In Attack Mode Part II: What Knocking off Hatton Means to the Superfight



By Christian Giudice

Inside and outside the ring, Pacquiao’s appeal is that’s he’s genuine in everything he does. He treats all people the same – with respect. He’s rare in that sense. When Pacquiao fights, every second of his attack is purposeful and immediate. The knowledgeable and the casual fan recognize his effort and persistence and admire him for those qualities. He is not a one-dimensional fighter, but he relies on a one-dimensional mindset to always end his fight with a knockout.

Over the years no fighter has been able to employ multiple strategies like Floyd Mayweather Jr. Few, if any, fighters can break down an opponent so effortlessly. He’s taken great fighters and minimized their strengths, and taken good fighters and completely neutralized them so they have nothing left to offer. It’s demoralizing for an opponent once he gets to a point – usually around the eighth or ninth round – where  he realizes he has no chance of winning. If the opponent become more aggressive, Mayweather intensifies those vicious right hands. If that opponent decides to sit back, Mayweather contentedly boxes his way to a victory. Even one last lucky knockout try from a big puncher is fruitless because Mayweather has one of the best chins in the sport. Needless to say, Mayweather is finally encountering the one fighter who he won’t be able to control in that manner.

With the exception of one knockout punch loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, no one outclasses Pacquiao.

Critics have different perspectives regarding Mayweather and Pacquiao and the significance, if any, of performances against common opponents. However, when Mayweather and Pacquiao met Ricky Hatton in 2007 and 2009 respectively, the victories showcased more differences than similarities in the effectiveness of both fighters’ approaches. Both fights ended in a knockout, but signified so much more for each fighter.

By the time Pacquiao faced Hatton on May 2 in 2009, he was coming off the biggest victory of his career over Oscar De La Hoya. Fortunately, he was catching Hatton, who suffered a brutal loss to Mayweather two years earlier, on the downside of his career. From the opening bell Hatton, 45-1 (32 KOs), who showed a tendency for squaring up and leaving himself open during his frequent bum rushes, got nailed with a counter right hook by Pacquiao. Never one to shy away from violence, Hatton walked right through it.

The strategy was clear and concise – Pacquiao, (48-3-2, 36 KOs), recognized that by feinting and throwing that counter hook, the punch would be the perfect antidote to Hatton’s hyper aggressive style.Thoroughly outclassing Hatton in the first round, a focused Pacquiao had him off balance and flailing. Seconds later Pacquiao sent him to the canvas from that same counter right hand that Hatton had shown susceptibility to earlier in the round. For Pacquiao, the punch came with implications as it was wide and powerful. This was not a first-round flash knockdown, but an omen for the relentless Hatton.

Hatton, who was in the midst of throwing a punch when he suffered the knockdown, eventually rose at the count of eight. With ten seconds remaining in the round, Hatton, now stumbling and still not fully recovered, went down again from another barrage. It was a sharp left hand that landed through his guard. Pacquiao stood and watched with his right hand cocked just in case Hatton stayed upright.

In 2009, Pacquiao, 138, was at his peak. Physically, he was strong and maintained his quickness that defined him as a bantamweight. Coming in at 138, Hatton had no answer for that speed, and it showed as his only recourse was to fearlessly confront Pacquiao without establishing a jab or utilizing head movement. In the second and final round, Hatton finally landed first his first significant punch – a right hand lead that landed flush, a second before Pacquiao bounced a harmless left hand off his head. Refusing to take heed of Manny’s power, Hatton recklessly charged him.

Halfway through the round, Pacquiao relied on the jab and a straight left hand; neither punch deterred Hatton. Yet, the incoming three-punch combinations quickly changed the dynamic of the fight. The first combination may have softened Hatton toward the end of the round, but it was Pacquiao’s sheer will, accuracy and power that sent Hatton down again as he cleanly landed a straight left to Hatton’s neck. Hatton frighteningly went down and lay motionless on his back. Prior to the knockdown and subsequent stoppage, Pacquiao missed with a throwaway jab and then landed what was possibly the hardest punch he’s ever thrown. Referee Kenny Bayless started the count, but quickly stopped to attend to Hatton’s well being.

