Manny Pacquiao gestures as British boxer Ricky Hatton looks away during the weigh-in for their light-welterweight boxing match Friday (Saturday morning in Manila) in Las Vegas. AP LAS VEGAS]

LAS VEGAS, MAY 3, 2009 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao chases yet another dream Saturday evening (Sunday noon in Manila) when he challenges rugged British champion Ricky Hatton for the International Boxing Organization light-welterweight crown before an expected SRO crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena here.

Pacquiao said he can’t wait to get it on.

“Wala nang atrasan. Bakbakan na ito (There’s no turning back. It will be a brawl),” said Pacquiao before retreating to his bedroom at around 8 p.m. Friday, after dinner of bulalo (beef broth), sweet and sour fish and rice.

He was so relaxed and happy that he had made the weight as early as five days ago.

The Filipino ring icon was asked earlier what it would take for him to lose.

“Matalo? Hindi ko iniisip ‘yan (Lose? I don’t think about that),” he said. “I trained hard and I worked hard for this fight. I trained for two months. The most this fight could last is from 30 to 40 minutes.”

More than 16,000 fans will watch the fight live in this luminous gambling capital and millions more will be tuned in around the world as the biggest boxing match of the year so far takes place in the same arena where Pacquiao suffered his last loss, a bloody 12-round decision to Erik Morales on March 19, 2005.

But Pacquiao has since won his last nine fights, beating Morales twice down the road, and stopping champions like Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and David Diaz, and forcing boxing’s Golden Boy, Oscar de la Hoya, into retirement following a brutal eight-round destruction last December also at the MGM.

In the process, the 30-year-old Pacquiao has transformed from the lanky 106-pound rookie pro almost 14 years ago into the sport’s biggest star.

He’s the current pound-for-pound champion, and has shown the great ability to stay as strong, as quick, as effective and as fearsome even as he fought as heavy as 147 lbs.

Pacquiao has won the WBC flyweight (112 lbs.), the IBF super-bantamweight (122 lbs.), WBC super-featherweight (130 lbs.) and WBC lightweight (135 lbs.) championships. He is the first Asian boxer to have won four titles in different weight classes, and a victory over Hatton will push him higher up the chart.

To some, Pacquiao is already a five-time world champion, having won Ring Magazine’s featherweight (126 lbs.) crown when he defeated Barrera on Oct. 6, 2007 at Mandalay Bay.

Only De la Hoya has won six titles in different weight classes, and Sugar Ray Leonard comes next with five championships.

The fight against Hatton should, in many ways, be the biggest for Pacquiao.

Hatton has never been beaten at 140 lbs., and the British champion who loves to go to the body or throw punches while clinging to his opponent said a few days ago that he plans to climb the ring at 154 lbs., and be the biggest, most powerful boxer the pride of Gen. Santos City in Mindanao would ever face.

Hatton made the weight at exactly 140 lbs. on the eve of the fight, and Pacquiao came in at 138 lbs.

Boxers can gain as much weight after 24 hours of replenishing, but Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, said he’d like the Filipino southpaw to be up there at 147 to 148 lbs. He said he’d be happier if Hatton is heavier.

Pacman is the man to beat

The fight is scheduled for 12 rounds, but is not tipped to last the distance.

Pacquiao is almost a 3-1 favorite to win by knockout, and Roach said he’d be disappointed if the fight lasts longer than three rounds. It is even money if the Pinoy slugger wins by KO, while it’s almost triple-your-money if Hatton does.

Kenny Bayless, who officiated Pacquiao’s victories over Morales and Marquez, will again be the third man in the ring.

Scoring at ringside, if ever the scorecards are needed in the end, are CJ Ross, Michael Pernick and Glenn Trowbridge.

Pacquiao will carry an impressive 46-3-2 record with 36 knockouts while Hatton is at 45-1 with 32 knockouts and no draw.

The British brawler’s only loss in his checkered career was inflicted by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in December 2007 when a left hook to the face sent him crashing to the corner post.

He was knocked out in the 11th round.

Roach liked what he saw during the weigh-in.

“He made weight easily. He had breakfast, no problem. He will be about 148 or 147, no more than that. We will maintain his diet and watch to make sure that he does not bloat himself or overdo it. So right now he’s just picking away,” he said.

“And I think Ricky is going to put in 15 to 20 pounds and that would be good for us. I think that will make him sluggish. The more he weighs, the happier I will be because you weigh more doesn’t mean you’re strong,” said Roach, who ordered just a little walk for Pacquiao Saturday morning before the traditional Mass inside his suite.

British pride at stake

But Hatton, a gentleman like Pacquiao off the ring, said Roach may have been too confident in calling for a knockout inside three rounds. He admitted being a fan of the Filipino southpaw but said he will make them pay the price.

“I’m a Manny Pacquiao fan even if I was not fighting him. He’s a proud man, he’s a nice guy out of the ring. He gets to the ring and he goes for the knockout. He comes to fight. He gets hit and he gets pissed off with himself. He loves to fight. He wants to fight. Freddie Roach is normally a nice guy but maybe they are a little bit over-confident,” he said.

