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Michael Taylor 2nd May 2009 - 11:08

Trader's opinion - Is the smart money on Hatton?

William Hill's resident boxing trader and expert Sam Foulkes was spot on with his predictions for last week's Taylor v Froch fight but who does he believe will be leaving the MGM Grand on Saturday night with the win? Ricky Hatton or Manny Pacquiao?

"TWO of the greatest fighters of their generation collide in Las Vegas this weekend when Ricky Hatton faces Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao fresh off his eight round destruction of Oscar De La Hoya enters the contest as a 1/2 betting favourite.

Hatton is priced as an attractive 6/4 outsider. All boxing fans are familiar with the strengths of these two fighters which, make for an intriguing match-up of Pacman's speed versus the Hitman's physicality.

Pacquiao has improved enormously in the last year; he has maintained his signature intensity and speed and has added more punches to his arsenal, notably the right hook from his southpaw stance. Defensively too, he looks very good, largely to do with excellent body rhythm and foot movement.

The wild-card factor in this fight, for me, concerns Pacquiao's strength - or lack of it - at the light-welterweight limit. The Filipino superstar had only twice ventured above 130lbs, first when he knocked out WBC lightweight champion David Diaz and, last time out, when he beat Oscar De La Hoya. In both of these fights Pacquiao looked strong and sharp in dominating every single round. But you have to have reservations about the abilities of his two victims; David Diaz was in my opinion, not a top level fighter. Although he was the champion, he picked up the title by defeating the much smaller and faded Erik Morales. Diaz was exceptionally slow for a lightweight and style wise was tailor made for Pacquiao.

De La Hoya, of course, was extremely weight drained, to the extent that he looked drained and unhealthy, he was unrecognisable from the great fighter that he once was. So a little too much is made of these to results, although, of course, Pacquiao can do no more than beat what is put in front of him.

Hatton's only loss came when he moved out of his best weight division, and it came against an elite fighter in Floyd Mayweather. Ricky looked jaded in his comeback win over Juan Lazcano but the switch of trainer to Mayweather Snr has improved Hatton. I thought he was magnificent beating Paulie Malignaggi in November last year, the work with the new coach clearly paid off as he looked more measured and applied more intelligent pressure.

For this fight, there seems to be a rejuvenated look about Hatton and I think he is in a good place psychologically because he knows first-hand the importance of the weight advantage that he holds.

Both fighters have hinted about making tactical changes. For Pacquiao, stable mate Amir Khan commented that he had been focusing on sitting down on his punches much more; this means that he might be planning on trying to hold ground against Hatton and not be pushed back.

Similarly for Hatton, who appears to be working a lot more on speed and combinations, he looks like he's planning on using his boxing ability as well as his robust strength.

I would not be surprised to see both men come out and begin by using a 'boxing' style but I do not think that this will last long. I believe that once Pacquiao gets hit and feels the difference in power of a big ten stone fighter, his natural instinct to fire right back will take over, after all what other option does he have? In all the Pacman fights that I've watched, I've never once seen him win a fight going backwards. There is a difference between fizzing in and out with bursts of punches like versus De La Hoya, and getting forced backwards by a bigger man who is going to answer the fast punches with hard hits of his own. The middle rounds are certain to be explosive, and a stoppage either way seems a very strong possibility.

The crowd at the MGM Grand and the enormous worldwide TV viewing audience are likely to see compelling and brutal confrontation, the personality clash is intriguing; both men are national heroes and will be willing to walk through walls to win.

It is a difficult fight to call, I actually believe that Pacquiao can outscore Hatton in the inside exchanges, getting in with his right hook and straight left. But I get the feeling that Hatton might settle for taking a few shots in order to land one of his murderous body punches. This pattern might lead to Pacquiao picking up points on the cards but Hatton will be coming on strong in the middle rounds, as the effects of the body punches take their toll on the smaller man.

Pacquiao is the favourite, and rightly so with wins over the likes of Barrera, Morales, Marquez and De La Hoya, he is now seemingly boxing at his peak. This fight though I feel could be a bridge too far for Pacman. I picked Mayweather to beat Hatton, and I picked Pacquiao over De La Hoya. For this fight I am going for Hatton to win. The difference in size of the fighters cannot be underestimated, Hatton is not just an ordinary 140lbs fighter, he is exceptionally strong at the weight, and he will be dry when he weighs in on Friday at 140lbs but will probably enter the ring at around 150 - 152lbs.

Pacquiao, a fighter who started out at 106lbs, has won titles all the way up to 135lbs. He will be conceding around 10lbs of lean tissue on the night, that's two weight divisions; surely no one can beat Hatton with that handicap.

Pacquiao fought a draw and a split decision win over the world class Juan Manuel Marquez, he scored three knockdowns in the first fight and only drew; Marquez is a top level boxer but he's not very quick, he was able to land punches on Pacquiao and win the majority of the 24 rounds that they boxed. In fact, Pacman with his head-on style has never been particularly difficult to hit.

Like everyone else, I have huge respect for Pacquiao - his willingness to fight anyone and everyone deserves the highest praise - but this time, I am going for Hatton to win. It will be a bitterly contested and brutal battle, and I think that Hatton will walk through the early fire from Pacman and bulldoze him into submission, Ricky's body shots will again be the key and Hatton will win, by knockout, in about six rounds."

William Hill big fight odds:

6/4 Hatton to win

10/3 Hatton by KO/TKO

28/1 Hatton Round 6

8/13 Fight to end inside the distance

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