On Saturday May 2, 2009 the legend of Filipino boxing sensation Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao grew again. It is hard to imagine that Pacquiao’s popularity could get any larger following his previous victory over “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya, but it did. He cemented his legacy as one of the most exciting and dominant fighters in boxing history with his second-round destruction of Ricky Hatton.
I was lucky enough to witness this feat live at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a part of an audience of more than 16,000 fans. Thousands of British fans flew all the way from Great Britain to see their national hero, Hatton, battle Pacquiao for the consensus 140-pound championship. What they saw and what I saw was nothing short of spectacular.
To fully understand the magnitude of this fight not only as it pertains to boxing, but its significance to the fighters’ countries, is nearly impossible to express in words. It has been said, in one of the previous promotional build-ups to a Pacquiao fight, that in the Philippines the only time that fighting between rebel troops and government troops ceases is during a Pacquiao fight. In addition, while attending college-level courses in the Philippines, Pacquiao is accompanied by armed guards. His professors often ask for his autograph.
Pacquiao is one of the rare fighters who carries his knockout power with him as he moves up in weight. Amazingly, Pacquiao started his professional career at 106-pounds when he was 16 years old. As his career progressed, Pacquiao won titles in five different weight divisions and has defeated the likes of Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, David Diaz and De La Hoya. His opponent in this fight, Hatton, started his professional boxing career at the same weight this fight was held at 140-pounds. Heading into this fight, Ricky Hatton was 45-1 with 32 knockouts, and his only loss was to Floyd Mayweather Jr. at 147 pounds. Going into the fight, Hatton was thought by many to be the naturally bigger fighter, but Pacquiao had the speed advantage, and as it has been said speed kills. The fight began with the British fans going absolutely berserk to the tune of Hatton’s traveling orchestra and thousands of British fans singing, “Walking along singing a song, walking in a Hatton wonderland,” to the beat of the famous winter wonderland jingle.
The first round was an exciting back-and-forth battle that saw little of the “feeling out” process that a fight of this magnitude would typically have. To the absolute shock of nearly everyone in the arena, Pacquiao dropped Hatton in the first round with a spectacular right hook. Hatton stood up for the knockdown and was dropped again later on in the first round with a straight left from the “Pacman.”
The second round saw Hatton mount an offensive comeback following his less-than-stellar first-round start. The second round neared an end as the 10-second warning signal was heard; shortly after, the next sound was silence as Pacquiao landed an epic left hand to Hatton’s chin, knocking him unconscious as soon as it landed. Hatton’s head bounced off the canvas as he lay motionless following the brutal display of boxing brilliance at the hands of Pacquiao.
I recalled sitting in the sports book at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino earlier that day, looking at the odds for the fight on the big display board. The smart money was being put on Pacquiao as many figured he would pick Hatton apart and stop him later in the fight as he did to De La Hoya. The odds for Hatton to win by knockout were 50-1 in the first and second round; I contemplated betting $20 on Hatton to win by knockout in each of the first two rounds, as he had a puncher’s chance, and, well, what’s Las Vegas without gambling? I elected against it and instead discussed the match with my friend, coming to the conclusion that I could see the outcome being almost unpredictable. Nearly anything could happen in this match-up, but I was certain that Hatton, being the naturally bigger man, would not get knocked out in the early rounds.
Fast forward to the shock of myself and thousands of other fans as Hatton lay unconscious with the fight ending in a second-round knockout in favor of the fighting pride of General Santos City, in the Philippines, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao.