even while dishing out punches of his own. In other words, Hatton didn’t know what to do. He was overwhelmed by a multi-talented pugilist who was once thought as a one-dimensional, left-handed slugger.

Second, I would have thought that Hatton would showcase some of his new-found boxing skills under the tutelage of the self-proclaimed best trainer in the world, Floyd Mayweather Sr. But Hatton didn’t show anything new. He had no head movement, he had no lateral movement. He barreled straight into Pacquiao, hoping to land a power punch that would end the fight. In other words, it was the same old Ricky Hatton. And against Pacquiao, it was recipe for disaster.

To be the best fighter in the world, you have to leave it all in the ring. You just can’t claim that you are one of the best and leave it at that, hoping that people would gobble everything up, hook, line, and sinker.

Needless to say, Pacquiao did his job, and it was a masterful performance at that. He showed without doubt that he is the best pound-for-pound boxer today.

To be the best trainer in the world, you have to command respect. Respect will enable you to sculpt a raw talent and polish him or her into a flawless gem. Freddie Roach is one of the most respectable trainers the boxing world has ever seen, and he has helped make Pacquiao the fighting machine that he is now.

No amount of trash talking, faux poetry and fake posturing will make you the best trainer in the world. You just can’t claim that you are one of the best and leave it at that, hoping that people would gobble everything up, hook, line, and sinker.

It should be a lot more than that.

And that ain’t no joke.

Another year for Pacquiao, Silva to prove doubters wrong

Silva_Pacquiao(This piece appeared in 8CountNews on January 9, 2009)

by Mark Lorenzana

After three successful fights in as many weight classes last year (first when he eked out a split decision over Juan Manuel Marquez, second when he annihilated David Diaz to win the WBC world lightweight title, and third, his eight round drubbing of Oscar De La Hoya) Manny Pacquiao is the consensus 2008 fighter of the year among boxing writers and pundits.

Thanks to his fantastic showing, Pacquiao is in perfect position to enjoy even more lucrative fights this year. First on the list is Ricky Hatton, who has been salivating at the prospect of fighting the Filipino ever since the Pacquiao — De La Hoya fight pushed through. Should Pacquiao defeat Hatton, the most logical opponent would be Floyd Mayweather Jr. And if Pacquiao chooses to fight three times this year– win or lose against Floyd Jr. — he can have a farewell bout at the end of the year (perhaps a third fight with Marquez at Jr. Welterweight?) before hanging up his gloves.

Of course when we say fighter of the year, we should also look beyond prizefighting and take a look at the best among the practitioners of Mixed Martial Arts.

I don’t know if Anderson Silva is the consensus MMA fighter of the year, but I do know that in my book he is. The Spider showed that he is still the man to beat at middleweight when he won via submission over Dan Henderson in March. A lot of people believed that Silva’s reign as UFC Middleweight Champion would come to an end against a dangerous, skilled, and experienced fighter such as Henderson. But Silva once again proved his critics wrong.

Silva then climbed up to light heavyweight and took on James Irvin. Not a few wondered how Silva would handle the extra weight, not to mention how he would fare against a bigger opponent. Silva knocked out Irvin in 61 seconds.

However, Silva’s last fight for 2008 against Patrick Cote left a bad taste in some fans’ mouths. Instead of going for the kill early, Silva appeared to be toying with Cote. He didn’t show his usual deadly form, much to Dana White’s chagrin. The fight ended quite unfortunately when Cote blew out his knee and the referee was forced to put an end to the fight.

I attribute Silva’s less-than-stellar showing in his last outing to boredom. He has fought every possible contender in his weight class, annihilated every one of them, and he needs to step it up. Maybe Dana White should consider putting Chuck Liddell in the Octagon opposite Silva? Or how about the winner of the upcoming George St.-Pierre – BJ Penn fight? The point is, as good a fighter as Silva is, he needs to be fighting top contenders instead of tomato cans for him to be challenged. Give him an opponent who he knows could hurt him and even take him out, and Silva wouldn’t even think of toying with the other guy. I guarantee you’ll see the old Silva back in action.

In Pacquiao’s case, it has always been and will always be, proving other people wrong. Nobody gave him a shot to beat Lehlo Ledwaba, everyone thought Marco Antonio Barrera would school him in their first fight, boxing experts thought Erik Morales’s length and reach would be too much for him, and lastly, majority of the sports and boxing media thought the Dream Match was a farce and a huge mismatch.

