Manny Pacquiao to Face Toughest Foe in Epic Career: High Expectations

Carlos G Giron@@carlosgironnycContributor IIIMay 2, 2009

LAS VEGAS - MAY 01:  (L-R) Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines and Ricky Hatton of England pose after both fighters stepped on the scale during the weigh-in for their junior welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena May 1, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Manny Pacquiao has thrived as the perennial underdog everyone loves to cheer and support. Little Manny has jumped into the ring against feared executioners and brave warriors like former superstars Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, and has faced current stars like Juan Manuel Marquez.

Against the odds, and bringing to bear the very best in his boxing arsenal, he has succeeded, defeating these extraordinarily talented opponents.

In his last fight, the “Mexi-cutioner” faced the ultimate matinee idol, “The Golden Boy” Oscar de la Hoya. Once again, little Manny beat the bigger—both literally and figuratively—De la Hoya, to once and for all fully establish himself as the best “pound-for-pound” fighter in the world.

But now, the tables have turned. Today, “The People's Champion” is everyone’s favorite. He is the king of the ring, the real deal, the one to beat. So now the question becomes: Is Manny Pacquiao ready and able to fight the toughest opponent of his career?

The pressure of high expectations. The heat of the spotlight. The challenge of knowing you are the best and that everyone expects you to be brilliant and dominating every time you step into the ring.

On the flip side, the confidence gained with success could lull "Pacman" into taking this fight for granted.

Will Manny exude excessive confidence and take it easy against Ricky Hatton?

Will Pacquiao fight aggressively and with a sense of urgency, as he has against better opponents?

Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) returns to the ring Saturday night to face a “tough-as-nails” and scrappy fighter from Manchester, England in Hatton.

Hatton’s 45-1-32 KOs record is not as impressive as the numbers would indicate. The scrappy, little brawler bleeds easily and simply has not faced the same rugged and high quality opposition that Pacquiao has successfully conquered.

Hatton has conveniently skipped the best Mexican fighters in his division and has beaten bad, mediocre, and “shot” fighters, like Jose Luis Castillo, on his way to amassing his deceptively strong record.

Hatton’s best quality is that he loves to brawl and, most importantly to boxing promoters, his is a guaranteed box office hit. His marketing star power will undoubtedly draw the support of millions of British and European fans ready, eager and able to spend whatever it takes to support their hero.

The cash registers will surely ring throughout the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Pay-Per-View numbers will be impressive; and the arena will be filled and will emanate great excitement and buzz.

Hatton’s loud and boisterous supporters will chant and scream giving the venue the look and feel of a high-profile soccer match such as the classic game between Manchester United and Arsenal of the English Premier League.

The fight will be interesting and fun. Hatton will give a great show, exchanging blows freely with the usually equally aggressive Pacquiao. There will be fireworks and there will be a knockout.

After all the thrilling exchanges, if Pacquiao is able to beat his real rival, “The Curse of High Expectations,” the referee will raise the hand of Pacquiao, known in the Philippines as “Pambansang Kamao” (The National Fist), to officially declare him the winner by KO.

The fight will provide great entertainment and is certainly worth watching.

Pacquiao will happily take home $12 million while Hatton will earn $8 million. The explosive rumble will be televised on HBO pay-per-view.

If Manny comes prepared and can stay focused, hungry and eager, this is a fight he should win relatively easily. If not, the scrappy Hatton will make him pay.

Pacquiao by KO on the 10th round.