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September 30, 2014

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No. 7: ‘The Manchester Mexican’ vs. ‘The Mexi-cutioner’

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The Associated Press

Boxer Ricky Hatton, dubbed “The Manchester Mexican” enters the ring in sombrero and poncho, before his junior welterweight boxing match against Jose Luis Castillo, of Mexico, in Las Vegas, Saturday, June 23, 2007. Hatton won the fight with a fourth-round knockout.

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.

Technically, there won’t be any fighter of Mexican heritage in the ring on May 2 when Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao meet at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

But with so much history between the two regarding boxing’s Mexican fan base, an interesting question has surfaced: Which of the two has earned the support of the demographic?

Historically known for their warrior-like presence in the ring, the list of world champion Mexican boxers is a long one.

There’s another list of Mexican boxers that would be pretty lengthy as well, however, ones that have fallen at the hands of Pacquiao.

“I think that’s easy, Manny wins that one,” said Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, when asked which fighter Mexicans will want to see win most.

“The one thing about him fighting all the Mexican fighters and beating them is that all of them then became Manny Pacquiao fans.”

“The Mexi-cutioner” is not a nickname handed out easily. It takes quite a bit to garner that type of recognition. Pacquiao earned it by taking on the top Mexican fighters of the last decade, including two wins each over Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, and a win and a draw over Juan Manuel Marquez.

Those performances earned Pacquiao so much respect from Mexican fans that before his December bout with Oscar De La Hoya, De La Hoya’s promoter Richard Schaefer had to address the issue Pacquiao’s promoters at Top Rank started referring to as “Mexicans for Manny.”

“They enjoy his style, Manny fights like a Mexican,” Roach said. “A true Mexican warrior fights hard, digs deep and when they hurt somebody, they finish them off. That’s how Manny fights.”

Pacquiao may fight like a Mexican, but he’s never dressed like one.

Leave that distinction to Hatton, who earned the nickname “The Manchester Mexican” when he entered the ring of a 2007 fight against Mexican Jose Castillo wearing a blue sombrero and poncho.

It would have maybe been considered over-the-top behavior, except for the fact that Barrera accompanied Hatton.

Although the two have never fought -- and Barrera will not follow Hatton into the ring on May 2 -- they are known to be close friends. And if there’s one way to earn Mexican fans, befriending the beloved Barrera is a great way to go about it.

“He and Barrera are close and Ricky also fights like a Mexican, it’s unusual for an Englishman to fight that way,” said Hatton’s agent and longtime friend Paul Speak.

“The bottom line is Hatton is everybody’s choice because when he climbs in that ring, he doesn’t just do it for himself. He does it for everyone who has ever met him and gotten behind him. He is relentless, the only way you’re getting him to leave the ring is on a shield.”

While the green, white and red of the Mexican flag won’t be waving inside the MGM on May 2, there's no disputing Mexican fighters played a large role in helping Hatton and Pacquiao get to this point in their respective careers. Which one of the two they'll be cheering for that day remains to be seen.

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