Of course Pacquiao, as recent history has told us, cut through all of these opponents (and then some) like a hot knife through butter. Or, more appropriately, like a violent, ravaging Pacific storm through a sleepy seaside town.

Do I hear Erik Morales recently making noises about how Ricky Hatton will flatten Pacquiao? What, Pacquiao will go down in the sixth or seventh round because he will tire and lose steam?

With all due respect to Morales, a great champion and future hall-of-famer, since when did anyone of us see Pacquiao tire? Heck, the Pacman can easily give the Energizer Bunny a run for its money. Hatton, on the other hand, has had stamina problems in the past, of which, perhaps can be attributed to his hard living in between fights. Hatton is tough, a strong body puncher, and he has knockout power in both fists. But stamina is not one of his strong suits. He is a good pressure fighter for the early to middle rounds but for the rest of the fight he plods along and holds. Whether Hatton can outhustle, outwork, and finally overpower Pacquiao remains to be seen. But I dare go on the record here and say that I highly doubt it. I believe it will be the other way around.

For Pacquiao and Silva, the year 2009 will be one of the most important years of their careers. And it is not just because it is another year to earn more money through the hurt business. More importantly, another year is upon them to show to the world that they can continue to fight the best, stay on top, and prove the critics wrong.

Again.

Hatton vs. Pacquiao: A Question of Excess and Overindulgence?

Ricky Fatton(This piece appeared in 8CountNews on December 24, 2008)

by Mark Lorenzana

Barring any unexpected hitches, it seems that Ricky Hatton is the opponent that looms closest on the horizon for Manny Pacquiao.

This early, reports are coming in that Freddie Roach thinks Hatton – unlike Oscar De La Hoya – can indeed pull the trigger. Roach believes that while Hatton is beatable (as evidenced by his lone loss by knockout to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year), he has a style that can give Pacquiao fits. The Englishman is a rough and tumble pressure fighter, and he only knows one direction – forward. He bulls and bores into his opponent, utilizing clinches and holds to tire him out. And then the man known as the Hitman softens his adversary with crippling body blows before he finishes him up. Hatton also has enough knockout power in his fists to finish the fight at any moment. Out of Hatton’s 45 wins, 32 fights did not last the distance.

If Pacquiao thinks that he can take Hatton lightly, he’d better think again. Sure, he destroyed Oscar De La Hoya, but Ricky Hatton may prove to be a tougher customer. Which is why Roach wants Pacquiao to fly to Hollywood early, and he expects the Filipino to put in the usual hard work at the Wild Card for at least eight weeks.

Right now it’s safe to say that Pacquiao is still enjoying the fruits of his labors. He still has several weeks to enjoy the good life before he buckles down to work.

With this (but I could be wrong, of course), expect alarm bells to sound on how Pacquiao might enjoy his respite too much and give in to indulgence and excess.

As they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But if there’s any effect of the purported hard-living by Pacquiao between fights, it remains to be seen. Performance-wise, Pacquiao has yet to lose since his close defeat to Erik Morales in their first fight. And with his recent destruction of De La Hoya, Pacquiao showed his deadliest form to date. Perhaps Team Pacquiao has a point when they ask the media to give the Filipino a fair shake especially when reporting about the boxer’s extra-curricular activities.

Ironically, if there’s a fighter that is also reported to give in to indulgence and excess, it’s Hatton. Christened Ricky “Fatton” for his penchant to put on the pounds when he’s not training, Hatton is known to guzzle pints and pints of his favorite brew, Guinness beer. He also enjoys fatty food, and admits that his favorite pre-fight meal is a fry-up, a full English breakfast.

A full English breakfast comprises several fried foods that include bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding, potatoes, and beans. A sumptuous feast indeed, but you’d be hard put to find any sports nutritionist who’d be willing to prescribe this diet to any athlete, let alone a boxer. Especially one who enjoys wolfing down a fry-up prior to what may be one of the biggest fights of his career.

Of course, Hatton’s choice of food and drink is nobody’s business as long as he can make the weight come weigh-in and he can put on a good show come fight night. And Hatton has won his last two fights since his loss to Mayweather Jr.

Will Hatton cut down the chow and booze if a Pacquiao fight pushes through?

Who knows? But if Hatton loses, he’d better not blame it on the fish and chips.

Should Floyd Jr. Jump the Queue on Pacquiao Sweepstakes?

(This piece appeared in 8CountNews on December 17, 2008)

by Mark Lorenzana

Oscar De La Hoya had barely managed to lick his wounds and bruises from the thrashing he received from Manny Pacquiao when Floyd Mayweather Jr. had begun making noises regarding a comeback.

If the reports are true, then Mayweather Jr. would be lacing up his gloves again after announcing his second retirement last year. The encore retirement (certainly uncalled for, since avid and hardcore boxing fans enjoy Floyd’s virtuoso performances every time he practices the Sweet Science) came at the heels of an impressive stoppage victory over Ricky Hatton.

In this day and age, it’s no longer an exaggeration to say that immediately after Pacquiao TKO’d De La Hoya, Money Mayweather saw dollar signs dancing in front of him. Mayweather Jr. had a grand time dancing with the stars, but he would probably have a grander time dancing with Pacquiao, the new Pay-Per-View king.

Apart from Mayweather Jr., a lot of fans and boxing pundits alike are salivating at the prospect of the current pound-for-pound champion going up against the former p4p king. And on paper, it truly is a match-up worth looking forward to: Pacman’s speed, agility, and relentless pressure against the Pretty Boy’s defense, ring smarts, and superb boxing ability. Add to that master tactician Freddie Roach’s recent hint that Mayweather Jr. is a boxer who doesn’t like pressure fighters, and you have an instant recipe for a great fight.

Of course, not everyone is ecstatic about all this premature hoopla. Especially Ricky Hatton.

The Hitman, fresh from a smashing TKO victory over Paulie Malignaggi last month, told the UK Sun that he wants to fight Pacquiao next: “I’ve put the hard work in and would like to get the chance to take on Manny,”

Hatton also expressed his displeasure regarding a possible fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr.

“I’m not surprised Floyd is considering a return — but I’d be disappointed if he got in ahead of me,” Hatton said.

For one, Hatton worked his ass off training for the Malignaggi fight, and he delivered. Surely he has a point being disappointed should Mayweather Jr. jump ahead of him in the queue?

In Floyd’s case, he walked away from the game for a second time, enjoyed his money and retirement, and now he wants to come back to fight and get an immediate shot at Pacquiao?

Going back to Roach’s claim that Floyd doesn’t exactly enjoy dancing with pressure fighters, he might have struck gold there. Roach named Jose Luis Castillo as one of the pressure fighters that gave Mayweather Jr. fits. But Roach could have gone further and mentioned one Antonio Margarito. Apart from Pacquiao, the Tijuana Tornado is one of the toughest pressure fighters this game has ever seen.

Margarito COULD HAVE given Mayweather Jr. a run for his money, if only they met each other in the ring.

But wait, didn’t Margarito call out Mayweather Jr. several times in the past when the Pretty Boy was still fighting?

So why didn’t tough guy Floyd accept Margarito’s challenge? Why did he retire instead?

Is Floyd Mayweather Jr. afraid of Antonio Margarito? Is he ducking him? Yes or no?

Only Mayweather Jr. can answer all these questions.

Nobody is questioning Floyd’s skills. His ring generalship, speed, and evasive techniques will be more than enough to make a competitive fight against Margarito. A fight against Margarito would definitely be a winnable one. But what is speaking loudly here, and is perhaps the biggest thing that is keeping the fight from happening is Floyd’s own assumed name, Money.

Simply put, why not fight Margarito first for the glory and Pacquiao next for the money?

Oscar De La Hoya made the mistake of choosing the supposedly “easier” fight with Pacquiao because he knew the match-up would be a bigger draw. Again, it seems Mayweather Jr. is looking at a fight with Pacquiao instead of a Margarito fight because he figures that this would be the biggest paycheck available with minimum effort.

Maybe he should watch a rerun of the Pacquiao – De La Hoya fight and re-evaluate the meaning of “minimum effort”?

In the meantime, to be fair to all concerned – especially to Ricky Hatton – maybe it is better and wiser for Mayweather Jr. to wait in line along with the growing number of fighters who are scrambling to win the Pacquiao sweepstakes and get a crack at the Filipino firebrand.

After all, Manny Pacquiao the current pound-for-pound champion has earned the right to choose whoever he wants to fight next.

Irrespective of glory, money, or both.