Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) vs. Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs)
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
Tickets: Sold out
Closed-circuit viewing: $50; Mandalay Bay, Mirage, TI, Monte Carlo, Circus Circus, Luxor, New York-New York.
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View, $49.95
- Catch Pacquiao, Hatton while you can (4-28-2009)
- It's too bad both can't win (4-27-2009)
- Pacquiao revered by his people (4-26-2009)
- Pacquiao ready to perform for Filipinos (4-25-2009)
- Hatton's fighting chance against Pacquiao (4-23-2009)
- Hatton says he has 'no doubt' he will defeat Pacquiao (4-22-2009)
It’s just as well neither Manny Pacquiao nor Ricky Hatton has engaged in any outrageous trash talk in the buildup to Saturday’s big junior welterweight fight at the MGM Grand.
All too often in a competitive event — whether it’s a poker tournament, the Madden NFL video game or a professional prizefight — trash talking tends to backfire, according to a doctoral dissertation by Ben Conmy, a recent transplant to Las Vegas.
“A lot of times people talk trash with a certain intent, perhaps to motivate themselves, but it often has what we call a ‘paradox effect’ in that it inspires the other person to go to performance levels they never dreamed of,” Conmy said. “It lights a fire in the opponent.”
Conmy, a fan of Hatton who grew up in England, earned his doctorate at Florida State after completing his dissertation titled “Trash Talk in a Competitive Setting: Impact on Self-Efficacy, Affect and Performance.” (Full disclosure: A column I wrote is cited in the paper.)
The son of a professional “footballer” in his homeland, Conmy said he was always fascinated by the psychological side of sports. Among the major boxing matches he studied were Oscar De La Hoya’s fight against Ricardo Mayorga in 2006 and Hatton’s loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007.
After winning by a sixth-round technical knockout, De La Hoya said he had virtually hand-picked Mayorga, a notorious trash talker, as an opponent because he knew he would be motivated by Mayorga’s disparaging remarks.
Hatton, popular for his candor and friendly demeanor, ran up against an expert trash talker in Mayweather, Conmy said.
“I’ve watched Ricky Hatton for years and watched his preparation for his fights in the U.K. and I noticed how different it was when he came over for the Mayweather fight,” Conmy said. “I noticed how things change when you’re under that massive amount of pressure with that kind of money on the line.
“For someone like Mayweather, trash talk is an integral feature of his strategic approach to boxing. He’s done it since he was knee high to a grasshopper. He knows exactly what he’s saying, why he’s saying it and the reaction he’s trying to get.”
Though Hatton has not run Pacquiao down personally, his strongest statements — calling Pacquiao vulnerable in the ring, all but guaranteeing a victory — could be the result of the intensity of the promotion rather than a calculated ploy, Conmy said.
“I think Ricky Hatton feels under pressure here, maybe because of the size of the fight, to give media sound bites and say things about his opponent that are not necessarily strategic for Ricky,” Conmy said. “He’s speaking from the heart. That’s the way he is. I think in a big Vegas fight, you’re expected to act in a sort of a promotional capacity, not just be a boxer.
“I think my findings argue that perhaps Ricky should just be concentrating on fight specifics, not the trash talking dance demanded in the U.S. and particularly Vegas.”
Pacquiao has been his usual soft-spoken self. If anything, he has gone out of his way to compliment Hatton’s ability.
Yet even he cannot help but be affected by the celebrated exchange between his trainer, Freddie Roach, and Hatton’s trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., Conmy said. In prefight interview sessions both fighters have been asked about the war of words their trainers are waging.
“Having to answer a bunch of questions about what’s being said and what was meant by what was said can take a toll. I know some of this is necessary for the whole promotion, but it might not be the most helpful thing,” Conmy said.
That’s especially accurate in a fight like Saturday’s, in which neither boxer is a master of the craft of trash talking, a la Mayweather Jr.
“I think both of these characters at their core are really similar,” Conmy said. “Pacquiao is a man of the people. So is Hatton. They’re both honest. They both give 100 percent every time. I think at the end of the fight, they’ll end up having a tremendous amount of respect for each other.”