Commentary

The lead-up to the big fight

Kieran Mulvaney and Darius Ortiz take you through the build up of Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas.

Originally Published: December 8, 2007
By Kieran Mulvaney, Darius Ortiz | Special to ESPN.com

Saturday, 8:20 p.m. PT -- Please welcome … David Beckham!

You have to feel for the guys fighting the co-main at an event like this. There are almost 17,000 people in the crowd right now, and virtually none of them could care that Jeff Lacy and Peter Manfredo are in the ring. Hardly any of them seem to be paying attention. You can tell their minds are elsewhere because they aren't even cheering the ringside girls.

They did notice Becks' arrival, though.

"One David Beckham, there's only one David Beckham," quoth the crowd. -- Kieran Mulvaney

Saturday, 8:10 PT -- Floyd who?

The big fight is set to kick off in about 45 minutes and the Hatton fans still don't know who Floyd Mayweather is.

"Who are ya! Who are ya! Who are ya!"

In terms of atmosphere, this is No. 2 on my all-time list and No. 1 in terms of boxing. The arena still isn't at full capacity; though. I give it another 10 minutes.

News flash! The Hitman's on the big screen and the Brit's are bringing the roof down. I haven't heard a cheer like the one the Hatton fans unleashed in my life, soccer game or otherwise. -- Darius Ortiz

Saturday, 7:45 p.m. PT -- A pondering Ponce De Leon

Daniel Ponce de Leon had a few comments after his points win over Eduardo Escobedo.

"[Escobedo] is very difficult. Great boxing skills. He connected with some very good shots. I expected him to box that way. I tried to knock him out but I couldn't. I feel very happy for the victory and I want to wait for the next year for the best shots." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Saturday, 7:42 PT -- Jingle Bells?

The red-capped "Warriors" are at it again, this time tooting away with "Jingle Bells," of all things. I'll give them this much: It certainly isn't a "Silent Night." -- Darius Ortiz

Saturday, 7:40 p.m. PT -- In terms of atmosphere, this one's in the stratosphere

Personally, the loudest fight crowd I have experienced was Erik Morales-Manny Pacquiao (any of them). Two guys with fervent and nationalistic supporters. I tell people it was like sticking my head in a jet engine. The arena still isn't quite full, but it already feels as if this one will be louder. Lots of "Hatton Wonderland" choruses ringing through the arena already. -- Kieran Mulvaney

Saturday, 7:35 PT -- Ponce De Leon discovers punchers shouldn't box

Daniel Ponce De Leon reminds me of fifth-grade bully. He winds up on every single shot he throws. When he isn't throwing howitzers he's got his right hand fully extended like some sort of snake charmer.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the 12th and final round!" announces Michael Buffer. The crowd cheers. Not because of the fight, but because they can't wait to see Ricky Hatton.

The action's been decent; Escobedo has a sneaky right that he can't seem to miss Ponce De Leon with. He just isn't standing his ground enough.

In the end, Ponce De Leon retains his junior featherweight title with the scores of 115-113, 117-111, 118-110.

Ponce De Leon had said he wanted to box more in this fight. That's too bad; he's a pure puncher and should have stuck to that. -- Darius Ortiz

Saturday, 7:20 PT -- Cheers or jeers?

Daniel Ponce De Leon and Eduardo Escobedo are taking turns whaling away at each other like cavemen but the crowd doesn't seem to notice. They're focused on the big screen or on who's ringside.

So who's getting cheers and who's getting jeers?

Sugar Ray Leonard: Cheers. Sugar Ray's tinkering with a Blackberry or something. The camera zooms back, and who's sitting a few seats away? Thomas Hearns!

Floyd Mayweather: Jeers. Mayweather couldn't care less, though. He smiles, rubs his bottom lip and rocks back and forth.

Miguel Cotto: Cheers. Don't know if Cotto gambles but with that poker face he could bluff like Mike Matusow.

Ricky Hatton: Cheers, cheers and more cheers. Hatton's shadow boxing in the same attire he wore the day before: Black hat, black t-shirt and black nylon athletic pants. No one seems to care. "Hatton Wonderland" rings through the arena.

Moron in the front row with a cell phone in one hand and a piece sign in the other: Jeers. There's one of these guys at every fight. "Hey Mom, I'm on TV!" -- Darius Ortiz

Saturday, 6:30 p.m. PT -- Stick to your day job, Angelo!

The telecast has begun, and Wes Ferguson and Edner Cherry are fighting in the ring right now. The arena has yet to truly begin filling up; there are still far more fans at the bar than in their seats. They're still singing, too. It's going to be hard to get "Hatton Wonderland" out of my head.

This afternoon, I was talking to Angelo Dundee, legendary trainer of such greats as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and (during his comeback) George Foreman. He had written down the words to that song on a piece of paper, he loves it so much. He pulled the piece of paper out of his pocket, looked at it, and sang the song to me. Angelo's a wonderful guy, but he's a way better trainer than singer.

This veteran of so many big fights thinks he knows what will happen at this big fight.

"It's the punches you don't see that get you," he said. "And that's why I think Hatton loses tonight." Mayweather, reckons Dundee, will just prove too fast and too good.

