With a sellout MGM Grand Garden crowd of 16,262 -- including Jack Nicholson, Jay-Z, Adam Sandler, Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington and P. Diddy -- watching after paying a combined $8.8 million, the British throng supporting Ricky Hatton roared and sang support to their countryman as Tom Jones sang “God Save the Queen.” Pacquiao was greeted less vocally by fewer fans waving Philippines flags, but his wife saluted him as their anthem played, clasping her hands together and looking upward. News from dressing rooms reveals Pacquiao weighs 148 pounds and Hatton is at 152, making the Brit the largest fighter the Filipino has ever battled.
What happened: Pacquiao, seeking a historic triumph that would give him a record fourth lineal division championship -- being the man who beat the successor to the last unified champion -- and tie Oscar De La Hoya’s record six division titles, scored two knockdowns in the first round after withstanding early charges from Hatton.
In the first minutes, Hatton tried to hold Pacquiao with his left arm and pound him with his right. Pacquiao, however, came well prepared for Hatton’s right hook, trainer Freddie Roach said in the ring afterward, and soon began scoring. Back-to-back lefts struck Hatton, a strong right hook followed, and then came a big combination. Pacquiao landed a right jab, then unleashed the fight’s master plan.
Roach said he studied Hatton fight tapes for two months and found that Hatton “pumps his hands before he punches. . . . I studied every tape. I know him like I know my own fighter. . . . He’s a sucker for the right hook.” Sure enough, Hatton was floored in the final minute of the round by a Pacquiao right hook that struck the Brit “right on the button” as one ringside observer said. Seconds later, Pacquiao sized up his foe and delivered a straight left that sent Hatton down near the corner turnbuckle where his December 2007 knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. ended. Hatton got up in the final second and received a brief minute-long respite
Pugmire’s take: Like Roach predicted early on when he called for a third-round KO, it was clear Hatton came into the ring with no effective game plan against the assault that boxing’s best fighter brought. Pacquiao’s punching speed and fury so belies his easiness and polite demeanor outside the ring. He proved himself again a brilliant tactician and powerful puncher at his very peak.
The judges: Michael Pernick, 10-7; C.J. Ros, 10-7; Glenn Trowbridge, 10-7.
What happened: A quick end. Hatton showed early life in the round, barging toward Pacquiao. You could see Hatton turning to the emergency plan: turn this into a street fight. Pacquiao would have none of it, backing away, ducking a punch and hammering Hatton. He then shot two double left hooks at Hatton.
Hatton tried again to hold and hit, but referee Kenny Bayless told him to stop. Pacquiao goes back to work with a jab-jag-left, then threw a scoring left.
Pacquiao glanced at the celebrities in the crowd and raised his eyebrows, the way he does when he’s showing off at his home base, Hollywood’s Wild Card gym. He hit Hatton with a right to the body.
Then the end. Hatton was standing upward and Pacquiao unleashed a big left hook that stands as the most impressive blow in a big fight in years. Hatton crashed to the canvas, out cold, as Bayless waved quickly for medical assistance. The ref never even counted to one. “He could’ve counted to 100,” a ringside observer said. The knockout came with one second left in the round.
Pugmire’s take: Hours earlier, when Mayweather announced he was returning from retirement to take on Juan Manuel Marquez in July, he made a point of saying he’d be bowling with his daughter during the Pacquiao fight and cautioned reporters to “not get all crazy” if Pacquiao wins because Mayweather had been the first to knock out Hatton, in the 10th round, in December 2007.
The fact that Pacquiao needed eight fewer rounds, and beat the Brit with a punch that was far more devastating than Mayweather’s own impressive final blow, ensures that Pacquiao indeed stands as the best in the world and sets up boxing’s next Super Bowl: Pacquiao-Mayweather.