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Breaking It Down: Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao for All the Marbles

By Ivan G. Goldman

Let’s forget those hundreds of millions of dollars, the persistent odor of a tickets scandal, the soap operas about the fighters’ private lives, and the totality of the May 2 spectacle.

What about the fight itself?

If you’re like me, you’ve changed your mind eleven or twelve times about how it will go, sometimes holding an opinion only two or three minutes before making another shift. But let’s try to break down some advantages and disadvantages for each fighter:

Judges (yet-to-be-named): They often see what they expect to see even if that’s not what they’re seeing. And they expect Floyd Mayweather to win because after all, they’ve never seen him lose. Advantage Floyd.

Referee: Kenny Bayless, just named, is one of the best ever and always impartial. No advantage.

Speed: No fighter throws at the same velocity on each shot, and though Mayweather can show blinding speed, he tends not to put much leverage on those super-quick shots. No advantage to start with, but as fighters get hurt or tired they slow down. Advantage to be determined.

Power: Only a slight edge here. Mayweather can throw hard enough to hurt you. If he didn’t, power hitters like Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez would have disregarded his shots and come in at will, both fists flying. It wasn’t just defense that stopped them short. They were getting punched hard enough to prompt them to change plans. But Manny Pacquiao looks for knockouts while Mayweather looks for points. Advantage Manny.

Size: Yes, Pacquiao turned pro at 105 pounds, so supposedly he’s a bulked up small fry. That’s mostly a red herring. He was 16 at the time. At age 16 Mayweather was competing at 106 in the amateurs. However, Mayweather is the natural welterweight here. Pacquiao could probably still make 140. Advantage Floyd.

Height, reach: At 5 foot 8, Mayweather is an inch and a half taller, and he has 5 more inches of reach at 72 inches. Advantage Floyd.

Experience: This category is a two-edged sword. Whenever you hear TV analysts say some up-and-coming fighter has to deal with his opponent’s vast experience it usually means the opponent is a broken-down has-been and they’re trying to build suspense for an uneven match. These two have both fought a long roster of dangerous dudes. No advantage

The Crowd: Pacquiao, whether consciously or not, will try to impress his Philippines countrymen in attendance and back home, which means he’s more likely to do something stupid. Advantage Floyd, even if Manny draws more cheers.

Patience: See above.

Combinations: Advantage Manny. Obviously.

Health (including wear and tear): Manny, 57-5-2, 38 KOs, has been in more damaging wars. He also has a history of cramping calves. Floyd, 47-0, 26 KOs, has a long history of fragile hands. If you have sufficient determination you can throw hard with pained hands. A Charlie horse, however, can’t be ignored, and a fighter with compromised legs is a stationary target. Advantage Floyd.

Body attack: Floyd may hurt you to the body, but he rarely sticks around to inflict more torso damage. You need to get close to throw to the body, and he doesn’t like to stay close very long. Advantage Manny.

Head attack: While Pacquiao is throwing to the body it exposes his head. Advantage Floyd.

Footwork: Floyd’s is superb, but now that he’s 38 he can’t maintain it for 12 rounds against a sharp, aggressive opponent like Pacquiao. Pacquiao’s footwork is better than he gets credit for. Paulie Malignaggi sees a lot of wasted movement, but some of that works to Manny’s advantage because it’s unorthodox and unexpected. Slight advantage Floyd.

Conditioning: We’ve seen them both tire in later rounds, though not badly. No advantage.

Chin: Mayweather’s been staggered by Shane Mosley and cracked hard by Miguel Cotto, Marcos Maidana, and Jose Luis Castillo (in their first fight). His recoveries were spectacular. You know how much techno-savvy they’ve got in the Silicon Valley? That’s how much ring savvy Mayweather’s got in his mind and body. When it gets tough in there he gets tougher.

Pacquiao was stopped in 1996, 1999, and most famously, by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. The first two times he was just another Third World slugger fighting under the usual slipshod Third World conditions. As for that Marquez kayo, let’s try to speak frankly while not attracting sharks, lawyers or lawyer sharks.

Marquez, who clocked him beautifully in round six with one beautiful right hand, had never been able to hurt him like that in three previous fights. At age 39 he was curiously faster and stronger than he’d ever been, with what looked like a brand new body that was newly pimpled. His physical trainer was Angel “Memo” Heredia working under an alias. Heredia, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, was allowed to stay in the U.S. after testifying against associates and clients whom he’d assisted with banned performance-enhancing drugs. None of the athletes ever tested positive. Advantage Floyd.

Corners: Both trainers are superb. Freddie Roach says Floyd Senior gets excited and stutters, but Freddie fails to mention that Manny always has a guy shouting in his ear in Tagalog while Freddie’s trying to communicate in calm English. They will both have top-of-the-line cutmen. No advantage.

Summary: Slight advantage Floyd. Which helps explain why he’s the betting favorite.

New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.

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