"But hey," he added. "I've been wrong before." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Saturday, 5:45 PT -- Magic pulls a trick

Ricky Hatton's little brother, Matthew, has a mug that was meant to be punched. With that protruding brow, those steely eyes and a shaven skull, he reminds me of a hairless pitbull. Not that I've ever seen a hairless pitbull, but you know what I mean. You don't want to look this guy in the eye.

"Magic" Matthew scored a unanimous decision over Frankie Santos in the last fight before HBO PPV goes on the air. He looked rough around the edges at times but he got the job done. -- Darius Ortiz

Saturday, 9:30 a.m. PT -- Do you know the way to the buffet?

Morning has broken and pockets of Brits have outposted themselves around the MGM Grand; many may have been standing guard all night.

Either that or they're just refilling in one of the many "pit stops" that line the way between the lobby and the Garden Buffet. Their renditions of "A Hatton Wonderland," "God Save the Queen" and "Fatty's Gonna Get Ya" fill the casino.

Kieran Mulvaney mentioned he's never witnessed an atmosphere like the one we've seen this week. In terms of a sporting event build up, I'd have to agree. We'll see tonight if the Ricky Hatton-Floyd Mayweather fight itself is the most electrifying I've been to. I've seen a few that will be hard to top, most likely because the venues were bigger and the crowd wasn't as one-sided in terms of support, but judging by the weigh-in, this one has potential.

[+] EnlargeThe MGM Hotel and Casino
John Gichigi/Getty ImagesFloyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton fever is in full swing.
I'm just hoping for a good fight and that the fans stay just that: Fans. I prefer to see my fighting in the ring and not in the stands. Indeed, this is a rough crowd, and I still can't get over how young Koraun Mayweather, 8, and his brother Shamaree, 7, defiantly stared down Hatton's legions of followers and raised their father Floyd's Ring and WBC belts over their heads during the weigh-in.

Tough family, those Mayweathers. -- Darius Ortiz

Friday, 4:40 p.m. PT -- Calzaghe has the last word

After his unscripted face-off with Bernard Hopkins, Joe Calzaghe spoke with a few of us about what happened and how he feels about the prospect of fighting the Executioner.

"I've never seen him before, except on TV," he said. "I saw him over there, and I wanted to say hello to the guy, and then he's in my face and saying I don't want to fight."

Calzaghe admitted he only wants a couple more fights before retiring, and said that Hopkins is one of the best fighters in the world at the moment.

[+] EnlargeBernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe
John Gichigi/Getty ImagesBernard Hopkins, left, and Joe Calzaghe wasted no time getting to know each other.
"I've wiped everybody out, as you've seen against Mikkel Kessler. There's nothing else to prove at super middleweight, so it means going up to light heavyweight and fighting the best names out there. Unfortunately, I'm not a welterweight, so I don't have the [Floyd] Mayweathers, the [Miguel] Cottos, and the [Ricky] Hattons, so I've got to chase a 42-year-old man. I will execute the Executioner."

Calzaghe said he would face Hopkins, "any time, any place, anywhere" and won't even ask for a lion's share of the purse. Parity, according to the Welsh fighter, would be awesome but he isn't expecting it.

"[Hopkins] can have his ego and 51-49 [of the purse], Calzaghe continued. "But I tell you, if we ever fight, I will knock him out. He can't beat me. I don't see how he can beat me. I throw 1,000 punches a fight. He throws, what, 200 punches a fight. How's he possibly going to beat me? He can't beat me."

Warming up to his theme now, he dismissed the notion of Hopkins as a great fighter.

"He's no great fighter. He got beaten twice by Jermain Taylor. He's not a great fighter. Of course he's not. He got lucky against Winky Wright and he's a middleweight. He can't beat me. He can't win. He's going to lose. He knows that. I don't think he really wants to fight."

He said he was a little tired of the criticism because he's never fought in the U.S.

"Listen, the two best super middleweights in the world are Europeans," he continued. That's just the way it is. The only reason I haven't fought in America is financial. But now I've had a couple of fights on HBO; the fight with Kessler was on prime time. So I think now I have the strength to come to America and hopefully make a lot of money and make the fight happen."

He said that he didn't want to wait until June or July, but would take a fight in March beforehand if it looked as if a Hopkins bout could not take place before the summer. Even though he was excited to see the number of fans Ricky Hatton had brought to Las Vegas, he'd rather have the fight in New York.

"But wherever he wants to fight, I'll fight him." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Friday, 3:35 p.m. PT -- Mayweather's entourage

Floyd Mayweather's fellow "Dancing with the Stars" alums Wayne Newton and Helio Castroneves carried Mayweather's belts to the stage during the weigh-in, and will be carrying them into the ring on Saturday. Both admitted afterward that the festivities had been far wilder than they had expected.

[+] EnlargeHelio Castroneves and Wayne Newton
AP Photo/Jae C. HongRace car driver Helio Castroneves, left, and Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton, will accompany Floyd Mayweather to the ring.
"That was amazing," said Castroneves of the boisterous weigh-in. "I was standing behind Wayne in case something went wrong," he laughed.

"I had been to a weigh-in with Sugar Ray Leonard some years ago," said Newton, Mr. Las Vegas himself. "But it was nothing like that. But this is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of what it's going to be tomorrow night. That was probably, what, a third of what the audience will be tomorrow night?"

In all his years of performing in Las Vegas, tomorrow will be the first time Newton has ever walked a fighter to the ring or participated in the event in that kind of way.

