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August 20, 2014

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No. 9: A battle between East and West

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Steve Marcus

Boxers Manny Pacquiao, left, of the Philippines and Ricky Hatton, right, of England pose with actor Mickey Rourke during a news conference in Hollywood, California March 30, 2009. Hatton and Pacquiao will meet for a junior welterweight (140 lbs) title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 2.

A Punchy Premiere

Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton make their debut in Hollywood Monday night to promote their May 2 fight in Las Vegas.

Hatton Training Day

Before his fight May 2nd against Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton lets us inside his training session.

Manny Pacquiao Training Day

Manny Pacquiao trains at Freddie Roach's gym in Hollywood in preparation for May 2's Hatton fight in Las Vegas.

Editor's Note: Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, boxing's top two international superstars, square off in "The Battle of East and West" on May 2 at the MGM Grand. In the days leading up to this blockbuster bout, the Las Vegas Sun is presenting a Top 10 countdown of key points of interest for Pacquiao vs. Hatton.

For Richard John Hatton, taking over the family business involved different requirements than that of the average occupation.

When Hatton was born on Oct. 6, 1978, the fact that he would become a supporter of the English soccer team Manchester City, was clearly made for him as his father and grandfather both played for the club.

The choice as to whether or not he would follow in their footsteps or make his own, however, was one he ultimately would have to make.

"As a kid back in Manchester, he had to make the decision between football and boxing," said Hatton's longtime friend and agent, Paul Speak. "Obviously, we see that he made the right decision."

Using his family's name and his athletic ability, Hatton earned the right to train with the club's youth team at an early age. Hatton enjoyed the sport, but not as much as another activity that had caught his attention.

Whenever he had a spare moment, Hatton would sit down and watch Bruce Lee movies.

He liked them so much, that he talked his parents into enrolling him in kung fu. But somewhere in Hatton's genetics there must have been a mistake. Despite his family's reputation in soccer, Hatton liked using his hands more than his feet.

"When he got into kung-fu, the trainers told him his arms were much faster than his feet," Speak said. "In Ricky's words, he was 'getting the (expletive) kicked out of him.' By the time he was 10, they had moved him to a proper boxing gym where he was working out full-time."

Hatton was just a two-month old infant when nearly half a globe away, Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao was born on the island Mindanao, located in the eastern Philippines.

In addition to being known as the second largest island of the country, Mindano is also notorious for its high poverty and poor living conditions.

It was under these harsh circumstances Pacquiao experienced something that would forever change the course of his life. At the age of 14, Pacquiao watched his father kill his dog and eat it in front of him.

At that point, Pacquiao decided he'd had enough.

"He ran away from home and went to (Philippines capital) Manila," said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer of eight years. "He wound up selling doughnuts, buying them for 10 cents and selling them for 15 cents. He survived on the streets and ended up in a boxing gym where they saw he had some talent and they took him in."

Two years after he ran away, Pacquiao made his professional boxing debut in a 106-pound bout with Edmund Ignacio in Mindoro Occidental, Philippines. He would fight 32 of the first 34 fights of his career in the Philippines, building a record of 30-2.

In 2000, Pacquiao left his homeland to test his talent in the United States. But until he met Roach, no one was interested in the 5-foot-6 Pinoy champ.

"He came to America looking for a new trainer and a new promoter," Roach said. "He started on the East coast and came West, with his last stops in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He got turned down everywhere.

“He came to my gym (in Los Angeles) and asked me if I would work the mitts with him. After one round, I went over to my people and said, 'Wow, can this kid fight.' He went to his manager and said, 'I have a new trainer.'

"It's just one of those unusual things, usually it's a little awkward at first but after one round it was like we had known each other for years."

The new duo's first fight together came on June 23, 2001 in Las Vegas against the heavily favored Lehlohonolo Ledwaba for the IBF Super Bantamweight Title.

The opportunity was one of luck for Pacquiao, as Ledwaba's original challenger had been injured leading up to the fight. Pacquiao took advantage of the break, dominating Ledwaba in a contest that ended with a sixth-round TKO, despite “Pac-Man” having just two weeks to prepare for the fight.

"[Ledwaba] was the most feared 122-pounder at the time," Roach said. "He was such a big favorite you couldn't even bet on the fight, they gave us no shot at all. But we took advantage of it. I knew then we had something special then. He just destroyed him."

Like Pacquiao, Hatton fought the majority of his bouts in his home country, with 35 of his first 39 fights in the United Kingdom.

Hatton also earned national recognition for defeating a fighter many believed he had little chance against, beating Australian boxer Kostya Tszyu on June 4, 2005 for the IBF Light Heavyweight title.

The victory propelled Hatton to the forefront of the sport, especially in the U.K., and eventually helped set him up with his biggest break in a megabout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. — a fight that resulted in the only loss of his career.

As they say, the rest is history.

Pacquiao went on to boost his popularity with classic contests against the likes of Eric Morales, Marco Barrera and Oscar De La Hoya.

Hatton added the IBO Light Welterweight and WBA Welterweight titles to his resume with wins over Juan Urango and Luis Collazo.

Finally on May 2, nearly 31 years after the two were born just 72 days a part, the two vastly different paths of the East and West will collide

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