Friday, April 17, 2009 | 1 a.m.
The gesture seemed, well, almost genuinely nice.
Then again that was only at first glance. Factor in the escalating war of words that Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao’s trainers have bombed on each other in the last few weeks, and every media member inside the cramped IBA gym Thursday afternoon knew nothing good could come from the gift setting on the table.
“Just another joke from the (Freddie) Roach. But Roach is the joke,” said Hatton’s trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., who offered up a big smile after opening the hand-delivered box from Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels, complete with a bright-red ribbon on the outside that read “second place.”
Inside there was a bottle of weight-loss supplements from Roach’s own line, Fighting Fit, a T-shirt with Pacquiao’s trainer’s likeness and a typed note from the usually reserved Roach instructing Hatton (who jokingly refers to himself as “Ricky Fatton” for his fondness of beers between fights) how to take off those last few pounds before his May 2 megabout with Pacquiao at the MGM Grand.
“They too late,” said Mayweather, who smiled for the cameras before holding up Roach’s shirt. “We’ve been there and done that and we ain’t even done yet. Look at Ricky, he’s got an eight-pack. They don’t want ‘Slick Rick’ to beat up the ‘Pac-Man.’”
Hatton stopped skipping rope to take part in the gag.
“Does the package say to be gentle?” he joked.
Thursday’s scene was just the latest installment in the ongoing sideshow battle between the top-tier trainers who threw their first personal punches long before Hatton and Pacquiao’s “The Battle of East and West” tour began in Manchester, England, in late February.
Don’t expect it to slow much in the next 16 days leading up to the junior welterweight title match.
Hatton doesn’t seem to mind though.
“It would be a very boring sport if we didn’t have personalities like this,” said the current IBO and Ring Magazine world junior welterweight champ, who has never lost at 140 pounds.
“We’ve got two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world fighting, and arguably two of the best trainers in the world fighting. They just want to get one over on each other. I wouldn’t read too much into it. They’re both excellent coaches.”
Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs) is banking on his second bout under Mayweather’s tutelage to be the biggest and best of his career.
“A lot of people thought (Paulie) Malignaggi would beat me. In the end I think I outjabbed him, and was very, very quick myself,” Hatton said of his 11th-round TKO win over the New York native in November.
“After just seven weeks with a new team, I think that was probably the most impressive thing I’ve ever done. I believe we only scraped the surface, because we only had seven weeks.”
While several boxing pundits believe Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) will be too fast for Hatton, “The Hitman” disagrees.
“I’m not saying I’m quicker than Manny, but I think people are focusing a little more on the size and power factor. I’m pretty quick myself. And even more so with my new camp,” Hatton said.
“You can have the fastest hands in the world, but it’s all about timing. If you don’t throw them at the right time, they won’t land on anything and it won’t matter.”
Unlike his outspoken trainer, Hatton doesn’t blatantly dismiss Pacquaio’s skills or accomplishments, but the 30-year-old does believe too much credit was given to Pacquiao for his lopsided win over Oscar De La Hoya in December, which ultimately sent “The Golden Boy” into retirement.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful to Manny for his best win of it career, but I don’t think it was particularly hard to beat Oscar that night,” Hatton said.
“I think he just had a body in front of him for the most part, he was able to pretty much do as he pleased. He probably looked faster than he actually is and he might have looked stronger than he actually is.”
Mayweather didn’t sugarcoat his feelings about Pacquaio’s big win, and said if he had been in De La Hoya’s corner that night Pacquaio would not be facing Hatton in May.
He even went as far as to say that Hatton could be victorious against Pacquiao without him.
“He could win this fight without me. I feel that good about it,” said Mayweather, who with a win by Hatton will be rewarded with a large trophy that reads "No. 1 Pound-for-Pound Best Trainer in the World."
“I got control in the corner so I’m not worried about it. But Manny's got Roach, so he should."
Andy Samuelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-948-7837.