"It's going to be very cool for me," he said. "I've never done anything like this."

Mayweather, said Newton, has "a really sharp mentality, meaning there are kind of two Floyd Mayweathers. One when he's not in the ring and the other one when he's getting ready to go in the ring. He's very intense no matter what he's doing, but he's able to keep that in perspective, in terms of knowing when to use that energy and when not to."

Castroneves joked that they recognized that same intensity during the taping of the show.

"At one point when the judges were giving low scores, I thought, 'They'd better have protection, because I don't know what's going to happen,'" he laughed.

Not surprisingly, Newton is backing his man to pull off victory on Saturday.

"It's going to go Floyd's way. I think he's the best in the world at what he does. And it's going to be a real joy to stand there and know that I don't have to face Ricky Hatton." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Friday, 2:20 p.m. PT -- Welcome to Manchester, Nev.

Twenty minutes before Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton were due to weigh-in, the arena was already packed with singing fans, who had been waiting in line for up to five hours for the opportunity to grab a seat. Hatton trainer Billy Graham was introduced to the throng, and judging from the roar, you would have thought he was the main event star.

[+] EnlargeFloyd Mayweather Jr
John Gichigi/Getty ImagesRicky Hatton's fans know how to create an atmosphere.
The crowd broke into a rendition of "God Save the Queen."

Michael Buffer appeared.

"We just had a call from President [George] Bush. He's worried because the last time there were this many British in the United States, it was 1812 and you burned down the goddamn White House!"

Bob Halloran, Director of Sports for MGM Mirage, attempted to tell the crowd the latest betting odds. Unable to make himself heard above pro-Hatton cheers, he shrugged and handed the mike back to Buffer.

One by one, the fighters of the Golden Boy stable ascended the stage. There were respectful cheers for Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Marco Antonio Barrera. The cheers were especially loud for Oscar De La Hoya himself, who bowed and smiled in obviously genuine appreciation.

Potential Joe Calzaghe opponent Bernard Hopkins, on the other hand, was met with a cascade of boos, and when Calzaghe himself was introduced and joined Hopkins on the stage, the Hopkins jeers and Calzaghe cheers were accompanied by gesturing and posturing by the fighters and a brief nose-to-nose concentration.

There was another rendition of "God Save the Queen."

Then Ricky Hatton came to the scales and it felt as if the roof was about to come off the arena. The crowd was so loud by now that it was all but impossible to hear Buffer's introduction of Mayweather.

Hatton looked calm, relaxed, hands on hips. Mayweather was all business, nervous energy, moving his body to the rhythm of the crowd's songs.

The fighters stripped down to their underwear, looking at each other across the scale.

Hatton walked forward, stepped on to the scale, never taking his eyes off Mayweather, looking down on him now.

[+] EnlargeFloyd Mayweather Jr
Al Bello/Getty ImagesIf the crowd was getting to him, Floyd Mayweather sure wasn't showing it.
"Ricky Hatton, 145 pounds!"

Mayweather's turn.

"Floyd Mayweather, 147 pounds!"

Hatton crossed over the scale again, standing eyeball-to-eyeball with Mayweather, the two men with barely a millimeter separating them. Then Mayweather put his head against Hatton's and nudged him. Hatton shoved him back and the two went to push each other some more, Mayweather jawing at Ricky, until they were separated.

Hatton took the mike and the boisterous crowd suddenly went quiet.

"What can I say?" said Hatton. "Absolutely fantastic. Just answer me two questions."

The crowd was on their toes.

"Who are you here to see? Floyd?"

"Nooo," yelled the crowd.

"Me?"

"Yeaaaah."

"Who's taking the belts?"

"YOU!"

"Right. Let's f---ing have it." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Friday, 2:15 PT -- Heading to the weigh-in

From the media room I could hear the chants and feel the stomping of thousands of rabid Ricky Hatton fans. I had an ominous feeling as I closed my laptop and grabbed a can of coke.

I half-jogged to the arena and pushed my way through the mobs of people.

The ground of the arena was literally shaking as I walked in. I flashed my credential to an usher and proceeded to the area set aside for media. Not one empty seat.

God save our gracious Queen
Long live our noble Queen

In the stands the crowd continued to sing. A trio of guards off to the left wore expressions of bewilderment and amazement. Nothing they teach in security school could have prepared them for this.

My heart was in my throat but I proceeded on. Just behind me stood 10 or so rough-and-ready Hatton fans with Man U shirts, singing at the top of their hoarse lungs, intent on turning the Arena into Old Trafford.

God save the Queen,
Send her victorious!

Miguel Cotto marched by me with a baby carriage in tow. He got his seat.

Finally, I found an aisle just between the last row of media and the first of the masses. I wasn't about to stand in no man's land alone.

I climbed into the row behind me and set up shop on the front lines, dead in front of the podium and right alongside thousands of screaming, chanting Brits.

Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

Former champions Genaro "Chicanito" Hernandez and Kevin Kelley entered the area late as well. They posted up in that empty row in front of my own. Soon, other members of the media/credientialed folk filed into the row. I lept over the seat in front of me and shouldered my way into position.

Dan Rafael was right. This is going to top all other weigh-ins. -- Darius Ortiz

Friday, 2:00 PT -- A change of pace

[+] EnlargeJuan Manuel Marquez
AP Photo/Jae C. HongJuan Manuel Marquez is ready for Round 13 against Manny Pacquiao.
No where in the boxing etiquette handbook does it say you have to carry on with name-calling, finger-pointing, "I-dare-you-to-cross-this-line" braggadocio antics and, for the most part, most boxers don't.

