Boxing
'Pretty Boy's dominance clear, except to HBO
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I got an e-mail from an old friend this week.

"I made this statement to a colleague earlier today," it said.

"'Nobody is going to beat Mayweather.' I just thought I'd share."

Hardly an Earth-shattering proclamation on its own, but, in context, it represented quite a shift.

A music guru who dabbles in boxing, the old friend has been a firmly entrenched member of the "OK, Floyd's pretty good, but he's beatable...and I don't like him" club for as long as I've known him.

He was among the misguided who thought "C+ fighter" Arturo Gatti had a chance to do more than bleed and surrender against Mayweather two years ago in Atlantic City.

And he's included a caveat with every pro-Pretty Boy pick since, wistfully pining "I'd be happy to be wrong" before grudgingly admitting that the foe -- Baldomir, Judah, De La Hoya -- had little chance.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. proved once again that he is the best fighter on the planet.
The same was true last weekend.

He entered Saturday's main event with the same sort of hopeful zeal and carried it proudly through five or six rounds, when it became clear that the tide had turned and the reality of the situation was inescapable.

Poor guy, I felt kinda bad.

Well...almost.

Because the more I think about it -- and regardless of any subsequent "I've seen the light" e-mails -- the more I have to shake my head toward anyone who expected anything other than a virtuoso performance, or walked away from it with anything other than a "Floyd's the best" mindset.

Even the most ardent of Ricky Hatton fans -- though hoarse from off-key song singing and classless U.S. anthem booing -- had to walk out of the MGM Grand firmly comprehending that their guy, while game and gritty, was pretty much in over his head from the opening bell.

And it's not because he's that bad, but because Floyd's that good.

The only ones seemingly reticent to pick up on the theme were the clueless HBO PPV announcers, who maintained that Hatton was in the fight long after his control had been snatched, and chastised Mayweather for fouls clearly prompted by his foe's unseasoned bull rushes.

Then after the fight, Larry Merchant was, well... Larry Merchant.

But hey, I'm no fool. I understand the economics. The network had everything to gain with a Hatton win, both through a replay that would draw huge numbers and the subsequent drum-beating for a match with Oscar that was already rumored, and still may happen, in May 2008.

Had the Brit sensation headed into such a bout off a clear thrashing of Mayweather, the hype -- "De La Hoya/Hatton, 24/7/365," anyone? -- would have climbed to revenue-generating heights unfathomable even when compared to last May's record-setting Pretty Boy vs. Golden Boy bonanza.

Still, to be that stubbornly partisan toward what was obviously unfolding in the other direction reeks of the bush-league ilk from which the cable giant normally separates itself, and penalizes paying customers -- regardless of their rooting interest -- who deserved better.

So, Hatton fans, here's my challenge.

When watching the rebroadcast this weekend, ask yourself... 1.) Does Hatton land any shots of significance, ever; 2.) Do you watch any round and see anything of momentum-turning proportions; and 3.) Is there any time you look at it and say, "OK Ricky, here we go"?

I watched the between-round clips and never saw Floyd get hit clean, so HBO's claim that Hatton had split rounds through eight though he never landed a significant punch -- seems a little odd. And while I kept waiting, all I instead kept thinking was "OK, there's another right hand from Floyd," etc.

Whether Lampley and Merchant and their bosses like the guy who's winning or not, they do have at least a trace of responsibility to acknowledge what's actually happening in front of them.

To paraphrase the grumpy old man's own post-fight rant... "that's what a ?Network of Champions' does."

Earlier, Jeff Lacy's return to prominence on Saturday was well, errr... successful?

The former IBF 168-pound kingpin was a winner, albeit an unimpressive one, over Contender series alumnus Peter Manfredo Jr. in a 10-round run-up to the Mayweather-Hatton main event.

Performing for just the second time since a one-sided loss to Joe Calzaghe in March 2006, Lacy was curiously inactive for much of his 30 in-ring minutes, in spite of pre-fight indications that the reality TV star was exactly the sort of opponent who'd bring out his best.

"He's going to try to fight me because he's really not the kind of guy who can box," Lacy said, in a November interview. "And that's exactly what I'm looking for.

