Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Best Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton Preview: Class is king

Do you remember the scene in Don’t Look Back when Donovan and Bob Dylan exchange songs in the hotel room? The first time I watched it I saw it as a competition, a lesson taught to the younger Donovan by the king; and watching it today there still seems to me a hint of cruelty and competition in Dylan’s performance, a self-mastery and inward flame that finds satisfaction in the display. When he sings “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” there is an element of sadism that comes through.

But more than that I see it for something greater than mere one-upmanship; it is the recorded embodiment of class. Class, like the word quality, is philosophically impossible to pin down, it’s a matter of taste and judgment, but it does exist. To me, class is determined by its ability to be recognized by even the most novice of observers. One need not love folk music, Bob Dylan, or even music in general to see that he was a body electric during this time, that thin wild mercury seemed to course out of him and was so powerful and obscene it almost made one want to look away. Donovan had a class of his own, a beautiful voice and fine lyrics, but he didn’t have what Dylan did, and that’s what makes the scene so powerful. To see great talent with superior talent is to see the palm at the end of the mind, the romance of perfection at the limits of human capacity. I have encountered this in my life once or twice, someone so special it is alarming.

When it happens in sports it is amazing to see. I remember reading about people weeping in the stands as Secretariat powered down the home stretch. I know nothing of tennis but I find watching Roger Federer transfixing. It’s rarely seen at the top level of sports, where someone is able to separate so clearly and completely from the top competition that the opponent ceases to matter. The event almost transforms from contest to performance. I find these displays of mastery the most rewatchable of fights, boxing as the manly art.

Only a few boxers have achieved this level in recent years; Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones, and Pernell Whitaker come to mind, where the level of excellence on display is so profound that the rules applicable to the rest of the prizefighters no longer apply.

I think Manny Pacquiao is at that point. He moved from an A:class fighter to an S:class, superclass, fighter. I think it happened in the Diaz fight, and was further cemented in the De La Hoya fight. He has reached the apex of his abilities, a perfect combination of physical gifts and scientific repetition honed to a fine point, a killing edge, a prizefighting machine.

People say that Manny performed so well against Oscar because he was shot. And it’s true Oscar was well past his best, but there was something more to it. Oscar at least tried in the first two rounds, he competed, but after that it was different. I don’t think he was weakened by the weight or gun-shy, he was embarrassed. He was fighting in front of 100 million people worldwide and he was outclassed. Not beaten, outclassed. The type of difference that can’t be explained away by wrong game plans or a bad night, but the recognition that the man across from you is superior in every way, and there is nothing you can do about it. What a terrible feeling that must be, when you realized that you trained as hard as you could, you worked as hard as you could, but there is something so special across from you that you are powerless to act.

It’s speed, really. More than size or power, it’s speed that is so cruel, so visible. They say great timing beats great speed, but what if there is great speed and great timing and great power and great will; what then? That is what Hatton will have to answer. Hatton is a great fighter, an A:Class fighter. But he doesn’t have what Manny does right now. A few years ago, as an unfinished thing, Hatton would have had his way with Pacquiao, but I think that time is both past, and has not yet arrived. It will arrive soon, the type of radiant flame Pacquiao now possesses burns quickly, but he is raging now. It will take something special to quench it. Age, a far bigger opponent, or another S:class fighter are the only things that can stop Manny now. I learned that lesson in the De La Hoya fight. We are driving headlong into that moment; a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight seems almost ordained. The first fight between two S:Class boxers in their prime since Whitaker-Chavez, and before that Duran-Leonard. It is coming, because it must, a once a generation clash to clear the field and define the age.

In mythology the great heroes can only be conquered by the cruel Gods, or by even greater heroes. No wayward arrows unleashed in battle can slay them. It isn’t yet Manny’s fate to be brought down. He will win this fight, overcoming the stronger man because he must, because class will tell.


jim in austin said...

Here is my non-prediction prediction:

If it goes the distance it will be a UD for Pacquiao in a walk. Not even close.

If it stops early it will be on a KO for Hatton. Manny's not Floyd and Ricky's not Oscar.

The Other Van Gundy said...

Woah man -- you calling Achilles just an A:class hero?

shoefly said...

Jim: I know it should be competitive, but I just don't see it. Manny is just too special. A prediction is almost silly because Manny means so much to me, but that's really how I see it. I don't claim to be clear-eyed but that just feels like the way it is moving.

Van Gundy: I felt weird writing that and a little hesitant, but I reasoned that it was Apollo that guided the arrow, it was ordained. Paris was the vessel, but it was Apollo's triumph. That might be rationalization though, and I fear I may have jinxed Manny by besmirching the good name of the greatest hero of them all. Good lord, I just called Achilles overrated.

osito somoray said...

Both Manny and Hatton has the power and speed but Hatton has different attitude with Manny . Hatton dont have the patience that Manny possess. Definitely Manny will always have the edge against Hatton.

osito somoray said...

Hatton has different attitude with Manny, Manny is more disciplined than Hatton. Both Hatton and Manny has the power and Speed but Hatton dont have the patience that Manny posses. Its gonna be a fight of patience and eagerness so Manny will always have the edge.

jim in austin said...