Still, it's always a pleasure to speak to a fighter who's insightful, civil and down-to-earth.

Juan Manuel Marquez was making his way through the MGM Grand when I pulled him aside for a word or three. His handlers were in a bit of a rush but Marquez was more than happy to chat.

Marquez is stoked about his upcoming fight with Manny Pacquiao on March 15. "People have been waiting since 2004 to see us fight again. We're going to put on a great fight. It's good for the Mexican people, the Filipino people and boxing in general. I can't wait."

The Mexico City star has steered clear of buffets while in Vegas. He's as thin as a rail and is just five pounds from the 130-pound junior lightweight limit. No procrastinating here! -- Darius Ortiz -- Darius Ortiz

Friday, 1:20 p.m. PT -- Why don't you say what you really feel, Hopkins?

Joe Calzaghe was just finishing up a radio interview when he spotted Bernard Hopkins and, simultaneously, Hopkins spotted him. Hopkins made a beeline straight for him and the two rivals went face-to-face and nose-to-nose. It was difficult to make out everything above the din, but the back-and-forth went something like this:

Bernard Hopkins: Will you take the fight?

Joe Calzaghe: Will YOU take the fight?

BH: I already said I'll take the fight.

JC: OK then, let's fight. When you want to do it?

BH: I'm gonna mess up your face.

JC: Nobody's messed up my face. Look at my face. Twenty-five years of fighting and not a mark.

BH: That's because you're fighting in Europe. You're not fighting a legend.

JC: I am a legend.

BH: In Europe.

JC: There's no way you can beat me.

BH: I will never let a white person beat me.

JC: If you fight me, you'll lose.

BH: I will never lose to a white person.

JC: I can't wait man, I can't wait to kick your ass. -- Kieran Mulvaney

Friday, noon PT -- The British have come …

They've come from all over the globe and from all walks of life, some from 5,000 miles away; others, as in Elvis' case, from beyond the grave, for a chance to see the Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton weigh-in live.

The vast majority of those in line at the entrance of the Arena are Brits who've been waiting since twilight to secure a bird's-eye-view of the proceedings.

One member of the media regretted not bringing a rolling bar cart to the MGM. He's sure he wouldn't have been able to go two steps without selling out.

ESPN.com's boxing writer Dan Rafael feels this weigh-in has the potential to top all others in terms of atmosphere and crowd fervor.

"Off the top of my head, Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya, Jose Luis Castillo-Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya-Fernando Vargas stand out as the most passionate, vibrant weigh-ins," he said. "But this could beat all of them."

Ah yes, De La Hoya-Vargas. The whole promotional tour of that fight was a three-ringed circus. I remember, at that weigh-in, a shirtless, insanely muscular Vargas hammed it up to the crowd, striking poses and strutting his stuff as if he were Lou Ferrigno circa 1978.

That should have been a dead giveaway that Vargas was on, um, the "breakfast of cheaters." Then again, a certain someone was bunting homeruns into the San Francisco Bay and that didn't raise eyebrows for years.

The weigh-in's just over two hours away. Stay tuned. -- Darius Ortiz

Friday, 10:25 a.m. PT -- The Weight-ing game

A bolt of energy has hit the MGM Grand overnight. For the past few days, the atmosphere and enthusiasm has been steadily building, and it seemed as if every other person in Las Vegas had a Manchester accent. But this morning, it's risen to an entirely different level. The weigh-in is in three-and-a-half hours, and already several hundred chanting, cheering Brits are lined up outside the arena. The south end of the Las Vegas Strip has become an outpost of northern England. I've not experienced an atmosphere quite like this at a big fight before. These guys are serious fans and their enthusiasm is contagious. The weigh-in should be quite the spectacle. -- Kieran Mulvaney

Thursday, 3:55 p.m. PT -- Mayweather has entered the building!

All week, there have been numerous pieces of evidence suggesting that these days, Floyd Mayweather gets it. He knows the little things are important when it comes to dealing with the media, and not only has he been highly accessible, he's also paying attention to details.

[+] EnlargeFloyd Mayweather Jr.
AP Photo/Jae C. HongMark Cuban on Floyd Mayweather's possible jump to MMA: "He wants to go on to the next big thing."
This afternoon, he sat patiently in front of a camera and did live TV interview-after-live TV interview, making a point each time to note in advance the name and station affiliation of the person he was talking to, reacting to each question as if he were hearing it for the first time rather than the 10th time in almost as many minutes.

But it was clear this afternoon that he was much happier talking about his plans for his ring entrance and costume than about Ricky Hatton. He teased his interviewers with hints, and then smiled and acted coy when asked for specifics.

He did mention that his fellow "Dancing With The Stars" alumni Helio Castroneves, Mark Cuban, and Wayne Newton, would all be involved in his ringwalk.

"Hey man, Wayne Newton, he's Mr. Las Vegas," smiled Mayweather at us between interviews. "He knew Elvis."

So does that mean he's going to be walking out to the accompaniment of "Danke Schoen"?

He smiled again.

