Boxing
Weekend whets appetite for what comes next
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's kind of a tough week in these parts.

As the year's initial super event between IBO junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton and consensus pound-for-pound high horse Manny Pacquiao draws ever closer, I'm trying to decipher some sort of personal rooting interest.

Problem is, I'm not a huge fan of either guy.

While I respect the years of elite status at 140 pounds that Hatton's strung together and I'm surely impressed by the one-sided beatdown Pacquiao put on Oscar De La Hoya last winter, I still don't go into this weekend thinking either man is the be-all, end-all for the sport.

In Hatton's last star turn before the PPV lights, he was beaten bloody and senseless.

In Pacquiao's most recent outing against an in-his-prime fellow P4P A-lister, he barely squeaked by.

So rather than pulling hard for either guy because of individual skills or compelling back story, I'm instead left to look at the future and gauge which man would do more for the sport - i.e., setting up the year's next super-huge, can't-miss event - by winning.


In Manny Pacquiao's most recent outing against an in-his-prime fellow P4P A-lister, he barely squeaked by.
And in those terms, it's really a no-brainer.

A Hatton victory, while spectacular and surprising, would in no way provide foundation from which he could argue a claim to the mythical pound-for-pound championship.

Not as long as Floyd Mayweather Jr. is still breathing.

As noted a few lines above, the last time Hatton attempted to take a step toward boxing's stratosphere, he was left in a heap by a supposedly feather- fisted and challenge-dodging "Pretty Boy."

And though the English drum beats would no doubt sound for a rematch on the affable Mancunian's home turf, there's really no reason to buy the argument that a win over Pacquiao - in whatever form or fashion it might come - suddenly makes Hatton more likely to contend with Mayweather.

It simply doesn't.

In fact, the lone must-see element of a return bout between those two would be whether or not Mayweather's daddy - the always quotable Floyd Sr. - would be willing to cross familial lines and train Hatton to try and punch his son in the mouth a few hundred times.

It's a blood feud he wanted no part of when Floyd Jr. fought longtime charge De La Hoya a few years back - ironically, driving Oscar to the tutelage of arch enemy Freddie Roach - but a full-fledged starring role in another 24/7 blockbuster would be a tough lure for Senior to ignore.

All things considered, that'd be fun.

But aside from the loquacious titillation of dueling blood relatives, the truest chance at a matchup that'd actually answer the "Who's the best fighter in the world" question comes only with a Pacquiao triumph Saturday night.

If the dynamic Filipino wins, especially in a manner more destructive than Mayweather's tactical Hatton dissection 17 months ago, supporters from Manila to Michigan would be whipped to a froth debating their favorite's chances.

Do Manny's visceral punchouts of Hatton and De La Hoya make him a lock against the "Pretty Boy," or would Mayweather's perceived advantages in size, strength and guile be enough to carry the day against a multi-division terror?

Not to mention the draw of another Mayweather-Roach trainer free-for-all, this time including the ever-popular Uncle Roger, whose reported sparring session with Roach in 1983 provided fodder for the most entertaining moments of the run-up to this weekend's show.

"I most definitely was a better fighter than Freddie Roach. As a matter of fact, I've got a poster down at the gym where Freddie's on my undercard," said Floyd Sr., alluding to a 1984 show in Portland, Ore., on which Mayweather lost a 10-round decision to Clayton Hires and Roach had an eight-round no-contest with Efrain Nieves.

Said Roach: "I tried really hard. I fought on TV a lot more than him. I was (more) popular than he was."

Countered Mayweather: "You were a bum. You got hit more than any fighter I've ever known. You know about Roger. Roger told me about it."

Replied Roach: "You were never there, though, because I think you were in jail. Selling drugs or something? That's nice stuff to do."

Outstanding stuff. A verbal feast for casual fans and zealots.

And, in spite of Bob Arum's dismissal of Mayweather as a drawing card - ignoring his role as a main-event presence on historys most lucrative PPV - don't think for a moment that thawing can't begin by the time Michael Buffer's through hailing Pacquiao as new IBO champion.

It makes too much sense not to.

While Mayweather's rumored dance with Juan Manuel Marquez or a Pacquiao bout with Miguel Cotto would entertain the insatiable hardcore element, neither presents the sort of marquee juice that'd garner week-long lead story status on SportsCenter.

And aside from excessive trainer bickering, jingoistic flag waving and inane message board trash-talking, the contrasting styles of Mayweather and Pacquiao provide for what actually could be a pretty damned good fight in the ring.

Love him or hate him, most would at least acknowledge Junior's prowess as a defensive master and give him full props for breaking character with particularly significant offensive outbursts against rough-and-tumble foes like Corrales, Gatti and Hatton.

Meanwhile, Pacquiao's proven nothing if not special since 2005, earning at least some form of recognition at three weight stops from 130 to 147 pounds, after an early career that had already yielded title belts at 112 and 122.

A recent online poll in Mayweather's hometown Grand Rapids Press had 82 percent of 1,896 respondents calling for Pacquiao as the "Pretty Boy's" next foil, compared to 9 percent for Shane Mosley. A similar poll at About.com produced similar results, with 49 percent of nearly 800 voters choosing Pacquiao and 15 percent favoring Mosley.

So the public clearly wants it. And even Richard Schaefer, kingmaker at Golden Boy Promotions - the company whose golden goose was decisively cooked by both men - agrees.

"If Manny Pacquiao would win against Hatton, I don't care who you put in front of him, big or small, he would be the pound-for-pound champion," he said. "To put him and Mayweather together, it would be for all the marbles. If you think about each one of these fights, even if you were a casual fan, you would have to get excited about them."

In light of all that, can anyone tell me how - Arum's blustering and Mosley's envy notwithstanding - this fight doesn't get made?

My advice to all involved: Just do it.

Right now. Immediately. Today.

Oh, sorry Ricky... errr, good luck this weekend.

* * * * * * * * *

This week's title-fight schedule:

SATURDAY IBO junior welterweight title - Las Vegas, Nev.

Ricky Hatton (champion) vs. Manny Pacquiao (No. 1 contender)

Hatton (45-1, 32 KO): Fourth title defense; Unbeaten at 140 pounds or less (34-0)

Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KO): Ex-champion at 112, 122, 130 and 135; Nine-fight win streak

FitzHitz says: Pacquiao in 7

WBC super featherweight title - Las Vegas, Nev.

Humberto Soto (champion) vs. Benoit Gaudet (No. 9 contender)

Soto (47-7-2, 30 KO): Second title defense; Three of seven career losses in U.S.

Gaudet (20-1, 7 KO): First title fight; Second fight outside Canada

FitzHitz says: Soto in 9

WBA bantamweight title - Bremen, Germany

Anselmo Moreno (champion) vs. Wladimir Sidorenko (No. 1 contender)

Moreno (24-1-1, 8 KO): Third title defense; Won belt from Sidorenko in May 2008

Sidorenko (21-1-2, 7 KO): Held title for 39 months; Won five of eight title bouts (5-1-2)

FitzHitz says: Sidorenko by decision

Last week's picks: 5-0 (100 %) Overall picks record: 86-34 (71.6%)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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