Friday, Jan. 23, 2009 | 4:39 p.m.
Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao will end up in the ring together after all.
The popular British fighter and the pound-for-pound king from the Philippines will fight May 2 at the MGM Grand Garden in easily the year's biggest bout _ one that appeared scuttled earlier in the week when Pacquiao refused to accept terms already agree to by his promoter.
Pacquiao, who is coming off an easy win over Oscar De La Hoya last month, signed and faxed his bout contract to the headquarters of promoter Top Rank in Las Vegas on Friday.
The 12-round junior welterweight fight is expected to be a sellout, Top Rank spokesman Lee Samuels told The Associated Press.
"Manny Pacquiao is the most exciting, charismatic athlete in the world today. He has millions of fans worldwide," Top Rank chief Bob Arum said from Los Angeles, where he is promoting Saturday night's welterweight title fight between Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley.
"Now he has a new challenge in facing a champion in Ricky Hatton."
Pacquiao has won his last nine fights and captured a lightweight belt from David Diaz last summer. His enormous following extends from his home country to Las Vegas, which has become like a second home. Still, it's Hatton who figures to bring the money.
Besides the audience that will tune in overseas, Hatton brought thousands of chanting, singing British fans to the United States for two of his last three fights, an easy win over Paul Malignaggi in November and his only career loss, a 10th-round knockout by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in December 2007.
The original agreement was for Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) and Hatton to split their shares 50-50, with Pacquiao having a $12 million guarantee. Then Pacquiao demanded a bigger percentage, and a new agreement called for him to get a 52-48 split.
Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Shaefer, who represents Hatton, had said on Wednesday that he was canceling a worldwide media tour and even began tossing out alternative opponents for Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs), but left open the possibility the fight would happen if Pacquiao returned to the table before another opponent was found.