Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton]

SAN FRANCISCO, DECEMBER 20, 2008 (STAR) Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton are close to finalizing a deal to meet in a 140-pound (63.5-kilogram) bout on May 2, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The proposed fight, likely to be held in Las Vegas, would match boxing’s unofficial pound-for-pound champion against one of the world’s most popular brawlers, assuredly generating huge paydays for both fighters.

“I’m encouraged by the way it’s going, and I’m talking to the Hattons (on Friday) again,” Schaefer said. “You really have two of the most popular fighters of their generation fighting each other, and that’s the kind of fight we want to make.”

Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) seems to be at the peak of his skills and international fame after stopping Oscar De La Hoya in their long-anticipated bout on Dec. 6. The Filipino star had never fought above 135 pounds (61 kilograms), but he moved up two weight classes to batter De La Hoya, who didn’t get off his stool after the eighth round.

He would move back down one weight class to face Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs), the hard-living English star who won his last bout against Paulie Malignaggi on Nov. 22, defending his 140-pound (63.5-kilogram) title. Hatton won twice this year after the only loss of his career, to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in December 2007.

Schaefer said the sides are still negotiating the fight’s location, but he would like to see it in boxing’s capital city.

“This is a fight with tremendous global appeal, and both of them have built up a very strong following here,” Schaefer said. “With Manny’s following in Asia and Ricky’s support in Europe, you could say Las Vegas is the center of everything.”

Golden Boy has a promotional deal with Hatton. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who represents Pacquiao, was traveling back from the Philippines on Thursday after celebrating Pacquiao’s birthday.

Schaefer also will soon make a formal announcement of a Feb. 28 bout in Houston between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz.

Marquez (49-4-1, 36 KOs), the Mexican star who has been Pacquiao’s toughest opponent in recent years, won his lightweight debut in late September, stopping Cuba’s Joel Casamayor.

Diaz (34-1, 17 KOs), a longtime lightweight champion, won his comeback fight against Australia’s Michael Katsidis in September after losing his three 135-pound (61-kilogram) title belts last March to Nate Campbell. (AP)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved