LOS ANGELES –The fight game and the film industry have been intertwined since the days of silent pictures and bare-knuckle bouts and the parallels just won’t go away.
Tinseltown and boxing have both warded off threats of technology and modernity to remain a part of the contemporary entertainment scene and have shown that the public never loses it penchant for the glitzy and the dramatic.
It was appropriate, then, that the scene-setting publicity tour for the best fight boxing has to offer just now should make a pit-stop in the surreal surrounds of Hollywood Boulevard.
Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton are simple men of simple taste, but when they are thrown together in the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 2, an explosive cocktail should result.
Hatton used to work in his father’s flooring business, but he had never been down a red carpet prior to Monday’s media circus at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Pacquiao too, for all his celebrity status and political ambition in the Philippines, had yet to sample the ultimate underfoot recognition of star power.
Yet spotlight sits easily with these two men charged with giving the fistic profession its defining image of 2009, even if they handle it in alternate ways.
Featuring two of the most popular fighters in history, the Battle of East and West was always going to sell tickets and generate pay-per-views sales, even in these fiscally stretched times.
However, there is a sense that boxing is looking for more from this encounter between a pound-for-pound titan and a divisional king. Action, explosiveness and drama are as desired as they are likely.
Hatton, by his own admission, was somewhat overwhelmed the last time he fought a pound-for-pound No.1. The occasion, the opponent and the outpouring of British travelling support all sat heavy on his shoulders when he clashed with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Dec. 8, 2007.
This time Hatton seems more comfortable in his own skin and situation and is buoyed by the belief that even at 30 his technical skills are significantly improving.
If Hatton is a work in progress, then the architect is the father of the only man to have bested him – the outrageous and often indecipherable Floyd Mayweather Sr. – provides an unlikely contrast to the boy from the back streets of Manchester.
While Team Hatton needs no reminding of the silky Pacquiao skills that have invigorated boxing, both Mayweather Sr. and his charge are adamant that recent events have delivered a skewed perception of favoritism for this fight.
Pacquiao’s pummeling of worn legend Oscar de la Hoya in December elevated the Filipino into the ranks of the immortal. Hatton believes far too much stock has been placed in that one performance on the night when de la Hoya resembled a sorry shadow of his hall of fame best.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself and check,” said Hatton. “Did he beat Oscar or did he beat Godzilla? I can’t believe how everyone has reacted to this. Of course Manny is a brilliant fighter but Oscar was a long way from his best and it amazes me that more people haven’t seen that.”
Pacquiao is an enigma in the fighting world, selling himself purely on the back of his boxing brilliance rather than verbal dexterity. He laughed off the poetic jabs from the rap-minded Mayweather Sr., an on-stage ditty that proclaimed a resounding Hatton victory was inevitable.
If any boxer should carry a burden it is Pacquiao, with the dreams of a nation for which sporting success at this elite level is unheard of resting with him.
He keeps much to himself, whether through barrier of language or reservation of personality, and we will likely never know what is going on within that remarkable boxing brain.
Pacquiao is as poor a public speaker as he is magnificent a boxer, and his series of utterances in Hollywood seemed to center mainly on matters of the Almighty and concern for the wellbeing of the undercard.
“We don’t know who will win on May 2,” said Pacquiao. “Only God knows that. He is the only one who knows. He is only one who will know. And he is the only one who does know.”
Fortunately for Team Pacquiao, words will count for nothing in Las Vegas. For all Mayweather’s high-jinks, which include pretending to run off with a trophy for the ‘world’s best trainer’ that will be awarded to either him or Freddie Roach after the fight, this is serious business.
Two men seek a Hollywood ending of their own on May 2; and confirmation they are the king of the A-listers.