"I'm not telling you." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Thursday, 3:45 p.m. PT -- A moment like this

The biggest fight in Ricky Hatton's career was the June 2005 night when he beat Kostya Tszyu to lift the IBF junior welterweight crown.

Until now.

[+] EnlargeBilly Graham
AP Photo/Jon SuperRicky Hatton's biggest fight was against Kostya Tszyu -- until the Floyd Mayweather fight came to fruition.
"I think this is bigger. When it was in Manchester, my home town, it wasn't just a Manchester occasion, the whole country got behind me, because that fight was said to be one of the biggest British fights we'd ever had. But I think this has eclipsed it.

"Kostya Tszyu was [the] No. 2 pound-for-pound best fighter in the world at the time, undisputed No. 1 in his division. You wouldn't have thought I could top all that. But it looks like I'm going to on Saturday. Floyd's No. 1 pound-for-pound. Five-weight world champion; there's only greats that have done that, really. Tommy Hearns, [Ray] Leonard, [Oscar] De La Hoya, people like that. Regardless of what we think of him, the credit's due. I've got more respect for him than any boxer in the world."

Because of the magnitude of the event, he says, "I'm a little bit more fired up than normal."

"I don't want to beat him any more badly because of what he said to me. I can't be ruffled in that department. But it's the biggest fight Britain's probably been involved in, if I win. We've had a lot of undisputed champions. We've had a lot of world champions. But maybe not too many who could say they were the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing at the time. It's absolutely massive." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Thursday, 3:12 p.m. PST -- Their first time

Ricky Hatton remembers the first time he met Floyd Mayweather.

"It was at the Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins fight. And my opinion hasn't changed much to be honest. A lot was made that we had a bit of a scuffle. But it wasn't a scuffle as such. I was sat on the row by HBO. I think Floyd was sat a bit farther down the row, and he came walking past me. I stood up to shake his hand, out of respect. You know, 'Nice to meet you Floyd.' He wouldn't shake my hand. He just went, 'I'll whup your ass,' or some [stuff] like that. So I just said, 'Fair enough,' To be honest, I wasn't overly [bothered] in the first place."

[+] EnlargeFloyd Mayweather Jr. and Ricky Hatton
AP Photo/Jon SuperRicky Hatton, right, and Floyd Mayweather aren't exactly best of friends.
Hatton and Mayweather have both put in a lot of time and effort promoting their fight, and they continue to do so, almost up until the bout begins. This afternoon, Hatton sat down with a small group of journalists for about 30 minutes, his second such get-together in three days, with a press conference sandwiched in between. He continues to appear relaxed and in good humor, and although Floyd claims to see signs of nervousness in the Englishman's eyes, Hatton reckons it's the other way around.

"Floyd will make you believe that, oh, he saw nerves in my eyes yesterday. You go back and look at the promotional tour 12 weeks ago and how he acted, and how he got in my face and hurled abuse at me. You look at yesterday [when the two men had a shoving match at the press conference]. Don't tell me I'm scared."

He says he hasn't been taking Mayweather's pre-fight taunts terribly seriously.

"I'm not saying we'll ever be best buddies, because we're from totally different walks of life. We're different characters. But sure, we'll probably be mates after the fight. The respect is always there after the fight. But at the minute, I'd have to say it's all an act, but I can't say for certain." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Thursday, 2:00 p.m. PT -- The class act

Wearing a light-brown leather jacket, stylish designer jeans and a grin from cheek to cheek, Marco Antonio Barrera seemed content in his retirement as he walked into the media room, but still in good enough shape to climb into the ring on a moment's notice if need be. "The Baby-Faced Assassin" was in town to provide moral support for his good friend Ricky Hatton.

Barrera and Hatton met in Sheffield in 2002 and "The Hitman" began attending Barrera's big fights soon after. Barrera felt it was only fair to return the favor.

[+] EnlargeMarco Antonio Barrera
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesIs there a chance we may see Marco Antonio Barrera in the ring again one more time?
Barrera mentioned Hatton's crowd-pleasing style fit the mold of the prototypical Mexican fighter and that Hatton had endeared himself to the Mexican fans.

The pair of fighters share more than just a friendship: Hatton's style of fighting is similar to that of a young Barrera.

The Barrera that fought Kennedy McKinney in 1996 was a slugger in the purest sense of the word; a face-first buzzsaw of punches, he fought with reckless abandon and would take 10 to land that one shot to the spleen.

Barrera was forced to change his style after running into -- and getting knocked out by -- Junior Jones immediately after the McKinney fight. Barrera retooled, reinvented himself and went on to win championships at featherweight and super featherweight years later.

I asked Barrera who is most difficult opponent was. "Erik Morales," he said. "For sure, Erik Morales. The three fights, the rivalry, all of that made him my toughest opponent."

And the hardest hitter he'd ever faced?

"Again, Erik Morales," he replied. "Hard, hard hitter."

This coming from a man who traded bombs with McKinney, Jones, Naseem Hamed and Manny Pacquiao, a who's who of murderous punchers. He and Morales were bitter enemies during their careers and while that's not about to change, Barrera does respect his arch-nemesis.

So what's Barrera's prediction on Hatton-Floyd Mayweather?

"I like Hatton," he said. He's got the ability -- and the will -- to win. The will means a lot; he's hungrier. He wants it more."

Is there a chance we'll see you in the ring again, Mr. Barrera?

