Every fighter needs a signature moment.
For Manny Pacquiao, his came in a second-round knockout of Ricky Hatton on May 2, 2009, at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a fight Pacquiao told The Times is his second greatest.
Precisely six years before the night he is scheduled to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. inside the same arena, Pacquiao was peaking, fighting for the first time since his upset over older and heavier Oscar De La Hoya.
Hatton, who’d only been beaten once previously then, by Mayweather in 2007, was accompanied by a swarm of Brits.
The full-throated fans sang, “There’s only one Ricky Hatton,” to the tune of “Winter Wonderland,” banging a drum through the casino and the arena in anticipation of what was to come.
Hatton aligned with Floyd Mayweather Sr. as his trainer for the Pacquiao bout, and he and Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach engaged in a memorable back and forth during a visit to The Times for a pre-fight luncheon, stirred up by former columnist T.J. Simers.
By fight week, Mayweather Sr. had a poem ready:
“Pac-man, it's over / So stop wishing on that four-leaf clover / Ain't no secret / I hope you know / It's Hit Man Hatton by KO.”
Yet Roach was extremely confident of victory.
“He's driven to get better and better and he looks so good," Roach said of Pacquiao a day before the fight. "In a workout this week, he did everything in the game plan perfectly. I had nothing to criticize him for when he came back to the corner. I just said, 'Manny, you're looking great.' ... I believe we'll knock [Hatton] out.”
That was quite a statement, considering Pacquiao was fighting in his fourth weight class in 14 months.
The forward-charging Englishman couldn’t help himself from coming toward Pacquiao, and was knocked down twice in the first round.
Then, late in the second, Hatton moved in again, only to be greeted by perhaps the single most devastating punch of Pacquiao’s career, a left hook that ended the night and Hatton’s consciousness, briefly.
Times’ columnist Bill Dwyre described it:
“The fight summary is one paragraph. Pacquiao … dominated the second and caught Hatton with a vicious left hook as the round ticked down. Hatton’s eyes rolled back and his body fell, like a sack of potatoes, flat on his back. Referee Kenny Bayless knelt over him for several seconds, then waved his hands, with one second left in the round, to signify that the fight was over.
“The aftermath was a bit scary. Hatton didn't move right away, and soon there were many people with concerned looks on their faces, kneeling and hovering. Hatton may have been on his back longer than he was on his feet during the fight.
“Eventually, they brought his stool to the middle of the ring and got him on it, and a few minutes later he left the ring under his own power, waving feebly to a crowd of Brit fans who may have been driven to drink by the result.”
Before Hatton was taken to a hospital for treatment, he told someone in the ring, “I really didn’t see the punch coming.”
Roach said, “This fight was no surprise to me.”