Manny Pacquiao, The Day After

Part I of our look at the aftermath of the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight examines Pacquiao one day later. Later this evening, Part II looks at Hatton and the undercard.

I’m still reeling after the fight. Not quite as badly as Hatton was left reeling, but pretty badly.

Try this on for size: After this win, Pacquiao is, in my mind, the best fighter in the past 20 years. He’s beaten gobs of elite Hall of Fame-bound opponents and top contenders, and he’s won a history-making fourth real championship belt in four divisions. He’s done more than Roy Jones, Jr. He’s done more than Floyd Mayweather, Jr. He’s done more than Bernard Hopkins. Pernell Whitaker, Felix Trinidad, Evander Holyfield, you name them. The fighter who was still in his prime in the time period I’m talking about that comes the closest to being as good as Pacquiao, and that’s debatable, is Julio Cesar Chavez. I think you have to go back to Sugar Ray Leonard before you really have to put on the brakes.

The hardcore Pacquiao fans will of course say I’m being too conservative, but they’ve thought Pacquiao was the best fighter of all time since he first laced up the gloves. I don’t like throwing around superlatives like that. I think a fighter has to prove himself in the ring against the best of the best, over and over and over again, before I become convinced. There are people ahead of Pacquiao, historically. I think top 25, as I said yesterday, is about right, with top 10 being out of reach for a little while longer. Leonard is top-10 material whose last quality win came in 1988. The four best opponents Leonard beat were Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler. The four best opponents Pacquiao beat are Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, and, depending on one’s point of view, Oscar De La Hoya or Hatton. I’ll give Hatton the nod, because he was in his prime where De La Hoya was not. The Leonard foursome is more fearsome, and Leonard, too, beat top opponents in weight classes from welterweight to light heavyweight.

But look, it’s now an argument, at least. And if Pacquiao beat Mayweather, or beat Marquez definitively, the argument gets a whole lot better for Pacquiao.

Pacquiao has moved into that rarified air where I can’t pick anyone anywhere near his weight to beat him. All fighters, even the best of the best, run into styles that could pose difficulties for them. You can’t say that about Pacquiao right now. Miguel Cotto might have seemed too big to me before. But Pacquiao is too fast, and I can’t see Cotto handling that. Paul Williams is a beast, and his length might have seemed to me too formidable a tactical obstacle before. But Pacquiao is explosive enough to close the distance. Marquez is my favorite fighter, the opponent who has given Pacquiao the most trouble. But the last time they fought was in early 2008, and while I thought Marquez won that fight, Pacquiao is almost a 100 percent better fighter since then, and Pacquiao would almost certainly be too big for him at junior welterweight.

The last person I would never have picked anyone to beat was Mayweather, before his retirement. I can’t say that today. Not with Pacquiao as a potential opponent. Remember how Zab Judah was faster-handed than Mayweather early in their fight, shockingly? Mayweather adjusted to Judah’s speed and Judah faded. Pacquiao wouldn’t fade, Pacquiao is faster than Judah and Pacquiao is a much better fighter even if Mayweather adjusted. Mayweather has size, reach and superb technical skills, but I don’t, at this point, imagine that being enough.

That’s how amazing Pacquiao’s performance was against Hatton. Mayweather took 10 rounds to knock out Hatton, in a fight where Mayweather had a substantial size advantage fighting at welterweight. Pacquiao took two rounds to knock out Hatton, fighting at junior welterweight for the first time. Mayweather went the distance for a close decision win with De La Hoya. Pacquiao knocked him out in eight. You can say that De La Hoya was more faded against Pacquiao that Mayweather and cite the weight difficulties Oscar had, or you can argue that Hatton was damaged goods from the Mayweather knockout. I don’t buy either as very good arguments to explain the disparity in the performances. This was arguably an improved version of Hatton that Pacquiao beat over the version Mayweather beat, besides.

Hatton was in the Mayweather fight. He wasn’t in this one. Hatton landed some shots, ineffective or no, on Mayweather, but he couldn’t touch Pacquiao. There isn’t much to analyze about Pacquiao-Hatton. Pacquiao was too fast, and as such too accurate, and as such his punches were too devastating. Trainer Freddie Roach said Pacquiao would be at his best at this weight. He was right. He’s right about everything; you can’t talk about Pacquiao without mentioning Roach, who deserves unending praise for helping to transform Pacquiao into the great he is now. We all understood the Pacquiao right hook was now a weapon, but how strange it is to consider that it might now be a better weapon than his patented straight left, because if you’re looking for the straight left, you’re getting knocked down by the right hook. Hatton could try the head movement he had been working on with new trainer Floyd Mayweather, Sr., but it didn’t matter, because of the speed. Pacquiao is still getting better in each fight. He was more powerful and better defensively than ever.

I knew Pacquiao would put on an exciting performance, one way or the other. Although I thought Hatton would be moderately competitive, I’ve also said that I thought there was a strong chance Pacquiao would toy with Hatton. I didn’t expect a performance that was exciting in this way, for these reasons. I want Pacquiao to fight forever.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.