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September 17, 2014

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RON KANTOWSKI:

It’s too bad both can’t win

Hatton, Pacquiao nice guys, heroes back home

Image

Steve Marcus

Boxers Ricky Hatton of England and Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines arrive for a news conference March 30 in Hollywood, Calif. The two will meet for a junior welterweight bout May 2 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.

Hatton vs. Pacquaio

Boxers Manny Pacquiao, far left, of the Philippines, and Ricky Hatton, far right, of England, pose with their trainers Freddie Roach, center left, and Floyd Mayweather Sr., who lift a specialized trophy for the Launch slideshow »

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People sometimes ask why I like professional wrestling. At the same time, other people ask if I’ve lost my mind.

The best thing about pro wrestling is if you get (only) 57 channels, and nothing’s on, you can usually find pro wresting on The Ocho, or one of those other ESPN channels. Or on Spike TV. I like wrestling, because you don’t have to follow it that closely to know who to cheer for. There are good guys and there are bad guys and you don’t need a program to tell them apart. Kind of like a Cowboys-Raiders game.

Which brings us to this year’s Fight of the Century at the MGM Grand on Saturday night pitting Manny Pacquiao against Ricky Hatton.

If you pony up $49.95 for the pay-per-view and invite a bunch of your freeloading buddies into your living room — buddies who most likely won’t chip in for the telecast but will drink your beer and put their smelly feet up on the coffee table — how do you know which one to cheer for?

If you’re Filipino or British, it’s easy.

But what if you are just a casual fight fan smudging a pal’s coffee table with your smelly feet?

These are both great fighters and good men and one hits like a ton of bricks and the other doesn’t seem to mind it.

Who do you cheer for, then?

This is like deciding between the adorable Yorkshire terrier and the other adorable Yorkshire terrier. (Actually, it’s more like deciding between a couple of well-mannered pit bulls. But you get the idea.)

When I used to cover these big fights and get close to the fighters during their training camps, it was easy to choose sides. Especially when George Foreman was fighting. Not Sullen George Foreman, aka the George Foreman with an Afro and a chip on his shoulder. Nobody liked that guy. I’m talking about Big George Foreman, the bald, lovable lug with his own situation comedy and a mean, lean grilling machine.

How could you not pull for that guy?

Of course, you could never admit you were pulling for him, except when one of the British writers asked for your prediction. Just as there’s no cheering in the press box, there’s no cheering at ringside, either — although, in boxing, they tend to let you get away with it, especially if you’ve wagered your next freelance check on the outcome.

The reason I like Ricky Hatton is that he grew up in a pub. His parents owned four of them.

“I think people have always viewed me as, you know, as a fatly Brit, articulate fellow who puts on loads of weight and drinks too much beer with the Millies (young, adventuresome girls),” he says.

“I live like a fighter. I’m never short to enjoy myself. I mean, if you don’t catch me at the bar, you’ll catch me at the buffet with a chicken breast.”

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Like Manchester United on the soccer pitch and that Robbie Williams dude who sings, Ricky Hatton is as genuine as it gets.

Plus, he has his own theme song. “There’s Only One Ricky Hatton,” warble the blokes who cross the pond to watch him fight while spilling Guinness all over your shoes. It’s a good thing there is only one Ricky Hatton, because if there were two, it would drive the Brits utterly mad, like when England loses to Argentina in the World Cup.

If you can believe it, Pacquiao has an even bigger following than Hatton back home. “When Manny Pacquiao goes into the ring, he fights for his country, the Philippines, and millions of Filipinos worldwide,” says his promoter, Bob Arum. “When Manny walks to the ring, he carries the weight of his country on his shoulders and he fights with all of his heart, every second of every round.”

Well, that’s not entirely true, as there were widespread reports that Pacquiao might have taken a few seconds off against Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov in their 2002 fight — but that was probably because he was still trying to help the ring announcer to his feet after the fighter introductions.

Pacquiao doesn’t have a theme song but he does have a cool nickname — Pacman — and a wife named Jinky, who is not related to Blinky, Pinky, Inky or Clyde, the ghosts in the Pacman video arcade game.

Plus, he has anvils for fists.

Boxing fans like boxers who have anvils for fists.

Boxing fans also like boxers who let their fists, instead of their mouths, do the talking.

Instead of contempt for one another, these two have only respect. That’s why their trainers, Floyd Mayweather Sr. for Hatton and Freddie Roach for Pacquiao, have been doing all the trash talking. If you can call it that. You can almost see them winking and elbowing each other in the side with each disparaging word.

The guys they train won’t be winking Saturday night. Wincing, maybe. But not winking. They won’t elbow each other in the ribs, either, because that’s against the rules.

But they’ll hit each other with all they’ve got for as long as it lasts. That’s all you can ask for. Then afterward, the winner will probably buy the beers.

As much as I’d like to be there to toast them both, I’ll probably still be cleaning smudge marks off the living room coffee table.

Read Ron Kantowski’s blog, “Now and Then,” at www.lasvegassun.com/blogs/now-and-then.

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