By Chris Le
There’s an old adage in boxing that says you’re only as good as your last fight. Meaning, the perception of any particular fighter is determined by his most recent result. It’s the ultimate “what have you done for me lately?” criteria. And really, with current sports fans’ obsession with the now and our tendency to be captives of the moment, this axiom is applicable to all sports. In this sense, we have the memory of a newborn baby. It happens, without failure, before every postseason. A once-hot team that takes a midseason turn for the worse, but still manages to stumble into the playoffs, they are brushed aside — until they go on a tear, at which point everyone flip-flops again, jumping right back onto their bandwagon (the Arizona Cardinals, anyone?).
The sport of boxing, however, finds itself a unique situation. It has changed a bit since the proverb’s advent, since the golden age when fights were aired on network television. Changed in the sense that it’s, uh, dying. The casual fan no longer cares about the sport’s non-premier matchups, reserving their attention to those fights previewed on ESPN, and as we all know, ESPN only covers the bouts that fall into the “Fight of the Year” category. When was the last time you saw Stuart Scott and Scott Van Pelt profile a “Boxing After Dark” matchup?
So the saying needs to be modified a bit. It should now read: In the public eye, you’re only as good as your last mega Pay-Per-View fight that was showcased on SportsCenter.
Taking this into account, the general public probably views tomorrow’s fight as being between the Manny Pacquiao who destroyed Oscar De La Hoya and the Ricky Hatton who was battered by Floyd Mayweather Jr. In reality, however, only half of this equation is true. The Manny Pacquiao that enters the ring will be the pound-for-pound king of boxing, the one that humiliated the Golden Boy into retirement. This much is true. But he’ll be facing a new-look Ricky Hatton. If anyone expects the plodding, head-first brawler that was dissected by Mayweather, they’ll be sorely mistaken. No, the Hatton we’ll see will resemble the one who stopped Paul Malignaggi back in November. (I bet you didn’t know Hatton fought since his loss to Mayweather. In fact, he’s had two bouts; the Malignaggi victory and a decision over Juan Lazcano. Thanks for keeping us informed, ESPN!)
Hatton’s move to bring in the audacious Floyd Mayweather Sr. to head his training camp is a good career move. As senile as Mayweather Sr. comes off at times, and he does to great extent, particularly when he rhymes like a wannabe Muhammad Ali, he’s a decent enough trainer — at least for Hatton. If anything, he’ll instill in Ricky basic defensive maneuvers (like ANY semblance of head movement, parrying and blocking punches with his gloves and arms as opposed to his face, all of which were absent in his previous career) which will benefit him, particularly against someone like Pacquiao who likes to mix things up and doesn’t shy away from a brawl.
But in the end, it won’t make that much of a difference. It will merely delay the inevitable. Instead of being blitzed out in the first few rounds from a barrage of head-snapping blows, Hatton will have a moment or two of his own . . . until the mid-to-late rounds, when he’ll be stopped from a barrage of head-snapping blows. There’s no one on the planet that can handle Pac-Man, and that includes the Hitman.
Prediction: Pacquiao by late-round stoppage.