By Craig Watt
With just 24 days left until his IBO light-welterweight title defence against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Ricky Hatton is supremely confident he can defeat the generally recognised “pound for pound” champion from the Phillipines. He spoke exclusively to Fightnews today from his base in Vegas about the key aspects of his upcoming fight. The 30 year old Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs) is refreshed and re-generated following his link with new trainer Floyd Mayweather Snr, with the central high activity and pressure style now complemented with an increased focus on defence, his jab and combination work. Hatton is generally recognised as the “king” of the 140 pound division and is undefeated in 43 fights over a twelve year period at this weight. He is not under-estimating his challenge against the 30 year old Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) who has an enviable list of wins against recognised champions in his success as a four weight world champion. The fight promises to be one of the biggest in 2009 to date with Hatton’s vast army of traveling fans from the UK ready to invade Las Vegas on May 2nd.
Ricky, how is training going for your fight with Manny Pacquiao on May 2nd at the MGM Grand?
We are seven weeks into training now for this fight and I am in this best shape and focus since I fought Kostya Tszyu in 2005. In many ways I am head and shoulders above the fighter that defeated the recognised king of the 140 pound division in Kostya Tszyu and I am undefeated at this weight in 12 years and 43 of my 45 fights. I have always stated that no one in the world can beat me at 140 pounds and I stand by that statement. Let’s remember that Manny Pacquiao has never fought at 140 pounds and I have been here for twelve years. He has only fought twice above 130 pounds and this I feel is the crucial aspect of the fight. He knows I am going to pressure him and throw lots of punches and I don’t believe he will be able to take the combination of my pressure and my power at 140 pounds. I found it harder going upto 147 pounds and although Pacquiao has fought at 147 pounds I think the win against Oscar de La Hoya flattered him because Oscar was so dead at the weight. Oscar had never made 147 in twelve years and was not the fully fledged, strong fighter that we have all known to love and respect.
What has the impact of Floyd Mayweather Snr had on your training camp since you joined forces prior to the Malignaggi fight last year ?
I can honestly say that Floyd Mayweather Snr has put that extra 5% to my game at the highest level. After the defeat against Mayweather Jr and even in my win over Juan Lazcano I knew I needed to go back to the drawing board. I took too many punches against Lazcano and Floyd has helped me improve my defense, use my jab more, throw more combinations and got me back to the “old” Ricky Hatton if that makes sense. I have always been a come-forward aggressive pressure fighter but I got a little predictable and gung-ho, just charging out and trying to knock out my opponent. Now, with Floyd’s guidance and experience I am re-invigorated and focussed and in the best shape of my boxing career. He is a great new addition to Team Hatton and when I fought Malignaggi last year it was perceived like the Pacquiao fight – slick boxer versus the power puncher in myself. If you watched the fight you will see I outboxed, out jabbed and dominated Malignaggi in a controlled and effective manner – not reckless and people under-estimate the boxing ability I have. I think Team Pacquiao think I am just going to charge out at the opening bell and they will be able to pick me off, move to the side and take me to the cleaners. If they think that then they totally underestimate me.
Ricky, what do you see as the keys to victory against Manny?
I have watched many of Pacquiao’s fights on tape and he is a slick, fast and effective boxer but if you look at the defeat by Erik Morales in 2005 and the close fights with Manuel Marquez he doesn’t like sustained pressure. I am a fighter that is constantly in your face, constantly throwing punches, outworking, stopping the opponent getting into his rhythm and throwing his own punches. I don’t think anyone ever expected me to break the great Kostya Tszyu down and make him quit on his stool. That is the challenge Manny faces in a fully fledged big light welterweight who will always be on the advance, but not recklessly like the Mayweather fight. I have a boxing brain and ability that not many people see past when they see me up close and personal. You will see more of the fighter that stopped Malignaggi and Tszyu than came out winging and recklessly against Floyd Mayweather Jr. It is going to be an exciting contest.
Respected trainer Freddie Roach has stated this fight will be the best three rounds in recent boxing history but his man will stop you inside three rounds. What is your view of this?
