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July 30, 2014

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Boxing:

Comparisons fly like his fists

After his knockout of Hatton, Pacquiao mentioned in same breaths as Armstrong, Ali

Image

Steve Marcus

Manny Pacquiao, right, punches at Ricky Hatton during their junior welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, on May 2, 2009.

Pacquiao KOs Hatton

Referee Kenny Bayless checks on Ricky Hatton after Manny Pacquiao knocked Launch slideshow »

Who is Next?

After knocking out Ricky Hatton in the second round, the future is bright for Manny Pacquiao. The new IBO and Ring Magazine World Junior Welterweight Champion has plenty of suitors for his next fight including Shane Mosely, Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather Jr. As for Hatton, is there talk of retirement?

East Silences West

After weeks of anticipation and hype, Manny Pacquiao quickly put an end to his junior welterweight match-up with Ricky Hatton with a KO of "The Hitman" at the end of the second round.

Swinging Fight Fans

John Katsilometes takes the pulse of fight fans before Saturday night's Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton match at MGM's Garden Arena.

The term “pound for pound” draws derision from some boxing insiders — perhaps because it lends itself to a subjective rather than a coolly logical analysis of the fight game, or perhaps because it is seen as the province of the pundits, the hoi polloi, the fans.

Yet ranking boxers on a pound-for-pound basis can also be a useful tool in the right hands, helpful for comparing fighters not only from disparate weight classes but across eras.

That’s what Manny Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, and Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, found themselves doing this weekend on behalf of a boxing community seeking some historical perspective after Pacquiao’s sensational second-round stoppage of Ricky Hatton at the MGM Grand.

Arum reached back more than 40 years to make a comparison to Muhammad Ali. Arum would know. He promoted more than 25 of Ali’s fights, beginning with Ali’s 1966 heavyweight title fight against George Chuvalo.

Pacquiao, with his combination of speed and barely contained power, reminds Arum of Ali in his prime, before his forced 3 1/2-year hiatus. (As ringside color man George Carlin put it, the government told Ali, “If you won’t kill (people), we won’t let you beat ’em up.”)

In his experience, Arum said, when a boxer reaches his peak, he can stay at the top of his game for some time even as his talent plateaus. Pacquiao, though, has been improving with every fight, especially in the areas of defense and reflexes.

“What I’m watching is astounding,” Arum said. “A lot of fighters punch hard, but when you have speed and power that really explodes, that’s what makes Manny Pacquiao absolutely devastating.”

The one time Ali did display a Pacquiao-like level of speed and power, Arum said, was in his third-round stoppage of Cleveland Williams in a 1966 title fight at the Astrodome.

Roach said Pacquiao deserves consideration in any discussion of the sport’s all-time greats.

“He’s heading in that direction,” Roach said. “I truly hope that happens. He’s dominating guys he’s not supposed to. He keeps getting better.”

Roach likened Pacquiao to hall of famers Henry Armstrong, who won titles in multiple weight classes, and Aaron Pryor, who ruled the 140-pound division in his prime.

“Manny is a better fighter than Ali,” Roach said. “Ali had so much natural talent he got away with (some flaws). I compare Manny Pacquiao to a Henry Armstrong-type guy, someone who can do well in any era, or maybe someone like Aaron Pryor.

“I think Manny is better than Pryor because he’s a little smarter and he’s willing to try things out. He’s a more complete fighter. He wants to learn and he’s getting better all the time.”

Before Saturday’s junior welterweight fight, Hatton had promised he would show off a more versatile, well-rounded style in the ring. It was Pacquiao, however, who displayed a new, highly effective weapon: a right hook that sent Hatton crashing to the canvas for the first of two first-round knockdowns and ultimately set up the knockout, which came via a monster left hand.

“I knew he was wide open for my right hook,” Pacquiao said. “In training camp I knew he would be looking for my left. That’s why I’ve been working on my right in training camp.”

The right hand and especially the finishing left illustrate Pacquiao’s continued improvement, as Roach sees it.

“It’s the timing,” Roach said. “He timed it perfectly and he set it up real nice. The younger Pacquiao wouldn’t have done that. He would have gone out there just flinging. Now he sets things up. He’s more mature.”

Pacquiao’s next pound-for-pound challenge could come against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

On Sunday, all Lucky’s sports books in Nevada opened the betting line on a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight at “pick ’em,” as long as it takes place by the end of February 2010.

“Mayweather, if he wants a piece of a little Filipino, be my guest,” Arum said.

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