Pacquiao, Hatton Let Trainers Do the Talking

A national hero faces a man described as a "fat, beer-drinking Englishman" this weekend in Las Vegas.

It sounds like a mismatch, but don't be fooled.

There's only one Ricky Hatton, as his admirers constantly sing to anyone who will listen. Good thing, because if there were any more Ricky Hattons his devoted followers in England might never have time to do anything but sing.

The problem for Hatton is there's also only one pound-for-pound champion in boxing. His name is Manny Pacquiao, and all he did his last time out was give Oscar De La Hoya such a beating that De La Hoya decided it was time to retire.

The two fighters have largely avoided the kind of trash talk that normally happens before big fights, leaving that to others in their camps. For Pacquiao that means Roach, and for Hatton it's his new trainer, Floyd Mayweather, the estranged father of the only fighter to beat him.
Mayweather read a poem he wrote about the fight Wednesday and did his best to taunt Roach. But Roach maintained his manners, for what promoter Bob Arum said was a good reason.
"The trainer (Roach) is training a future president of the Philippines," Arum said. "The people sitting here are already campaigning to be in the cabinet."

Mayweather continued his rhymes during an interview Thursday.

"Manny... Now you'll be sprayed with Raid and underpaid because at the end of the night, your title will be gone. Just like a roach when the lights come on."

Roach was more subdued.

"Ricky has a lot of heart and he believes in himself," Roach said Thursday. "Nobody says it's going to be an easy fight."

Promoters claim the fight has already sold out the 15,000-seat arena at the MGM and are selling closed circuit viewing at other Las Vegas hotels. They're also hopeful that even an ailing economy won't stop people from spending 50 bucks to order the fight on pay-per-view, perhaps with a few friends.

The fight against De La Hoya not only introduced Pacquiao to a lot of casual boxing fans, but prompted oddsmakers to make him a 2-1 favorite when he and Hatton meet Saturday night in a 140-pound fight that is the first big bout of the post-De La Hoya era. Despite the lopsided odds, both Hatton and his fans fervently believe he will be the one with his gloves raised when the fight finally ends.

"I've been here before," Hatton said. "People say (I'm) over-hyped, overprotected, a fat, beer-drinking Englishman. Well, I'm going to shock the world again."

A Hatton win might not be quite enough to shock the world, but it would deal a blow to the Philippines, where Pacquiao is such a national hero that there is talk about him running for president when he gets out of boxing.

Pacquiao's mother will be in attendance in her first trip to the United States to see her son fight for the first time.

"Usually, she stays home and prays for his fights," said trainer Freddie Roach. "She chose to come to America for this one. Manny feels excited about it. It gives him a little extra motivation. I think it's going to be fun for him."

But while the Pacman was always huge at home, it wasn't until he stopped De La Hoya that many in boxing began giving him his due as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the game.

It's a mythical title, but Pacquiao has won enough real titles to justify his coronation. Though the Hatton fight is for a lightly regarded crown, winning at 140 pounds will mean Pacquiao has won titles in six weight divisions, beginning at 112 pounds.

"If that happens, people will want to put my name in boxing history and that will be my legacy," Pacquiao said.

The two fighters got together Wednesday for the final pre-fight press conference at the MGM Grand hotel-casino, where both had spectacular performances the last time they were in the ring. For Pacquiao it was the win over De La Hoya, but Hatton showed off some himself a few weeks earlier by stopping Paulie Malignaggi in front of thousands of his ever-singing fans.

Hatton's only loss came when he was stopped by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the 10th round of their December 2007 fight, and his record and fan base were enough to get him a guarantee of $8 million for the scheduled 12-round bout.

"Manny has not fought anybody that's going to put as much pressure on him with as much force and strength and power and hand speed," Hatton said. "I'd like to think I'll be too much for him, but I think it's going to a wonderful fight."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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