Everyone by now knows how big this fight is and how monumental a match-up it is, so I'll spare the introduction and just get straight to the point...
If you asked me last year about this time on who would win in a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, I would have said Pacquiao, hands down. However, in the present, that is no longer a given. Pacquiao looked and fought spectacularly in his last fight with Oscar De La Hoya, whereas the detractors who said he was shot and that it was a diluted win should be ignored, as the vast majority had De La Hoya KOing him. This point of debate and the fight itself have many predicting that the Pac-man will steamroll through Hatton.
This, however, is completely wrong.
The Hitman, much like Pacquiao a few years ago, sought out a new trainer to help him transition from his trademark vicious, but flawed and one-dimensional, brawling style to a more well-rounded one that properly utilized the positive aspects of his old style. Floyd Mayweather, Sr. became what Freddie Roach was to Pacquiao and the dividends showed in his impressive victory over Paulie Malignaggi. Gone was the stifling whirlstorm of punches and present was a smarter pressure fighter with a good display of boxing skills. Rather than thinking Pacquiao, the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, would tear through Hatton, it looked much more likely that things would not be as simple as that should the dream fight ever materialized.
Now that it has, you now have two fighters that can brawl and combine it effectively with boxing prowess. Though Hatton is the bigger of the two and more natural at light welterweight, they are very similar in terms of attributes. Both can throw fast combinations, both can apply pressure and the will on the opposition with ease, they aren't afraid to mix it up, and they can hit hard. If this were the Pacquiao and Hatton of old, this would be an insane slugfest that would nearly guarantee a surefire knockout, though that isn't to say the newer versions won't duke it out. It'll be an action-filled contest with flurrying arms galore, but it will be more measured and technical.
Taking this in mind, it comes down to two things: coping with speed and stamina. Both fighters, like most quick hitters, have a tendency to act tentative with others like them or those undeterred by their hand speed. Hatton had trouble with Luis Collazo and Pacquaio with Juan Manuel Marquez due in part to their willingness to trade, having a good defense, and being physically able to nearly match speed in the latter's case. Pacquiao has had a comparably better time handling such fighters than Hatton (though it is slight...) and is quicker than he is in both footwork and hand speed. In terms of stamina, however, he is far superior, as Hatton has had a tendency to fade in the late portions of fights. Hatton is also prone to cutting easily, so that, too, can play a factor.
While this may sound like Pacquiao will run through him, it would be wholly unwise to count Hatton out. Keep in mind that Pacquiao has been knocked out early in his career and can be beaten (ask Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez). Keep in mind the earlier points about fast-handed fighters and dealing with speed, as well as the size advantage and pressure. Hatton is not the type to quit or "cut his losses" if he's down, so his tenacity should prove to be an interesting foil to Pacquiao's own determination. He's a very dangerous fighter for someone like him, and a (T)KO victory would not be a surprise or an "upset", unlike what many think.
Overall it is a very close match-up, with an outcome difficult to predict outside of a KO. The fight should be a quick moving one with little feeling out in the beginning. Close-quarters, "phone booth" combating will probably permeate throughout, with the rounds being too close to all. Where it will be decided (barring a sudden event early) is in the latter part of the fight, as stamina, conditioning, and wear-and-tear will begin to show in earnest, leading to perhaps to Pacquiao outlasting Hatton down the stretch and dominating him from a distance and staying out of his range. But...I'm going to break from statistics and analysis and say that...
Prediction: Hatton, TKO9 (If tired or fatigued by the late middle rounds; or has trouble with hand speed at all, Pacquiao, TKO4 (or the 7th, if the former is the case). Through all means, Manny Pacquiao should have his way against the less polished Ricky Hatton, but I don't think it will be blowout. Hatton has what it takes to shut him down, though he'll need to catch the challenger to his IBO belt before he can do that. I'll give him the benefit of doubt, even if part of me, like many others, still think of differently.
Outcome: Pacquiao, KO2. Well, so much for that "break from statistics and analysis". Outside of two good punches, Hatton was completely annihilated by Pacquiao within two rounds. According to reports, he went down twice in the first, looking bad both times, and was knocked out cold near the end of the second round. The clips of the fight made available showed Pacquiao outgunning and overwhelming Hatton, despite "The Hitman" being the aggressor at the start. He landed just five less punches than the 78 Hatton threw enroute to beating the alternative estimate of a stoppage from the Prediction before. Hatton's future looks uncertain, though I hope he continues to improve and keep fighting, as the potential is still there. Pacquiao, on the other hand, gathers yet another title belt at a different weight class and after a vacation, he'll most likely meet the winner of this summer's biggest bout, just announced the day before--Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs Juan Manuel Marquez.
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