And he knows how to do it.

“Manny’s got a very tricky style and he likes you to fall short then springs in there and tries to catch you. But when he misses he tries to put so much into that left arm and he can get hit and leave himself open. On the night of the fight, compared to Marquez or Barrera or Morales, he’s going to get hit by someone 14 or 15 pounds heavier than that,” he said.

“I will put it on him. Put on the pressure right. Manny is very fast but I’m pretty fast myself. How do I see the first round? Very hectic. But with all the plan B, plan C and all the game plans, you don’t know what your opponent’s going to do,” he said.

A scribe told him that it may be difficult to evaluate when you are under fire. But the pride of Manchester, who loves drinking beer when not fighting, had a ready answer.

“Good fighters can. If he does this, we do this. If he does this, we try this. Oscar was very slow on his feet and he could not use his reach advantage because he did not throw any punch. I could have beat (the legendary) Sugar Ray Robinson if he did not punch,” said Hatton.

Roach said the key to winning this fight is not to fight Hatton straight-forward and fight his fight, and that Manny’s side-to-side movements may be the key.

“We are not here to fight the typical Manny Pacquiao fight where we just go forward. Manny has progressed beyond that. We can fight both ways now – coming forward and going backward. He can be a little different because we can change styles,” said Roach, three-time Trainer of the Year.

He was told that Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, shared his sentiment in a previous interview.

Body shot will finish Hatton, says Roach By Joaquin Henson Updated May 03, 2009 12:00 AM

LAS VEGAS – Trainer Freddie Roach said he expects Ricky Hatton to put on 15 to 20 pounds after weighing in at 140 and will be sluggish against Manny Pacquiao in their 12-round IBO lightwelterweight title bout here this morning (Manila time).

“The more weight Hatton puts on, the happier I’ll be because that means he’ll be sluggish and slow,” said Roach. “The way I see it, Manny will knock him out with a body shot. I can’t predict in which round. That prediction of three rounds was just talk. Hatton’s a tough fighter, too, with a lot of British pride and he won’t go away easily but Manny’s in his prime and there’s no way he’s losing.”

Roach said he has no respect for Hatton’s trash-talking trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr.

“What has he done?” continued Roach. “He took over Oscar (de la Hoya) when he was already a four-time world champion. It was his brother Roger who trained his son Floyd to become a champion. All he did was to get Floyd’s mother pregnant. He’s never handled a fighter from Day 1 and brought him up to become a champion. I can’t see how Hatton will change in six weeks with Mayweather. It took us eight years to turn Manny into what he is now – a mature, complete fighter. Manny’s in the best shape of his career, better than he was against Oscar.”

At the weigh-in, Roach said he was appalled by Mayweather’s suggestion to strike a fighting pose for the photographers.

“It’s not about us, it’s about Manny and Hatton,” said Roach. “He told me let’s fight and he’ll knock me out in two rounds. Give me a break. I told him we retired 15 years ago. Who cares about us? The fight isn’t about us.”

Roach promised a “different” Pacquiao will show up in the ring.

“He’ll do a lot of new things,” said Roach. “You’ll see him throw combinations on the back foot. You’ll see him do more counterpunching with Hatton coming forward. We expect Hatton to push Manny to the ropes and throw his left hook to the body. We’re prepared to handle that. We might try to suck him in by going to the ropes then we’ll slide away. The key is keeping our distance, not keeping his distance. We know he’ll want to fight up close. We won’t fight his fight. We’ll fight our fight.”

Roach said Pacquiao won’t come in overconfident even if he’s the betting favorite.

“We had an amazing camp,” continued Roach. “We brought in seven sparring partners and four of them got knocked out. That’s really unusual. I guarantee Manny has more one-punch impact power. Hatton might be bigger but he has no balance and Manny won’t give him a chance to set up. Manny has improved so much from the De la Hoya fight. He doesn’t veer away from the fight plan. You couldn’t say anything more in the gym except he’s just too good. It’s scary how good he can still be.”

As for Mayweather, he brushed off Pacquiao’s speed advantage and said what’s more important is timing.

“You can have speed but if you don’t land, it’s useless,” said Mayweather. “Timing is everything. You can be slow but if you connect, it’s goodbye. Pacquiao won’t only face Hatton. He’ll be facing me, too. And all I can say is he’s in trouble.”

Mayweather said Pacquiao may be stronger in the lightweight division but there’s nobody stronger than Hatton at 140 pounds.

“Ricky’ll probably come in at 154 so he’ll be bigger and stronger than Pacquiao,” said Mayweather. “Pacquiao’s never met a guy like Hatton before. Hatton will be all over him. He’ll overpower him.”

Since he took over Hatton’s training for the Paul Malignaggi fight, Mayweather said the Hitman has become more skilful. “You saw what he did to Malignaggi – he boxed the guy who was a lot taller all night then stopped him,” he went on. “That’s something Hatton didn’t used to do. He’ll do the same thing with Pacquiao.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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