Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton – Waylaid in Vegas

Pacquiao De La Hoya - Ethan Miller Getty Images
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“Many Pacquiao is annihilating Oscar De La Hoya! He is gradually reconfiguring De la Hoya’s beautiful face.” Jim Lampley, like many others, was in awe of the work being done to the “Golden Boy” by Pacquiao.

On December 6, 2008, Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao handed Oscar De La Hoya the most one-sided defeat of his career.

Living in General Santos in the Philippines, Pacquiao–who at that point in time held a record of 48-3-2, 36 KOs–was a five-time world champion. The win over De La Hoya solidified his standing as the money man in the sport.

Prior to meeting De La Hoya, opponents were being lined up and Pacquaio was knocking them down one after the other. After losing a unanimous decision to Erik Morales in March of 2005, Pacquiao was on an eight-fight win streak.

In those eight wins, all with longtime trainer Freddie Roach at his side, Pacquiao met Morales twice more, knocking him out both times, first in the 10th round and then in the third. He also racked up victories against Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and David Diaz.

There wasn’t much time to bask in the glory after beating and ultimately retiring De La Hoya. Soon, another challenger was lurking on the horizon, a man that many believed posed a legitimate threat to Pacquiao.

From Manchester, England, Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs) was the reigning IBO Welterweight champion of the world. He was also recognized by Ring magazine was the Welterweight champion of the world. A three-time world champion, Hatton had etched his name in the minds of boxing fans with an epic TKO victory over Kostya Tszyu in June of 2005.

Hatton’s only loss came in December of 2007 in a showdown with the then pound-for-pound kingpin, Floyd Mayweather. Hatton succumbed after a pair of knockdowns in the 10th round. After the fight, Mayweather retired and ultimately vacated his pound-for-pound status.

Just five months later, Hatton began his comeback in Manchester against Juan Lazcano. He looked sluggish in winning a unanimous 12-round decision. Commentators at ringside questioned whether Hatton was a shot fighter.

Hatton then parted ways with longtime trainer Billy Graham and, in a move few saw coming, hired the gregarious Floyd Mayweather Sr. Their first fight together was an 11th round TKO win over Paulie Malignaggi.

Hatton was now set to take on the new pound-for-pound superstar, Pacquiao. In the prefight build-up, it quickly became clear that both fighters liked each other and there was a true sense of mutual respect between the two. The trainers, on the other hand, weren’t so cordial.

Both took turns belittling the others fighter. The insults didn’t stop there. The battle for who was the best pound-for-pound fighter quickly escalated into who was the best trainer in the world. Both Roach and Mayweather Sr. were as successful as they were different. They were as far apart in methods and ideology as were Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

Billed as “The Battle of East and West,” the bout was scheduled for May 2, 2009 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The fight was carried live on HBOP PPV.

A wildly enthusiastic sellout crowd of 16,262 packed the MGM Grand, many having flown to Vegas from England and The Philippines. Many waved flags, hoisted signs in support of their man, and pounded drums while singing, “There’s only one Ricky Hatton!”

As Larry Merchant would observe, “They are warrior kings with armies who follow them to the battle. Now, they will be alone in the battle.”

Pacquaio entered the ring wearing white trunks with red and black trim. Weighing in at 138 pounds, he was in sensational shape. A win on this night would tie Pacquiao with De La Hoya for winning six titles in six different weight divisions.

Hatton entered wearing black trunks with white and silver trim. He weighed in at the 140 pound limit and also looked to be in marvelous shape.

After Michael Buffer introduced the fighters, referee Kenny Bayless gave instructions at center ring. Lampley, Merchant and Emanuel Steward were ringside to call the action as the bell sounded to start round one.

Hatton, as was his usual, immediately went on the attack. Pacquiao, a southpaw, fired right jabs and right hooks at Hatton, many catching him flush in the early going. Hatton countered by pressing and bullying Pacquiao into the ropes.

Manny Pacquiao Ricky Hatton Al Bello Getty Images
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Trying to use his own jab to close the distance and chase down the quicker Pacquiao, Hatton was eating a lot of return fire from Pacman. Just over a minute into the round, Hatton’s face was beet red from the early exchanges. Halfway through the round, the legs of Hatton wobbled after another straight right hand strafed the center of his face. Instinctively, he grabbed onto Pacquaio hoping to buy time and clear his head.

As the action resumed in the center of the ring, Hatton resumed bouncing on his toes and moving his head. He was desperately trying to press forward and land his own power punches. With just under a minute to go in the round, another right hand, this one a twisting hook, landed flush, catching Hatton as he was moving in and sending him to the canvas.

Clearly rattled, Hatton climbed to one knee and then to his feet while taking the standing eight count from Bayless. Pacquiao, sensing Hatton was hurt, moved in. Hatton, as is his custom, pressed forward to get his pound of flesh.

In a stunning reversal of Murphy’s Law, everything Pacquiao did worked to absolute perfection.

Lampley cried, “Pacquiao’s hands are blindingly fast!” With 10 seconds to go in the round, Pacquiao unloaded an avalanche of rights and lefts. Hatton, overwhelmed by the barrage, stumbled backward and went down, skidding across the ring and into a corner.

Again, Lampley screamed over the deafening roar of the crowd while trying to keep up with the furious pace. “Pacquiao’s landing at will. Hard left hand! Hatton has to hold on! Will Hatton make it out of the round? He’s down for a second time! A tsunami for Manny Pacquiao in Round 1!”

Hatton again made it to his feet and back to his corner as the bell sounded to end the first three minutes of action. His corner begged for head movement and feints.

As the second round began, Lampley shared the utterly devastating Compubox numbers from the first. Pacquiao had landed 31 of 52 power shots.

Hatton came out fast to begin the second, landing a hard left hand. He was back on the attack and had the spring back in his legs. Just over a minute into the round, Pacquiao began launching his own power punches, countering the initial attack of Hatton.

As each fighter punched and counter punched, the crowd thundered their approval of the give and take, back-and-forth action.

Steward then explained, “What Ricky really needs to do is smother. He can’t seem to deal with those punches.”

Just as it appeared that Hatton had clawed his way back by fighting a much more competitive round, both fighters stood head to head in the center of the ring. Pacquaio stepped in and unloaded a short, crisp and brutal left hand that landed flush on Hatton’s jaw.

Pacquiao Hatton

Lampley called the final action, “Boom! Oh my gosh what a straight left hand! Will Hatton make it up from this? What an amazing knockout shot. That is the most spectacular one-punch shot of Manny Pacquiao’s career!”

The bout was over at 2:59 of the second round. Pacquiao had reinforced his position as the most elite fighter in all the sport.

Hatton lay motionless for several minutes after absorbing the final blow from Pacquiao. His face was a mask of confusion as he attempted to sit up several times before laying back on the canvas.

Distraught after the loss, Hatton would not return to the ring for three and a half years. His last bout, in November of 2012, ended in a ninth-round knockout loss to Vyacheslav Senchenko after a body shot left him helpless and unable to get to his feet.

Pacquiao continues to operate at the top of the sport, having fought Miguel Cotto, Marquez, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Timothy Bradley and Brandon Rios. He is still looking for a showdown with the reigning pound-for-pound king, Floyd Mayweather.

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