Hong Kong - Former world champion Ricky Hatton called on Thursday for Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao and American Floyd Mayweather Jr to face each other in the ring to settle who is the best.
The 33-year-old Pacquiao and Mayweather, 35, have tried several times to get a contract signed for a world title fight but have failed for a number of reasons, including disagreements over blood testing and a share of the purse.
Their failure to agree a deal has led some observers to suggest that Pacquiao, regarded by many in the sport as the world's best pound-for-pound fighter, and the unbeaten Mayweather are trying to put off boxing each other.
"If you want to be the best then you fight the best and those two should fight each other," Hatton, 33, told AFP during a visit to Hong Kong where the former British boxer was scouting new talent.
"I've never been shy of wanting to fight the best and I refuse to believe that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are avoiding each other, and don't want to fight, because if they are they are sadly not the champions I thought they were," Hatton, now a boxing promoter, added.
"One thing I wanted to do from day one was fight the best," said Hatton whose only two professional defeats came to Pacquiao and Mayweather.
The former welterweight and light-welterweight world champion nicknamed "The Hitman" lost to Mayweather when he was knocked out in the 10th round in Los Angeles in December 2007 and was humiliated by Pacquiao almost two years later when he suffered a KO in just the second round.
"In the ring I know firsthand how good they actually are," he said, "Floyd Mayweather was the best in my career and I wanted to fight him."
Hatton said it was not a foregone conclusion that the two would meet but insisted that they must fight soon while both boxers are at the peak of their careers.
"I don't know (if it's inevitable) but it should be a matter of time. That's the obvious thing.
"You don't know what's going on in their minds but it's an obvious decision really. I would just say, 50-50 let's fight each other.
"They ought to fight each other now while they are at their prime.
"There's no point them at 38 years of age saying, 'We'll get it on now.' We want to see who is the best while they are both at their best."
Boxing fans have long sought a matchup between the two. Mayweather has even made a Twitter challenge for the Asian star to "Step Up, Punk", but they have not been able to work out a deal.
In February Pacquiao described as "embarrassing" an offer by Mayweather to give the Philippine star a $40 million lump-sum payment if Pacquiao agreed to let the American keep the pay per view earnings for the fight for himself.
Mayweather, who has won titles in seven weight classes, is scheduled to meet Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas next month for the latter's WBA Super Welterweight title while Pacquiao faces unbeaten American Timothy Bradley on June 9.
Pacquiao, who has a 54-3 win-loss record with two draws, stakes his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown against Bradley.