Barrera thought for a moment then began to smile. "We'll see. Maybe one more; just to get my hand raised one last time." -- Darius Ortiz

Thursday, 11:25 a.m. PT -- Blasphemy from the pulpit

The drivel most trainers spew at news conferences and media round tables hardly ever changes. I'm still waiting for the day that a trainer steps up to the podium and tells it how it is.

"Hells yeah my fighter gets butterflies! He spends 40 minutes in the bathroom before a fight and we have to tie him down to put his gloves on. The whole 'carrying him to the ring like a Roman emperor' entrance? He was tied to that throne and wouldn't have come out of his dressing room otherwise!"

Until that day comes, we'll have to endure the generic, PR responses; on how their fighter won't lose, can't lose, doesn't know how to lose.

Ricky Hatton's trainer, Billy "The Preacher" Graham, is more of a straight-shooter than most. He's extremely media-friendly and charismatic. Like any trainer, he's eager to play up his fighter's chances but admits his fighter may cut and is sure to face difficult moments against Floyd Mayweather.

"I'm expecting a tough, competitive fight," he told us today. "I'd like Ricky to use the jab in this fight. He's got a wicked jab, he's got a lot of pace on it. If he uses it, he's going to [mess] up Mayweather bad!"

[+] EnlargeBilly Graham and Ricky Hatton
Bryan Haraway/Getty ImagesTrainer Billy Graham, right, and Ricky Hatton have worked together since the fighter was 17.
Hatton's pugnacious, face-first style of fighting doesn't leave much room for a jab. It isn't something I've seen in past fights but may be something he's added to his repertoire in preparation for Mayweather.

Anyway, Graham kept preaching, even mentioning how Hatton was the best fighter in British history.

So how would Hatton have faired against a throwback fighter like, say, HENRY ARMSTRONG?

"Too strong …" was Graham's response.

Humility from a trainer? Well, this is a first.

"Ricky would have been too strong," he lamented.

I spoke too soon.

His eyes twinkled as he gazed somewhere over the media's heads, as if imagining how his charge's fight with Armstrong would have played out and exposed "Homocide Hank" as an over-hyped nobody.

"Ricky would throw too many punches, he'd simply overwhelm Armstrong," he continued.

Overwhelm Armstrong? What? One of Armstrong's nicknames was "Hurricane Hank" for goodness sake! Overwhelming Armstrong would be the equivalent of me out-eating Joey Chestnut in a hotdog-eating contest. It ain't happening.

Nothing against Hatton, but I don't feel he's the best fighter in British history, let alone in boxing history, as Armstrong may very well have been. I'm sure Hatton would be the first to admit this himself.

Much like his fighter, Graham has been ultra-confident and in high spirits leading up to the Hatton fight, so his comments may have just been the adrenaline talking. Hopefully. -- Darius Ortiz

Wednesday, 8:16 p.m. PT -- A 'Super' sighting

Upon spotting former junior welterweight/welterweight champion Zab Judah in the MGM Grand casino, I was taken back to the first time I saw the Brooklynite fight: it was against Micky Ward, in 1998. Judah controlled the fight with his blistering hand speed and a pulsating jab and, by the middle rounds, was far enough ahead on the scorecards that Ward would have needed a knockout to win.

[+] EnlargeMayweather-Judah
AP Photo/Jae C. HongAll hell broke loose moments after Zab Judah, right, hit Floyd Mayweather below the belt.
Then, suddenly, in the 10th round, Ward landed a left hook to Judah's liver. Ward's bread-and-butter shot was that left hook but the only reason he landed it was because Judah's mind had drifted; he'd taken himself out of the ring and somewhere outside of the Miccosukee Indian Gaming casino and into the Miami night.

In other words, he'd gotten ahead of himself.

Such has been Judah's curse. And while his hands and feet may very well be the fastest of this generation (he was my first choice for Graham Houston's "Speed and smarts" piece until Graham correctly pointed out that Judah had the speed but not necessarily the smarts to qualify), it's his thought processes that have let him down.

Judah gave Floyd Mayweather all he could handle and more for four rounds in April 2006. Then, as has become the norm with Judah, his concentration slipped for a moment, and a moment is all a fighter of Mayweather's caliber needs to turn the tide in a fight.

Mayweather went on to control the better part of the next eight rounds while Judah short-circuited. He melted down completely in the 10th when, tired and frustrated, he deliberately hit "Pretty Boy" Floyd below the belt.

I can't help but wonder if Judah had been able to maintain his mind-set and sustain his attack for the full 12 rounds, would Mayweather still be an undefeated fighter. Of course, I can only wonder; for as brilliant as Judah's physical attributes are, he's still a flawed fighter, and a flawed fighter will never get the better of Mayweather.

It'll take a near-perfect fighter on his best night to beat Mayweather.

So, is Ricky Hatton that perfect fighter? We'll have to wait until Saturday to find out.

-- Darius Ortiz

Wednesday, 3:30 p.m. PT -- The Executioner sings Hatton's praises

Bernard Hopkins took time following the press conference to talk to reporters about how he sees the fight playing out.

Bearing in mind that the president of Golden Boy Promotions East has a vested interest in a Ricky Hatton victory (Hatton is fighting under the Golden Boy banner for this fight, and it's no secret that De La Hoya himself is eyeing a Hatton fight in May), the light heavyweight champion nonetheless had some interesting points to make.