A year and a half earlier on December 8, 2007, Hatton faced Mayweather as a welterweight in a fight that pitted two undefeated fighters.

Although the end result was the same, Mayweather and Pacquiao’s employed decidedly different strategies. In the first round, Mayweather waited patiently in the pocket for the awkward Hatton, who showed a lot of movement that rarely put him in the position to land and then escape. Then the momentum shifted. It started with a jab, which led to a clinch. Mayweather loves to own his space; Hatton took that luxury away from him. After getting separated, Hatton sliced Mayweather with a left hand that sent him momentarily reeling. To Hatton’s surprise, Mayweather quickly recovered.

Usually Mayweather can figure out his opponents early, but he recognized that Hatton was too big and fast to move for the entire fight, so he hunkered down against the ropes and waited. This tactic led to rounds that were marred by holding, trash talking, and little actual punching. The third round was punctuated by a huge straight right hand by Floyd; a cut opened on the corner of Hatton’s right eye.

A close fight on the scorecards, the fourth round represented a brutal, messy fight fought in the trenches. Floyd baited Hatton to take him to the ropes and then employed the shoulder roll to avoid the brunt of Hatton’s attack. Then with over a minute remaining, Mayweather used a push off move to create space and land big punches. First, it was the uppercut. Then before the round ended, Mayweather situated himself perfectly as he landed a pair of short three-punch combinations, initiating them with the staple right hand.

Yet it wasn’t the typical Mayweather performance and the fifth proved to be one of Mayweather’s most ineffective rounds as he allowed Hatton to smother and frustrate him as they continued to jaw at each other constantly. Mayweather awoke from sleep mode in the sixth after Hatton forcefully shoved him through the ropes and got a point deducted. Referee Joe Cortez stayed away and let them clinch and wrestle on the inside, while Floyd periodically broke away to land one substantial punch. More importantly going into the eighth Floyd hadn’t figured out the best way to attack Hatton as he only landed one or two punches at a time.

The tenor of the fight changed in the eighth round as the real Floyd emerged. In the first minute, he nailed Hatton with a fierce uppercut on the outside, followed by a devastating straight right at the two-minute mark, the best punch of the fight. Hatton helplessly fell into Mayweather from another right hand seconds later. Bruised and battered, Hatton followed Floyd into the corner and absorbed more counter shots as his head was dangerously jarred back from another straight right. Cortez stood by intently, assessing the damage.

The pattern continued into the tenth and final round when the courageous Hatton finally succumbed to two knockdowns in what had turned into a vicious attack. A final check hook did the real damage as Hatton fell into the ropes. Cortez stopped the fight after one more knockdown; Mayweather sprinted over and jumped on the ring post to celebrate.

As far as the implications on the megafight, clearly, neither fighter is even close to these versions. As good as they are, neither Pacquiao nor Mayweather can replicate the performances. The evidence suggests that Hatton was not the same fighter after his loss to Mayweather, but that doesn’t change or negate the fact that Mayweather struggled and Pacquiao shined.

When Mayweather faces Pacquiao, he will not have the luxury of clinching and making it a fragmented, ugly fight. This technique to sit back in the pocket, against the ropes or not, won’t be especially effective against Pacquiao. Only throwing and landing 13 and then 6 punches for some rounds won’t suffice against Pacquiao. The way to beat him is to throw a lot of punches from angles, cut off the ring, attack him before he resets and then when Pacquiao takes the lead, counter effectively.

Clearly, Hatton recognized and tried to implement his only plan – frustrate Mayweather by smothering and being rough on the inside, piss him off, and never give him space to move or punch. It was not until the last three rounds that Mayweather was able to dictate the pace of the fight. Fighting Hatton was never easy, but Pacquiao only need a few punches to close it out, while Mayweather needed almost ten rounds. In the end, the performances showed more about Mayweather’s weaknesses than Pacquiao’s strengths.


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