Hatton shouldn’t just trade punches


David Diaz has a strange recommendation for Ricky Hatton, a boxing brawler: Don’t brawl against Manny Pacquiao.

When last we visited Diaz 10 months ago, he was face down on the canvas in the middle of the ring at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. He had been put there in the ninth round by a right hand from Pacquiao that stunned him, and a left that finished him.

Before the knockout, Diaz had been battered and bloodied.

Now Diaz, a well-spoken 32-year-old from the North Side of Chicago, who has a nice 34-2-1 record and who got his shot at the big time against Pacquiao on June 28, fears the same for Hatton in his Saturday night mega-fight against Pacquiao.


“Tell him not to do what most of us do,” Diaz says. “Tell him to try and make it into a boxing match.”

Diaz says he watched on TV when Hatton won by an 11th-round technical knockout over Paulie Malignaggi in November.

“He boxed him more, especially the last four rounds,” Diaz says. “He has had more time now with Senior [Trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr.], and I think he’ll tell him to box more. That’s what I would tell him. I would tell him the way I fought [Pacquiao] -- let’s get right down to the nitty-gritty -- that was my mistake.”

Pacquiao and Hatton will present an interesting study in styles. Hatton has always seemed to live the image of his beloved Manchester, England, pubs.

If there’s a fight at the bar, you wade right into the middle of it.

Hatton has waded in 45 times in his career, and that style has failed him only once, when Floyd Mayweather Jr. knocked him against the corner ring buckle and out Dec. 8, 2007.

Pacquiao, at 30 only two months younger than Hatton, fought as low as 106 pounds early in his career and was seldom thought of as a big-punching, dangerous brawler.

That is, until he fought Diaz at 135 pounds.

Even in Pacquiao’s wars with Erik Morales, one of which he lost, and with Juan Manuel Marquez, one of which he tied, there was more tactical damage inflicted than big bombs connecting.

But Pacquiao’s lightweight title fight with Diaz, and then Pacquiao’s domination and damage-infliction in a welterweight bout with the once-untouchable and now-retired Oscar De La Hoya on Dec. 6, have people reassessing their view of the Philippine star.

“The first couple of rounds,” Diaz says, “I thought I was OK. I figured he’d start to wilt and we’d wear him down. But I realized pretty quickly that I was always trying to catch up. I’d go to the corner, sit down and think, ‘OK, he got that round, but I’ll get the next one.’ And then I’d be on my stool in three minutes, thinking the same thing.

“By about the fourth round, I was asking my corner what to do about his speed. I told them I couldn’t get my timing against it. He just was never there to hit. I thought I could take his punches, and the plan was to wade in and bring it to him. But it just didn’t work that way.”

The next thing Diaz knew, he was down.

“Never saw the punch,” he says, “but I guess those are the ones that really get you.”

He remembers referee Vic Drakulich kneeling over him and telling him to stay down. Diaz remembers the minute he was waved out, Pacquiao was hovering over him, trying to help him up and expressing concern for his health.

Diaz hasn’t fought since and has gotten away from boxing somewhat, a situation that ended Monday when he went back to work in the gym to get ready for whatever promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank has next for him.

He didn’t even watch a video of his Pacquiao fight until December, six months later.

“It was the night before Pacquiao and De La Hoya,” he says, “and I finally put it in and watched. I couldn’t watch it until then.

“Then I watched Pacquiao and Oscar and was picking Oscar to win that one.

“Then I saw it again. Pacquiao’s speed. I’m not gonna lie. It’s the best I’ve ever seen. If he gets past Hatton, and I believe he will, he could be one of the best ever.”

Diaz has three boys, ages 4, 2 and 2 months. He said he came out of the Atlanta Olympics without a medal, but with a plan -- or, more accurately stated, a delusion of grandeur.

“I figured I’d fight till I’m 27 or 28, be a millionaire and retire,” he says.

That plan derailed, he now wants to take another run at the 135-pound title he held before Pacquiao pummeled it away from him.

“I’ve got a good life,” Diaz says. “And my friends make me feel good when they tell me I fought a good fight against Pacquiao. They even say I did better against him than Oscar did.

“That’s something.”



Pacquiao vs. Hatton

Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

When: Saturday.

TV: HBO pay-per-view.