"Hatton's a dangerous guy because he's hard to keep him off you," Hopkins said. "I don't think I've seen Floyd fight where he fought a guy who came with rapid punches, that had some sting on them, top to bottom, angles, and an energy level staying what it was in the first through to the eighth, ninth and 10th rounds. Ricky Hatton, I never seen the man get tired. I believe Mayweather's style of catching and baiting -- you catch a man and you bait them in -- that's not going to work, like it did on many other fighters, against Ricky Hatton. Why? Because if you throw that many punches in rapid fire, it's hard to come back with one, two, or three shots. It works great against one- or two- or three-punch guys, because you can time that. But he's nonstop, Hatton. So you got to time five punches compared to one or two. That's going to be the difference in this fight as time goes on." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Wednesday, 3:20 p.m. PT -- Another side to Mayweather

[+] EnlargeFloyd Mayweather Jr.
AP Photo/Jae C. HongFloyd Mayweather Jr. has shown a different side of himself during fight week.
A lot of people have strong opinions about Floyd Mayweather, and they're not always particularly positive. The conventional wisdom is that he's brash, arrogant and disrespectful. But to some extent, Mayweather himself exaggerates those elements when the cameras are on, fully aware that there is something to be gained from playing the cartoon villain. In quieter moments, he can be a completely different person: Polite, relaxed, smiling and generous to the media.

So far during fight week, he has been almost exclusively Good Floyd, perhaps a sign that he feels more confident than he did before fighting Oscar De La Hoya -- when he was noticeably more tense and more brusque with his responses to reporters' questions. He has been in good humor, sitting with the media for long sessions both yesterday and today. He even applauded when Ricky Hatton came to the podium during the press conference on Wednesday, and laughed when Hatton's trainer Billy Graham pretended to fall asleep when Roger Mayweather rambled on at great length.

There were moments of tension, of course, and after the press conference, he seemed at times defensive of his legacy and his image. But so far this week, he's been a dream to cover -- much like the always accessible Hatton has also been. -- Kieran Mulvaney

Wednesday, 1:20 p.m. PT -- The staredown

Hatton-Mayweather
AP Photo/Jae C. HongBoys will be boys: Saturday can't come soon enough for Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton.
Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton stood nose-to-nose and stared into each other's eyes.

Photographers shuffled for position and tried to get that quintessential staredown shot.

Click, click, click; flash, flash, flash.

OK guys, I thought, they've all got their shots, you can back down now. But no one budged.

Kelly Swanson, Mayweather's publicist, moved in but didn't dare pull him away first.

They continued to stare; Hatton chewing away on what must have been the most stale piece of gum ever (he'd been chewing away the entire media conference) with Mayweather becoming irked by Hatton's audacity.

Hatton nudged ever-so-slightly closer.

"Guys, let's cool it," someone said.

Mayweather made it clear he wasn't going to budge until Hatton did and said something to the effect of "you don't know what you're getting yourself into." He then pushed Hatton.

Hatton took a half-step back and without lifting an arm, bullied Mayweather several feet back with his chest, sumo-style.

Mayweather's people immediately broke up a sneak preview to Saturday's fight. As Mayweather was whisked away, Hatton ran his thumb under his throat and winked at the "Pretty Boy."

Round 1 goes to Hatton, but we'll have to wait until Saturday for the real show. -- Darius Ortiz

Wednesday, 11:57 a.m. PT -- 'A Hatton Wonderland'

Moments before the final news conference, Ricky Hatton's legion of fans took to singing and swearing in announcing their fighter's arrival to the MGM Grand media center.
Ricky Hatton
AP Photo/Jae C. HongSalvador Sanchez had a mariachi band; Wilfredo Gomez, a salsa one. Ricky Hatton has his own throng of musicians.

Led on by a quartet of trumpeters who could double for The Baseball Furies from the cult film "The Warriors," Hatton's supporters were again out in force.

For those of you who would like to sing along, or simply can't make out the slurred speech of 200 passionate, revved-up Hitman fans, here they are:

One, Ricky Hatton
There's only one, Ricky Hatton
Walking along, singing his song,
Walking in a Hatton Wonderland.

The witty English blokes have one for Mayweather as well, but, well, this is a PG-rated blog. -- Darius Ortiz

Wednesday, 11:50 a.m. PT -- Freddie knows best

Freddie Roach and Oscar De La Hoya
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesFreddie Roach, left, trained Oscar De La Hoya against Floyd Mayweather in May.

The last man to train a fighter to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. says he isn't sure what to expect when Mayweather and Ricky Hatton clash on Saturday.

"It all depends on who shows up to fight," said Freddie Roach, who was in the corner of Oscar De La Hoya when the Golden Boy fought Mayweather at this same venue on May 5. "If the same Floyd shows up who fought us, I don't see how he can handle the pressure. We didn't fight a very good fight that night."

Then again, he mused, there is always the possibility that, as Mayweather insists, Hatton simply isn't in his class.

"It could just be Arturo Gatti all over again," he acknowledged. Either way, Roach reckoned the pattern of the fight would become clear after just the first couple of rounds. -- Kieran Mulvaney

Tuesday, 12:30 p.m. PT -- Will any Mayweather do?

Ricky Hatton and Lehkei Mayweather
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesRicky Hatton took time out to say hello to Roger Mayweather's two-year-old son, Lehkei.

