The first boxing card I've ever bought on PPV (Chanukah present from my parents) will be this Saturday -- headlined by the highly anticipated bout between pound-for-pound number one Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Ricky "Hitman" Hatton.
I may be the only person who is actively rooting for Mayweather to win. I don't like his arrogant, bad-boy act anymore than the next guy (though it is without a doubt an act). But, as a wise man said, it's not ego if you can back it up, and Mayweather really is that good. He wins his bouts because he is simply better than anybody else in the sport. It's why he can beat an elite fighter like Oscar De La Hoya 24 pounds and four weight divisions heavier than when he turned pro. It's not because he's a naturally big guy. It's because he has amazing skills. Put simply, I respect anyone who is that good. It's the same reason I like Roger Federer.
Ricky Hatton is an excellent fighter, but he does not strike me as being at that level. Part of it is bad luck: the opportunities he's had to impress have all turned out to have asterisks attached (through no fault of Hatton's). His last fight against Jose Luis Castillo, which was supposed to erase all doubts about whether Hatton was for real, turned out to demonstrate merely that Castillo was totally shot as a fighter. Yes, Hatton's body shot KO was sweet. But I saw that fight, and it's not like Castillo was competitive prior to that.
Even Hatton's biggest victory, against Kostya Tszyu, came with the same problem: Tszyu retired after that bout, and folks wondered if Hatton could have beaten him in his prime. Meanwhile, Hatton has shown far more vulnerability than Mayweather has. While I think the weight issue is overblown (Hatton has been a lifelong junior welterweight, while Mayweather turned pro as a junior lightweight), it is true that Hatton struggled mightily in his only fight at 147 lbs., against Luis Collazo (a fight he arguably lost). Mayweather, by contrast, hasn't even been threatened in a fight since 2002 against a prime Jose Luis Castillo. I have to admit, I'm kind of enjoying Mayweather's current run, where he sits at the top of boxing and just fights elite boxers -- titles be damned. Indeed, I kind of hope after this fight that Mayweather moves back down in weight -- if he could make it back 135 lbs., there are all sorts of fantastic match-ups available (and Floyd actually has power in that weight class). Mayweather versus Juan Diaz? Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao!?! I'd love it. And even if stays in the welterweight division, him facing Miguel Cotto would be every bit as amazing.
And the final reason I'm rooting for Mayweather is that Hatton's style bugs me. In recent bouts, he's gone back to "hook and hold", which is unbelievably dull. It could
be effective against Floyd -- the wrestling will wear him down, and the grabbing will prevent him from moving -- but it would be a cheap way to a victory. I hope the referee doesn't let him do it. If Floyd wins, he'll do it by being pretty, while if Hatton wins, he'll make it look ugly. The aesthete in me prefers the former, greatly.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I forgot the undercard to this match-up. Honestly, it's not the best one I've seen. Assuming his injury is totally healed, I think Jeff Lacy should tear through Peter Manfredo, who just isn't at the level Lacy is. Sure, Lacy got schooled by Joe Calzaghe (as did, lest we forget, Manfredo), but as the Welshman's fight against Miguel Kessler showed, that's because Calzaghe is a bona fide top five pound-for-pound fighter. There is no shame in losing to him like that. Manfredo is over-hyped due to The Contender
. Lacy at least has the potential to be the real thing.
I don't know anything about Eduardo Escobedo. I do know his opponent, Daniel Ponce de Leon, and what I've seen is scary. Ponce de Leon is a blistering puncher, with unbelievable one-punch power. It's arguable that Rey Bautista should have gotten a bit more seasoning before going in with Ponce de Leon, but he was undefeated and not nobody. He got taken apart viciously inside of one round
. Maybe Escobedo has the skills to stand up and take Ponce de Leon's shots. But I'd be surprised.
Finally, there is a rematch between Edner Cherry and Wes Ferguson. I saw fight number one
, and while it was an entertaining scrap (won by Cherry), I didn't see anything in it that demanded a rematch, nor much reason to expect Ferguson could turn it around this time. Neither one has much power, but Cherry has more than Ferguson does, and Cherry likes to fight rough. The upshot is that he can get inside at will, and Ferguson doesn't possess the lead to keep him off. When Ferguson switched from trying to box to trading, he ended up worse as well. Still, Ferguson is a Mayweather protege, which makes him somewhat of a house fighter, and he clearly wants revenge, so we could see a fight.
One more thing. While I think Mayweather will win the fight, boxing is a fickle sport, and for some reason I think that the powers-that-be are tired of Mayweather ruling his perch. If it goes to a decision (as seems likely) and it's in any way close, I wouldn't be surprised if Hatton takes it "controversially". That would be a huge black eye for the sport.