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Sunday, May 3, 2009
Updated: May 11, 2:00 PM ET
Pacquiao punches place into history

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- With one thunderous left hand, Manny Pacquiao smashed his way into boxing immortality.

Anyone doubt his pound-for-pound No. 1 perch now?

Shoot, anyone doubt his place as one of boxing's best ever?

The Filipino icon destroyed Ricky Hatton in two crushing rounds to make boxing history before 16,262 at the sold-out and electric MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday.

Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton
Bottoms up: Ricky Hatton spent more time on the canvas than he did on his feet.

It's something those of us who saw it shouldn't soon forget because it may be a long time until we see something like this again.

"You are going to be the greatest fighter that ever lived," Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank said to Pacquiao in the ring after the fight.

In stunningly disposing of Hatton in ruthless fashion, Pacquiao matched Oscar De La Hoya's record of winning titles in six weight divisions. But more important, by adding Hatton's lineal junior welterweight championship to his growing collection, Pacquiao added a fourth lineal title, the first fighter to do so in boxing history. (Granted, there are more divisions now than there were back in the era of fighters such as Sugar Ray Robinson.)

In plain terms, PacMan has been The Man in four divisions, the clear champion in a morass of titleholders at flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight and now junior welterweight. Toss in belts at junior featherweight and lightweight -- and wins against elite opponents -- and you have a great fighter.

A joyous Pacquiao was succinct in his assessment of the fight: "I'm surprised this fight was so easy but I did work hard since the beginning of March in training camp. Nothing personal. I am just doing my job, but this is as big a victory for me as when I beat Oscar De La Hoya."

While Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) and his fans celebrated, Hatton (45-2, 32 KOs) was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

"It was a hard loss but I'm OK," Hatton said in his dressing room. "I really didn't see the punch coming but it was a great shot. But I know I'll be OK."

Said Gareth Williams, CEO of Hatton's promotional company, "He got caught with a great shot but we want to congratulate Manny for a great fight. He demonstrated why he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today and possibly of all time. There is no shame in losing to a fighter like that."

It was almost laughable how easy it was for Pacquiao, who was fighting at junior welterweight for the first time in his career after dropping down from welterweight, where he had fought in December when he destroyed and retired De La Hoya.

It also happened to be Pacquiao's fourth consecutive win in a fourth different division. It seems as though there is nothing he can't do.

How easy was it?

Pacquiao, a relentless southpaw with such an obvious advantage in speed, decked Hatton twice with flush right hands in the opening round.

All those thousands of singing Brits -- you know the song, "There's Only One Ricky Hatton …" -- shut up in a hurry.

First, Pacquiao tagged him with a counter right that knocked him down. Hatton was never the same after that punch.

"He was wide open for the right hook," Pacquiao said. "I knew he would be looking for my left. That's why we worked on the right."

A straight left knocked Hatton to his knees in a corner moments later. By the time the round was over, it sure didn't look like the 30-year-old Hatton was going to last much longer.

He didn't.

Just as the 10-second warning for the end of the second round sounded, Pacquiao unleashed the left hand from the heavens. It caught a confused Hatton dead on the chin and he collapsed flat on his back, literally in the center of the ring. He was gone as referee Kenny Bayless stopped it at 2:59.

"[Pacquiao is] fast and he hits hard. Combinations. You just don't know when they're coming and you can't get ready for them," Bayless marveled.

It was even more violent an ending than Hatton's only previous loss in the very same ring. Remember that one? It was in December 2007, when then-welterweight champ and then-pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. knocked him silly in the 10th round.

After Mayweather Jr. retired last year, Pacquiao took over his position as pound-for-pound No. 1. But this victory sets up something very tasty: A Pacquiao-Mayweather Jr. showdown, perhaps at the end of the year.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, although probably not, that Mayweather Jr. announced his comeback Saturday morning. He will fight at the MGM Grand on July 18 against Juan Manuel Marquez, the man who has a split decision loss and a draw with Pacquiao in two debatable fights.

Although Pacquiao, 30, did his damage with both hands, that first right hook that knocked down Hatton for the first time changed the entire fight.

"This fight was no surprise to me," said Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, who had predicted a knockout inside three rounds for his man. "We were prepared. We know he always pumps his hands before he throws a punch. He's a sucker for the right hook and that is what we worked on throughout the entire camp, the right hook.

"Ricky is wide open for the right. He always cocks his fist back before he throws it. He fights the same way over and over. I've studied every tape I could get for two months. I know him like I know my own fighter."

Pacquiao's victory, which will be replayed on HBO on Saturday night (9:30 ET), also gave Roach the victory he coveted against Floyd Mayweather Sr., Hatton's trainer, who dogged Roach throughout the promotion.

The normally talkative Mayweather Sr. didn't have much to say afterward.

"I really thought Ricky would get him," Mayweather Sr. said. "I really don't want to get into it more than that."

There wasn't much else to say, really.

Other than "All hail Manny Pacquiao."

And "Bring on Floyd Jr."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.