Ricky Hatton has already chased one Mayweather out of the ring.

Roger Mayweather's 2-year-old son, Lehkei, was dancing around the ring in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, shadowboxing while his father sat on the ring apron talking to journalists. Neither of them seemed to notice the arrival of Hatton, who climbed into the ring and playfully made a beeline for the budding pugilist. Little Lehkei, evidently not yet ready to spar with world champions, ran straight into his dad's arms.

Hatton immediately went over to shake Mayweather's hand, and the two men, showing class and mutual respect, obligingly posed for pictures with each other and with the now much happier Lehkei, before the trainer went on his way and Hatton sat down with the media. -- Kieran Mulvaney

Tuesday, 11:57 a.m. PT -- Words of wisdom by 'Money Mayweather'

"The Pretty Boy" wants to go by Floyd "Money" Mayweather, and on this day he was making a whole lot of sense. The loquacious welterweight wasn't at a loss for words when he addressed the mostly British media from Garden Arena.

Some of the gems he dropped:

On why he was so laid back: "I already know how he's going to come out. He's going to come out ready to kill me. Relaxation's a great sensation."

On whether his opponent, Ricky Hatton, is fun to watch: "If you call hitting and holding, hitting and wrestling exciting, then I guess he's an exciting fighter."

On who's the bigger fighter: "I don't know no other fighter that's done eight-figure gates back-to-back. I don't know other fighters selling out in 30 minutes to two hours. How many fights has he sold out in the U.S.? None."

On who has the better fans: "I love U.K. fight fans. You guys are die-hard fans. Even when Hatton gets his a-- beat, you're still going to love him. I wish we had fans like that."

On why he reneged on retirement: "I always wanted to fight over in the U.K. and I never did. So if I figured if I can't go to the U.K., I'll bring the U.K. over here. And we'll do it one more time."

On what he plans to do after the Hatton fight: "The future holds a long vacation." -- Darius Ortiz

Tuesday, 11:12 a.m. PT -- Who are ya?

Floyd Mayweather
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesWho's that guy that everyone wants an autograph from?
He currently lives just minutes from the casino, but Floyd Mayweather might as well have been flying in from Mars, such was the cold reception he received upon entering the lobby of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Anyone not familiar with boxing or the fighters themselves would surely peg Ricky Hatton to be the home fighter. It seemed as though Mayweather was walking into enemy territory and not the other way around.

The master of ceremonies announcing his arrival certainly didn't help his cause.

"From the U-S-A, please welcome … Floyd Mayweather!" she bellowed.

Boos and insults followed.

"Awww c'mon, seriously … Let's give a warm welcome to the American fighter!"

This time the English contingent responded with chants of "Ricky Hatton!" and "Floyd, who are ya?"

You'd hope, after spending countless hours crossing the Atlantic and throwing down top dollars for fight and plane tickets, they'd know who Mayweather is, right?

Anyway, none of this seemed to faze the "Pretty Boy," who immediately took to the mic and responded with his "Money Mayweather!" mantra.

Moments later, the same fans who booed his arrival were lining up for autographs and photo ops with Mayweather. Only in boxing. -- Darius Ortiz

Tuesday, 10:59 a.m. PT -- The man of the hour

[+] EnlargeRicky Hatton
AP Photo/Jae C. HongRicky Hatton got a king's welcoming upon his arrival at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
It seems as if half the inhabitants of Manchester are here already, whether they have tickets to the fight or not. I've spoken with a number of English fans who have made the trip to Las Vegas just for the fight, even though they don't have seats in the arena and have no prospect of being able to buy any at the hugely inflated prices scalpers are charging. Instead they'll be happy enough to watch the fight on closed circuit at one of the casinos on the Strip, and to simply be able to say they were here.

They were certainly out in force in the lobby of the MGM Grand this morning, roaring as Hatton made his entrance, pulling up in a London taxi and pushing his way through the throng.

It's hardly a new experience for the hugely popular Hatton, but even so, he clearly appreciated the greeting.

"Absolutely fantastic," he told journalists later. "When you think, there's probably only a quarter of them here at the minute, so to give the support like they did. I found it amazing: I saw a few American fans going, 'Who are ya? Who are ya?' Which is always nice to see, because obviously the reason why I came over to fight in the first place was to get a fan base over here."

He made a distinction between his reception and the one given Floyd Mayweather Jr., who arrived about 20 minutes later.

"I read in the program that Floyd and Leonard Ellerbe are saying that the reason Ricky's fans are coming over is to watch Floyd," Hatton said. "Well, you could have fooled me. I didn't hear a cheer for him. It was just boos all around and we're in his home town, really. Although he comes across as a confident man, I think he's actually a bit insecure, and I think slightly that may have upset him a bit. I'd be ashamed if I got a reception like that in Manchester."

For a man about to face the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, Hatton is oozing confidence.

"I have a really eager twinge in me, I really want to get in there and do it," he said. "The more I see of him, in interviews and things he says, little training methods … Sometimes as the fight gets nearer, doubt comes in. It's having the opposite effect on me. I'm not just saying it in order to prove myself to you people. I really believe it.

"It all comes to an end for Floyd on Saturday. I truly believe that." -- Kieran Mulvaney

Kieran Mulvaney covers boxing for ESPN.com and Reuters.
Darius Ortiz is the boxing editor of ESPN.com.