Every time I hear a story about Manny’s training camp and opinions like this It gives me encouragement. Freddie is one of the most respected trainers in boxing and he and Manny have never before talked about knocking out an opponent with such ease. They have always gone about their work in a relatively quiet way and I always believe that when people act, say and do things out of character it is because they are worried. I am not saying they are scared but this is definitely out of character for them both. Lets face it- no one has stopped me inside three rounds and at 140 pounds no one has defeated me. Floyd Mayweather Jr stopped me in ten rounds and that fight was at 147 pounds – what makes anyone think that a fighter, who has only two fights above 130 pounds is going to walk through me and stop me inside three rounds. In some ways I am glad they are thinking like that and it is a sign they think it is an easy night at the office, which is so far from the truth. Believe me Ricky Hatton will be the toughest fight he has ever had. If they think I will run out at the bell and charge at Manny then I think they will be in for a shock. I have seen some of his training sessions in LA on YouTube and they clearly think I am a one trick pony – move forward in straight lines and easy to hit. If Manny does stop me in three rounds then I will shake his hands and congratulate him but no one has done that so far, even a huge Luis Collazo or the great Kostya Tszyu. Jose Luis Castillo was a strong fighter and had great punching power at 140 pounds and he couldn’t stop me either.
Who have you been sparring with in the training camp, here in Las Vegas?
We have had a team of four sparring partners with the main one Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara who is an excellent boxer who shuffles his feet like Manny and likes to throw punches at angles. He is a good boxer and was the world amateur champion for Cuba in 2005 so he comes with a good pedigree.
What is your view of Pacquiao’s recent performances at lightweight and 147 pounds against Oscar de La Hoya?
I never like to be disrespectful in boxing but these two wins made Manny look good and perhaps gave him a false sense of achievement. WBC lightweight champion David Diaz was one of the division’s weakest champions and Manny ran rings round him and he didn’t seem to have a plan B and Oscar was just “shot” at the weight. He weighed 147 pounds for the first time in twelve years and on the night of the fight he was still 147 pounds which shocked everyone. You could see in his legs, eyes and face that he was not the great Oscar we loved and enjoyed watching. I don’t know how he dropped the weight but he looked drained and consequently the win flattered Pacquiao. Even in the last few years you can argue that Manny fought Morales and Barrera past their prime and when he fought a dangerous opponent in Juan Manuel Marquez he pushed him really close. I am still at my prime at 140 pounds and it will take a very good fighter to beat me in this frame of mind and I don’t think that Manny’s recent performances make me worry to my boots. He is a great boxer, great speed but I am supremely confident of a win for all my fans.
How has the defeat against Floyd Mayweather affected your mental approach to this “super-fight”?
The loss against Mayweather did highlight to me that I needed to change my approach and not just charge out and try and knock my opponent’s head off and that was the issue with Floyd. He is a great fighter and has fast hands and if you just charge against him it plays into his hands. My plan under Mayweather Snr is to be more controlled in my aggression and power. I have learned more control and focus from this defeat and you saw that in the Malignaggi fight where I was still aggressive, still applied pressure but used my jab, my movement and my effective combinations. It also made me realise that my real strength is at 140 pounds and not 147 pounds. You saw in my two fights at welterweight that I struggled and Luis Collazo gave me a tough hard fight. At 140 pounds I am the boss, I have the pedigree and I have the experience. No one has beaten me and I am not ready for Manny to be that first person to defeat me at my weight. I want to retire eventually as the top 140 pound fighter since Kostya Tszyu and with an undefeated record of 43 wins then I should be confident against Manny, who is used to fighting guys ten pounds below me. I made that move up and it is a totally difference way of fighting and the De La Hoya experience could make him too confident.
If you defeat Pacquiao does that set up a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr?
My attention is currently on the job in hand but there are still some good fights out there for me if I defeat Manny. There is a re-match with Floyd that would motivate me greatly or we could match up at 140 pounds with Juan Manuel Marquez. Either opponent will give the fans a great fight but first things first, lets concentrate on Manny Pacquiao.
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Overall, Hatton is in a confident mood and his army of fans from the UK will start arriving in a couple of weeks to make the two-weight world champion feel like he is fighting in his beloved home of Manchester. Ricky Hatton v Manny Pacquiao is live on Sky Box Office in the UK and in high definition on Sky Box Office HD on Saturday 2 May. To order the fight call: 08442 410 888 in the UK.