"To be able to come out after a year layoff and fight a guy like this on such a big card in front of a sold-out arena, I couldn't have asked for a better situation."

Lacy had spent 12 frustrating months on the shelf, recuperating from complex surgery to repair a torn left rotator cuff sustained in a December 2006 defeat of Vitali Tsypko.

Judges Chuck Giampa, C.J. Ross and Jerry Roth provided the unanimous verdict over Manfredo, seeing Lacy as a 95-94, 96-93 and 97-92 winner, respectively.

FitzHitz agreed with Giampa and scored it 95-94 for Lacy, whose fourth-round knockdown was enough to break a 5-5 tie in rounds.

"I'm 30 years old. Since when is that old?" he said in November. "I'm just getting started. That's not old, unless you're talking about those Mexican guys who've been fighting pro since they were 18.

"That's not me. I've got a long way to go in this game."

Headlining this weekend, once-beaten WBO super featherweight champion Alex Arthur heads home for his first title defense, where he'll meet sturdy British challenger Stephen Foster at the Meadowbank Sports Centre on Saturday night in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Arthur, now 25-1 with 19 KOs, captured the vacant WBO belt in July with a 10th-round stoppage of Koba Gogoladze in Cardiff, Wales. He's won nine straight since his lone career loss, a fifth-round TKO by Michael Gomez in October 2003.

Foster, a former WBU title-holder at 126 pounds, has won two straight since surrendering his crown by decision 14 months ago. He stopped Wladimir Borov in three rounds in July, then blew out Jean-Marie Codet in one in October -- improving to 23-1-1 with 16 KOs.

Elsewhere, on Mexico's soggy Yucatan Peninsula, Venezuelan "Golden Boy" Jorge Linares looks for his 25th straight win when he defends his WBC featherweight title against challenger Gamaliel Diaz at the Plaza del Toros in Cancun.

Linares won the vacant belt with a 10th-round dispatch of veteran Oscar Larios in July, running his record to 24-0 with 15 stoppages.

Diaz, who lost five of his first eight fights as a pro, earned his first world title shot with a 10-round split verdict over unbeaten Dominican prospect Elio Rojas in July.

He'd completed a two-bout series with now-IBF champ Robert Guerrero a year earlier, losing the rematch by sixth-round KO after winning bout No. 1 via split decision.

Diaz is 22-6-2 with nine KOs.

Also on the Cancun card, KO artist Edwin Valero defends the WBA 130-pound crown for the third time when he faces Mexico City's Zaid Zavaleta in a scheduled 12-rounder.

Valero improved to 22-0 with 22 stoppages on May 3, dumping Nobuhito Honmo in eight rounds at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo.

Zavaleta, 16-2-2 with 11 KOs, has won two straight -- both by stoppage -- since a unanimous decision loss to Guadalupe Rosales in August 2006.

In Guadalajara, IBF light flyweight champion Ulises Solis risks his laurels for the sixth time when he faces 36-year-old Filipino veteran Bert Batawang at Auditorio Benito Juarez.

Solis won his title in January 2006 at Madison Square Garden, defeating American incumbent Will Grigsby by unanimous decision on the Judah-Baldomir undercard. He's had four wins and a draw since, improving to 25-1-2 with an eighth-round TKO of Rodel Mayol in August.

Batawang, who earns his first title fight in pro bout No. 57, has won five straight by KO since a two-round loss to Hiroyuki Hisataka two years ago.

He is 50-6 with 34 KOs.

On Sunday, light heavyweight Stipe Drews defends his WBA strap for the first time when he faces hometown hero Danny Green at Challenge Stadium in Perth, Australia.

Drews, a 34-year-old Croatian, downed Silvio Branco by unanimous decision in his last fight, improving to 32-1 in his first championship opportunity.

Green, on the other hand, had an IBO shot at Antonio Tarver lined up earlier this month in Connecticut, but instead chose to return home to for his third world title fight.

He lost to WBC super middleweight title-holder Markus Beyer by fifth-round disqualification in August 2003 in Germany, then lost a rematch by majority decision 19 months later.

He is 24-3 with 22 KOs.

Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show -- broadcast weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com) -- and provides 'In the Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com).

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

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