Yeah, I agree. There's simply no way Ricky Hatton out-classes or out-points Manny Pacquiao. But that doesn't mean he can't kick his butt, given a chance.

Willie Jean said...


In a fight like the Oscar-Manny fight, Oscar was the naturally bigger man, but if I remember correctly Manny was heavier on the night of the night. Who, really, was considered the bigger man: Oscar, because of his frame, or Manny, because of his actual weight?

Also, how do fighters gain so much weight overnight?

Love the sight. Love your passion. The mastermind behind Freedarko tackles boxing. Gotta love it.

shoefly said...

Osito: I agree Manny is more disciplined, but he has gotten a little tilted by being cut. I hope cuts don't factor into the fight.

Jim: I rewatched part of Hatton-Malignaggi today, and I just don't see it. I think Hatton will have his moments, be able to trap Pacquaio a time or two, I just think Pacquaio is too consistently sharp. No one has ever had trouble finding Hatton, they've just been able to keep the pace. I don't think Manny will have that trouble. Still, hearing Roger Mayweather talk about how Hatton should win, being so much bigger, gave me second thoughts, I just can't get the image of Pacquiao circling and peppering Hatton to bits.

Willie: Fighters lose weight the same way wrestlers do, massive water loss and days of fasting. I'll try to post a picture of Hatton later, but you can see just how drained he gets to make 140. They only have to make the weight for one minute, then have about 30 hours to rehydrate. They are occasionally given IV's and hust reload with electrolyte's.

the Oscar fight was weird, and part of me thinks HBO messed with the scales. But even if they were functionally the same way it's the build that is almost equally imporant. In this fight Hatton is much more massive, but Pacquiao has huge legs which is where his power comes from. His stronger, more muscled upper body is, in my opinion, Ricky's best chance. If the ref lets them wrestle and push enough Hatton may be able to sap Pacquaio, I just have to assume that they have prepared and Pacquiao will be able to execute spin offs the way he has trained to do. And thanks for the compliment, but calling me the mastermind behind Freedarko is like calling me the mastermind of the Obama campaign. I am but a humble footsoldier.

Crazy fight happening now on showtime. Mediocre fighters, but highly entertaining.

Willie Jean said...


Oh, okay, didn't mean to take anything away from Shoals, I just remembered that he called you "FD originator Shoefly (he wrote the original petition)" a few weeks back.

Keep up the good work.

Paul said...

great post- summarized my unarticulated feelings toward the fight perfectly. although is hatton really an a class fighter? haven't seen him fight since mayweather, but i wasn't even that impressed with him in his tszyu fight. i feel like mayweather is putting lipstick on a horse with the hatton is a different fighter bit; he's a brawler and grabber at heart and when manny's speed, which i'm sure is a lot faster in real life, starts to pick hatton apart, he'll revert back to his old ways.

shoefly said...

Willie: Thanks, I appreciate it.

Paul: I don't think Hatton has A class skills, but he sure does have the results. I must admit he's always puzzled me, and when I watched some of his work again tonight I'm more convinced than ever in my pick. But the fact remains he won those fights, by hook or by crook, he won them. I always get angry when people dismiss the accomplishments of my favorite fighters, so I try to be fair when looking at others.

And as for your thoughts on Mayweather's influence in his fighting style I'm in complete agreement. Not only is it too late to make more than cosmetic changes, I think Ricky's physical qualities limit the type of gameplan he could enact even if given all the time in the world. His best chance, as Jim said, is to make it the type of bruising ugly, mucked up fight he did against Tszyu. Maybe try to butt Pac and get him out of his gameplan. I don't like his fighting style, find most of his work crude and boring to watch, but it has worked before, and it takes somebody with accuracy and, equally important, the focus and will to make it happen. A guy like Collazo who had all the tools couldn't do it because he wasn't special, I think Pac is.

Anthony Wilson said...

You mentioned near the end the seemingly inevitable Mayweather-Pacquiao clash, or as we will call it, the Fight of the Century.

Floyd will officially end his retirement Saturday, and will face Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18th. That is probably just be a tune-up for Pacman, as Marquez is now 35, though still game.

Or will it be just a tune-up?

Floyd is now 32, and while the defense likely won't go anywhere, what about the natural gifts - the reflexes, the hand speed, the foot speed, etc.? What if those have slipped? As we all know, technically superior as he is, Floyd's greatest strength is probably his athleticism. What if Floyd is no longer at his absolute peak?

Obviously it won't all go overnight, and he is so talented that even if he loses some off of his fastball, he'll still have a lot of heat left. So he'll probably shake off the smidgen of rust and handle Marquez no matter what. But will Floyd at, say, 85 percent of his best, be enough to beat Pacman at Pacman's absolute apex?

And is Pacman better now than Floyd was 18 months ago?

shoefly said...

Anthony: I gave my early thoughts last week, and just posted about it, but you make good points. We'll have to see what happens tomorrow, but I consider Pacquiao a real threat, no matter what Floyd's form is.

I have to think about it a little more, but I also think Marquez will put up a better fight than a lot of people expect. Marquez is truly terrific, and he will have a few tricks up his sleeve. To be honest I'm glad he's doing this fight rather than just someone who is big. I'd rather see Floyd in with a great fighter than just a guy people hope can outmuscle him.