LAS VEGAS – Many expected Manny Pacquiao to win Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Nobody expected it to be so quick, so brutal.
Especially Ricky Hatton's fans.
The Hatton band, full of forlorn faces, slowly meandered around the media center after Hatton's second-round knockout defeat. Its members were largely unable to muster even a smile when taking a picture with a Hatton fan.
"Stunned," is how one member of the band described the feeling. "Didn't expect it would be so fast."
Fans with Hatton masks. (AP photo)
See, these fans knew Hatton could lose. They just didn't necessarily believe it.
"There's only one Ricky Hatton!," the fans would chant to the tune of "Winter Wonderland." They beat their drums, and they drowned out the announcers and anything else they didn't want to hear. This was their fighter, their life.
And all the cockiness the affable Hatton refused to display, these fans happily compensated for with unabashed enthusiasm. They stood and screamed and chanted here all weekend, during the undercard Saturday night and throughout the main event until the very last second.
You know, the 2:59 mark of the second round.
A smaller but just as passionate nation of Pacquiao fans exploded while Hatton's army fell into silence as their fighter fell to the canvas. And as referee Kenny Bayless waived his arm, as Pacquiao retreated to his corner to pray and then celebrate, all these fans from U.K. could do was stare in shock as Hatton's camp rushed into the ring to tend to their fighter laying motionless on his back.
Even in the face of defeat, even stricken with the initial uncertainty surrounding their hero's health, many of the fans could think of nothing else to do than again offer a chant.
"There's only one Ricky Hatton …"
For what they saw, they still couldn't believe.
They had crossed an ocean, painted their faces, spent who knows how many paychecks and rearranged their lives for this fight, only to see it end all too fast, all too stunningly.
"Vegas makes [the trip] worth it, but I don't know about the fight," said Hatton fan Gavin Levey, who traveled from Scotland.
The Hatton supporters weren't the only ones coming from long distances for the fight. Pacquiao is as much of a hero in the Philippines as England's Hatton is in the U.K., if not more so. And those fans, filled with that same pride, that same emotion, were rewarded in seeing their fighter offer a stunning, potentially career-defining (for now) performance.
Even the Hatton fans could appreciate this.
"We're disappointed, but at the end of the day, Manny was great," said Levey, draped in a Union Jack flag.
Said fellow fan Cameron Stark: "We've seen the greatest fighter ever."
That remains to be seen. Perhaps an eventual bout between Pacquiao and the newly unretired Floyd Mayweather Jr. will help determine that.
But Hatton's future is less clear. Promoter Bob Arum said Hatton will be fine, that he told him not to be discouraged, that he still has more bouts to win. But Hatton's weaknesses were exposed Saturday night. And that wasn't lost on his fans.
"Ricky should say enough is enough," Lewis Baird said.
It was hard not to feel for these fans. Still, Stark, Baird and Levey had a couple of chants left in them hours after the fight. But some Pacquiao fans made it their own.
"There's only one Manny Pacquiao!"