Thursday, March 5, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Manny Pacquiao just completed one of boxing’s most impressive years ever with three wins in three different weight classes, highlighted by his dominant victory over the iconic Oscar De La Hoya on Dec. 6, 2008, at the MGM Grand.
And while fans line the streets by the thousands in his native Philippines to watch the universally regarded pound-for-pound champ box, another prize fighter thinks he’s got just the type of style to stop Pacquiao’s legendary status from growing.
“To say I'm confident would be an understatement,” said British boxer Ricky Hatton, during a media conference call Wednesday to talk about his May 2 bout at the MGM Grand with Pacquiao being called “The Battle of East and West.”
“Training is going well. I'm feeling really sharp. Me and Floyd have been doing good work,” continued Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs), the current Ring Magazine Junior Welterweight Champ, whose lone loss was to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“They're going to see the boxing side of Ricky Hatton.”
Hatton’s trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., wasn’t as politically correct in his prediction for the spring bout.
“We're going to bust his (expletive) up,” Mayweather Sr. said. “Ricky is one of the easiest guys in the world to train. Makes it easy for me and hard for Pac-Man. Ricky surprises me at times. I'm sure he'll surprise Pac. He's an A-1 student.
"Ricky has a very good chance of knocking him out. (Pacquiao) is fighting a man who has real strength, can keep real pressure on him, bang him to the body and the head and smother him at the same time. That's hard to deal with.”
Earlier in the week, Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, avoided any bold predictions in an interview with the United Kingdom newspaper, The Telegraph, but instead insisted the Filipino star (48-3, 36 KOs) will be in the best shape of his life when he takes on “The Hitman.”
“I love training Manny. He doesn't stop between rounds, he doesn't rest,” Roach said.
“He's a machine. He fights like he trains, that's why he's in such great shape. We don't take anyone lightly, and he carries the hopes of many people when he fights. That's why we'll be in 100 percent shape for this fight.”
Hatton, who stopped Paul Malignaggi in the 11th round of their November fight at the MGM Grand, admitted he would have to be weary of Pacquiao’s incredible speed.
But Hatton countered that the former WBC lightweight world champion, WBC super featherweight world champion, IBF super bantamweight world champion and WBC flyweight world champion won’t have an answer for his size and strength.
“Obviously the speed factor is going to be a big factor,” Hatton said. “I've always said at 140 pounds I believe I'm too strong and too big.
“With the hand speed and punching, the things I'm learning with Floyd and my boxing ability, Manny has got something else to worry about besides the sheer size. He has got some technical ability to worry about come the night.”
While it is expected that Hatton’s large legion of fans from Manchester, England, will outnumber Pacquiao faithful 2-to-1 in the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 2, if Tuesday’s news conference in Manchester is any indication, then all bets are off.
"I did not expect it in Manchester because this is Ricky's hometown," said Pacquioa, who was mobbed by fans throughout his three-day press junket.
"I was surprised to see so many of my people in Manchester, and I think Ricky Hatton was surprised to see them, too. Although it is Hatton's place, I think Manchester is now 'Mannychester!'”
Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.