Feature | Premium | May 02 2019

When a superfight becomes a mismatch

On the anniversary of Manny Pacquiao dishing out a brutal knockout to Ricky Hatton explores the complexities and cruelty of the boxing mismatch
Ricky Hatton v Manny Pacquiao IBO Light-Welterweight Title  |  Action Images

IT was clear 30 seconds into the fight that it was a mismatch. You can always tell these things. Ricky Hatton, in one corner, arrived looking like a ghost, skin stretched tight and grey across his face, heart sinking in foreknowledge of the future past to come. It’ll be a miracle if he gets out of this one. And then there was Manny Pacquiao across from him, compact, lithe, light, perfectly contained within himself, smilingly oblivious to the context now surrounding him, presiding over his dominion. In the first round Hatton is knocked down twice, stumbling both times to his feet in a state of blind shock. In the second, he is knocked out cold. No one looks away for a second.

What does it mean to look away? In boxing, to look away is frequently to acknowledge that one should never have been looking in the first place. This is to say that averting the eyes, in one instant, is both an escape from and admission of guilt, the acknowledgement, too late, that the violence served up before one’s eyes is sufficiently one-sided as to be unfair. The parameters for fairness in boxing, as one might expect, are commensurately narrowed, but that narrowness produces a basic and yet severe sense for what is just and what is not. We expect our fights to be violence, yes, but we expect that violence to be just. And the only justice is in knowing that both men might hit each other and be hit thereafter in return.

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