From the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
The boxing fraternity, nay the world, had been buzzing for weeks about the prospect of a Hatton-Pacquiao stoush. After massive problems in negotiating the fight, the date was set and I spent everyday since hoping that nothing could derail it. The day finally came and I was prepared to simply be entertained.
Junior Middleweight: Erislandy Lara (4-0, 3 KOs) vs. Chris Gray (11-7, 1 KOs), 4 rounds
Cuban prospect Lara comes to the ring and looks ripped up and tight whilst Gray looks the journeyman and every bit his 11-7 record. Lara is aggressive from the bell, establishing the jab and moving well. He drives Grey to the ropes with straights to the body and seems intent on exploiting the soft body of Gray. Grey is staggered by a left in the second and reverts to survival mode without any real intent on establishing an attack. Lara seems to be landing straight shots at will whilst Grey paws. Grey comes to fight in the third going to the body and head, although not many of his shots are penetrating Lara’s guard. The fourth is much like the third, the gulf in class is apparent as Lara works the one-two and looks for the uppercut. Gray ends the round, and the fight, winging wild shots to no effect.
You have a feeling that this would have been more of a contest if Gray had came in shape – but the reality of it is that he didn’t. All three judges gave Lara the nod and every round – 40-36. I also gave it by this margin. Lara is ready for the next step.
Super Middleweights: Matt Korobov (4-0, 4 KOs) vs. Anthony Bartinelli (20-12, 13 KOs), 8 rounds
The last time we saw Korobov he looked impressive in toying with, then dispatching, Cory Jones in four rounds on the Pavlik-Rubio undercard. He is aggressive and strong – a real crowd pleaser. Replacement Bartinelli comes to fight and, although he has twelve losses, only has 3 losses by stoppage. He will be tested by Korobov.
Korobov starts the fight with a big right that gets Bartinelli’s attention and spends the rest of the round jabbing and going to the body. Korobov looks relaxed and shows a remarkable amount of poise considering this is only his fourth pro bout. He connects with a big left then, later, a big right and Bartinelli responds. Bartinelli doesn’t look like he will be with us for long. He starts the second aggressively and Korobov matches it. Korobov dishes out a four-punch combo that has Bartinelli on the deck and he makes it up by 8. He revisits said deck after a powerful flurry but is up again. Korobov completely disregards Bartinelli’s power and is serving up fast, powerful combos. Bartinelli is trapped in the corner and taking shots as the referee takes mercy.
You gotta love Korobov, for he is a great finisher. After only five pro fights, where he is stepping up the opposition every time, he looks like a fighter who is going to catapulted into the world rankings. Fights well, finishes spectacularly, exciting to watch. ‘Nuff said.
Middleweight: Daniel Jacobs (15-0, 14 KOs) vs. Michael Walker (19-1-2, 12 KOs), 8 rounds
Undefeated prospect Jacobs took on the once defeated Walker over 8 rounds at 160. Jacobs starts the fight throwing good combinations that are picked off well by Walker. Jacobs continues to throw leather but unfortunately not much lands. The second sees Walker throw more but he looks sloppy compared to the crisp punching of Jacobs. Jacobs combos are effective and end on Walker’s body. Walker begins to come forward a lot more as the round progresses. This continues in the third and Jacobs spins him into a corner and starts going to work but his punches are coming one at a time. Jacobs is using his height and movement well until Walker clinches and throws him to the ground. He is warned by the referee and threatened by disqualification. Walker is particularly more aggressive now however he can not take the round from Jacobs. The fourth sees Walker trap Jacobs on the ropes but his offense is almost completely picked off. Jacobs strikes low in the fifth and Walker has reverted to winging wild shots. The next couple of rounds are sloppy and you wish that Jacobs had more power to end it but he just can’t dent Walker’s jaw. The eighth and final shows Walker coming fired whilst Jacobs looks uninspired and closes the fight avoiding the action.
Jacobs comes away with a unanimous decision (80-72 twice and 79-73) in a tough match which tested both Jacobs skill and will. Jacobs would need a far stronger performance against a guy the same level as Walker in order to be considered anywhere near the top of the middleweight division. Walker’s 0 will fall sooner rather than later.
Super Featherweight: Humberto Soto (47-7-2, 30 KOs) vs. Benoit Gaudet (20-1, 7 KOs), 12 rounds
Soto, the WBC Super Feather titlist, took on light punching Canadian contender Gaudet over 12 rounds. Soto comes to swing and has had an impressive run of stoppages over the past four years. Gaudet, by comparison, hadn’t faced anyone really of note and this was to be only his second fight outside of Canada.
Soto starts hard dropping Gaudet with a three-punch combo that ended with a lead hook in the opening stanza. He continues to look strong and seems intent on hurting Gaudet who is doing a lot of moving. Gaudet continues to run well into the second when he finally starts throwing. Soto is aggressive as hell and their exchanges intensify until into the third. Soto seems so much stronger than Gaudet and stalks him around the ring. Gaudet is moving and mounting useful attacks to the body until he is staggered by an overhand right. He continues to go to the body whilst Soto is looking to lay a hurting down. During the seventh a low Gaudet blow drops Soto, who is given a minute to recover whilst Gaudet is warned. Soto is immediately back on the offensive and, although Gaudet is slowing down, he has been most durable considering what has been thrown at him. His chin can only hold so long as he is dropped by an upper cut in the ninth during an exchange. Gaudet is back on his feet but is dropped again by a straight shot and the referee has seen enough.
Junior Welterweight: Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) vs. Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs)
Does this fight really need any kind of intro? After collecting the heads of JM Marquez, David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya in his last three bouts Pacquiao has staked a claim to being the best pound for pound fighter in the world today. With a win today he will tie the record (held of De La Hoya) of winning titles in six divisions and set the record with his fourth lineal title. Hatton, the champion, had recently stopped Paul Malignaggi. Both fighters bring a lot of power to the ring but the question was whether Pacquiao’s speed would be too much for Hatton’s intensity.
Round one couldn’t come soon enough and both fighters are looking to let their hands go. Pacquiao gets in a couple of good lead hooks and Hatton is looking to push the much smaller man around the ring. Both men let a hook go but Pacquiao’s gets home first and Hatton is down. He makes it back to his feet but is forced back into the ropes by the crisp, straight punching of Pacquiao who looks sharp as hell. Hatton tries to hold but Pacquiao breaks free and pops a pair of two-punch combos that have Hatton on his back again. Hatton is lucky to survive the round. He looks a lot better at the start of the second however Pacquiao is coming on strong and winning all the exchanges. Hatton is backed up by a straight left when suddenly Pacquiao lets a left hook go that turns out the lights. And I mean really out. The referee takes a momentary look at Hatton stretched out and unresponsive on the floor and decides not to kid anyone with the count.
Well, what can I say? From a fight that promised fireworks it delivered, however nobody expected it to be this one sided. Pacquiao was mercurial in easily dispatching the best fighter at 140 and the sky looks to be the limit. Already recognized as the pound for pound king, Pacquiao must now be recognized as the best fighter in the world - bar none. The final note I made on this fight reads simply, “Pacquiao is awesome”.