by Matt Gerovac
I would like to publicly apologize for doubting Manny Pacquiao. In my previous article “Five Reasons Why Tim Bradley Will Beat Manny Pacquiao” I tried my best to look into my crystal ball and predict a very unpredictable bout. Apparently, my crystal is broken. Pacquiao/Bradley II was a test of skill and will with Pacquiao undoubtedly etching yet another milestone into his undeniable legacy. However, I do not regret my prediction because I learned from it. I learned that Manny Pacquiao has not lost his will to win. In the past, he has exhibited mercy in the ring, but it was a mistake to assume that he lost the fire needed to continue fighting at the highest level.
So, rather than dwell on my mistakes, I’d like to shift the focus to Pacquiao’s future. A fight with Floyd Mayweather has to happen. Now, more than ever before, the fans, writers, boxing commissions, promoters, and networks need to make this fight a reality. Unfortunately, it has been impossible for uncountable reasons from Mayweather’s apparent ducking of Pacquiao to unreconcilable differences between the fighters’ camps. But the pay-per-view dollars alone should be enough to justify a clash between the two ageless stars.
So, all apologies and business aside, here’s something for fans of the sport of boxing. I have my favorite fighters just like anybody, but I try to be as objective as possible when it comes to fight strategy. Now that I’ve seen plenty to Pacquiao and Mayweather, I’d like to offer my two cents about what each fighter could do to come out on top of what I hope is a now unavoidable clash.
Pacquiao will beat Mayweather IF…
First, I’ll never again accuse Pacquiao of losing his edge. Obviously, for a fight of this magnitude, Pacquiao will have his best training camp ever. But, the big IF above doesn’t have to do with just his psychological makeup, mentality, or physical preparation. It’s a combination of all three.
The easiest part will be the physical preparation. Pacquiao is the consummate professional and he lives in the gym. So what should he and trainer Freddie Roach drill in order to beat a man that has arguably the best boxing skills of all time?
It all comes back to fundamentals. Even when Pacquiao wins impressively, he still gets square as he becomes more aggressive, allowing his left foot to inch forward, creating more vulnerabilities for the counter-punching Mayweather to exploit. Of course, as a southpaw, Pacquiao will have to utilize his left hand, throwing careful straights, uppercuts, and over hands. But, when he’s not throwing the left hand, he must keep it back and ready to catch Mayweather’s slick counter left hooks and straight rights.
Pacquiao will also need to end every combination with some kind of right hand. Even if he doesn’t connect, ending combinations with the front hand keep a boxer from getting too square because, as the front hand comes forward, the back foot shifts away, creating better angles. Ending a combo with a right hand will naturally pull his body back into a guard position, so as to not get countered with anything devastating. As a southpaw fighting an orthodox fighter, Pacquiao must generally move to his right, away from Mayweather’s power right, while keeping his right hand ready to deflect any of Mayweather’s tricky lefts.
His front right foot should be outside Mayweather’s left, creating a lane for both his straight left punches and making it more possible for him to hook around Mayweather’s front left hand.
Pacquiao will need to vary his combinations, never becoming predictable with his attack. As soon as Mayweather picks up any sort of rhythm or pattern, his counters will become much more decisive. If he ends with a right hook, next time, he better pump out two or three jabs after it.
Boxing, like any other sport, is all about muscle memory. By creating good habits and breaking bad habits of technique a fighter strives to become the best physical version of themselves that they may. Pacquiao cannot allow himself to continue to square up when he comes forward against Mayweather. He has to break this habit in order to win against a man with the superior technique of Mayweather. Whatever tricks or drills that Roach has in his utility belt will have to be utilized in order to break the habit. Keeping his left foot back, pivoting with his left handed punches will be integral to his success. This is another reason why Pacquiao should end his combinations with right hands, especially in drills and sparring leading up to the match. It will get him back to home base, in a balanced position, where he won’t be prone to shots from the counter-punching Mayweather.
As far as Pacquiao’s mental and psychological state, I see no limitations. Pacquiao has proven time and time again that he can rise to the occasion. So, as long as he cleans up a few small details in his technique, he has a better chance than anybody to erase that goose egg in Mayweather’s loss column.
Mayweather will beat Pacquiao IF…
First, he has to stop running. No, I’m not talking about his boxing style, I’m talking about the excuses he has come up with to not fight Pacquiao. Ultimately, Mayweather controls his own destiny more than any other fighter in the world. His nickname is “Money” and he stands to make more than he’ll ever be able to spend if he fights Pacquiao. Pacquiao has already stated that he is willing to make less than a 50/50 split. Mayweather made an estimated $41.5 million purse versus Saul Canelo Alvarez, so he could very conceivably clear $50 million on a bout with Pacquiao that would certainly break pay per view records. With all the posturing, pontificating, and percolation leading up to this bout, it is certain to garner the more attention than any other boxing event in history.
Mayweather wants to keep a zero in the loss column. So, what does he have to do besides duck Pacquiao? All he has to do is work his same ring mastery without getting caught. It sounds simple, but Pacquiao poses some problems that none of Mayweather’s opponents have shown him before. Pacquiao likes to catch people when they think he’s done throwing a combination. With Pacquiao, he won’t stop at three or four punches, he’ll keep throwing six or seven. Mayweather is a master at sneaking in sharp counters between sloppy punches. This is exactly what will work with Pacquiao, especially when he squares up while getting overly aggressive. I don’t think Mayweather is really looking to knock anyone out at this point in his career, but he could possibly get a flash knockdown with a precisely-placed counter punch. In what will certainly be a close fight that goes to the cards, a single 10-8 round could be the difference.
Against a southpaw, Mayweather will have the win the battle of the front foot/front hand. Zab Judah, also a lefty, gave Mayweather a lot of trouble in the first half of their fight. But Judah, as in many of his fights, faded when things didn’t go his way. Mayweather cannot count on Pacquiao becoming discouraged. He will have to be mentally prepared to deal with punches in bunches, coming from weird angles from bell to bell. The left hook and right hand will be very important punches. Another great Mayweather move is his up jab. As he holds his front left hand low daring opponents to dive in, he’ll bring his jab straight up from his hip and up under their field of vision. This isn’t a punch that will hurt Pacquiao, but it will stop him from sitting on his punches, and, if it’s followed with a straight right, left hook combo, he could turn out the lights again for Pacquiao.
Mayweather could never be accused of taking any of his opponents lightly. Despite all the jawing and gum-chewing antics leading up to his fights, Mayweather is strictly business inside the square circle. If he’s dealing with a guy of the caliber of Manny Pacquiao, he maybe, just maybe will come out with a bit different mentality. Perhaps he’d feel that he has something to prove and he’d come out more aggressive than usual. But, this is highly unlikely as Mayweather is very accustomed to the world stage and would probably box Pacquiao as much as possible. If Pacquiao somehow lured him into a firefight, it would play right into Pacquiao’s hands. As long as Mayweather stuck to his slick boxing, counterpunching, and movement, I don’t think Pacquiao would likely knock him out. Mayweather would just have to be certain to be busy enough to steal rounds from the busy Pacquiao.
But, there are too many “ifs” surrounding this fight. All this speculation has me equal parts excited and frustrated. We need to band together and do whatever we can to make this fight happen!