By Kirk Jackson
Finally, the event we have anticipated for more than five years is to commence May 2nd: the blockbuster bout between ring legends Floyd Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) and Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs).
Both guys have endured wear and tear since 2010, but despite the slight physical decline, Mayweather and Pacquiao are still great fighters. Both are considered the best of their respective division, both acknowledged as the best of their sport and recognized as transcendent icons of the sport.
There are critical attributes essential to each fighter’s style, each attribute playing a role and ultimately will dictate the outcome of the fight. Let’s get started.
Much has been made about speed for this match-up. Who has the edge in speed? Who has the faster hands? Who has the faster feet?
Usually, Mayweather and Pacquiao are the faster fighters heading into a matchup when they’re pitted up against any other fighter, so it will be interesting watching these two speed demons engage and attempt to figure out one another inside the ring.
But first, let’s make a distinction when it comes to speed.
Pacquiao holds an edge with combination punching. As a mid-range fighter, he excels and makes his living off rattling off combinations, and moving side to side (usually to his right), in the attempt to avoid the incoming retaliation from his opponents.
Pacquiao’s shorter arms, in this aspect, play to his advantage, allowing him to snap off quick combinations.
Mayweather is the quicker one-punch fighter. He is an expert at countering his opponent; check left hooks, pull back counters, pot-shotting if you will.
Much of Mayweather’s one punch counter prowess is predicated on timing. Anticipating one’s moves and planning five steps ahead is one of Mayweather’s greatest strengths.
Mayweather is classified as an outside fighter, a prototypical boxer, but has displayed the ability to effectively fight on the inside.
A difference between Hatton and Pacquiao, Hatton is a natural inside/swarmer styled fighter, while Pacquiao is more so a mid-range/outside style fighter.
Pacquiao has a tendency to follow the opponent and can get lured into boredom as he has displayed on numerous occasions. With that in mind, Mayweather will lay numerous traps and time Pacquiao lunging in with crisp counters.
The ability to capitalize on personal strengths and exploit an opponent’s weakness, and the ability to neutralize and negate an opponent’s greatest strength: we call that intelligence.
Mayweather is considered a boxing savant by many. A defensive-minded wizard ala Willie Pep and Pernell Whitaker. And like the aforementioned great magicians of the ring, Mayweather not only possesses defensive prowess, but he has the innate ability to follow the game plan despite being under extreme duress and has the natural ability to effortlessly adjust and make the correct decisions.
Mayweather is the cerebral type fighter; a hi-tech, super sophisticated computer in the ring, planning many moves in advance.
At times it seems he knows what his opponent is going to do before the opponent even knows what they’re going to do. Even his harshest critics can appreciate Mayweather’s uncanny ring brilliance.
Pacquiao, obviously a great fighter in his own right, a crafty fighter in the ring as well, overwhelms opponents with athleticism, endurance and speed. He can best be described as a world class athlete with some technical flaws.
As we all witnessed with his four fight series with Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao has trouble with intelligent fighters; counter-punchers.
Mayweather and Marquez are distinctly differently styled counter-punchers and overall fighters, but Mayweather can emulate the success of Marquez.
If lateral movement is presented to Pacquiao, along with head movement, feints, the shifting and presentment of different angles, it will frustrate the Pacman.
Timothy Bradley is not classically described as a boxer/counter-puncher, but was able to keep Pacquiao second guessing at times with his counter punches and was able to mix things up by feinting and providing angles.
It’s important to keep in mind, Pacquiao has a tendency to follow his opponent as opposed to effectively cutting off the ring.
He is susceptible to right hand lead punches and to left hooks as well. Pacquiao eager to mix up the action, has a tendency to lunge in with his hands down. All of this tailors to Mayweather’s natural counter-punching style.
When you think power, you automatically think of Manny Pacquiao in this matchup and for good reason. People may reminiscence when Pacquiao made his ascension to boxing super stardom, steam rolling through Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and even most recently, destroying Chris Algieri.
Yes, Pacquiao punches hard, extremely hard, but the question remains, when is the last time he scored a knockout? Pacquiao’s last stoppage occurred six years ago against Cotto; 12th round TKO. We can look at KO percentages, but it does not always tell the full story, as the numbers can be deceiving.
Speaking of which, lets look at the numbers. Mayweather has a KO percentage 55% and Pacquiao has a KO percentage 59%. The Pacman has a slight edge if we go off the numbers.
With a total of 64 fights overall, Pacquiao is 18-3-2 (8 KOs) in world title fights and 20-4-2 (10 KOs) against current or former world titlists.
With a total of 47 fights overall, Mayweather is 25-0 (10 KOs) in world title fights and 22-0 (7 KOs) against current or former world titlists.
More than half of Mayweather’s fights are world title fights. That means, he is facing greater quality opposition and it’s essentially more difficult to score the knockout. is
We can factor in the deterioration of Mayweather’s hands in the latter half of his career and his moving up in weight, which can be equated into the lack of KOs.
Mayweather hasn’t scored a KO since 2011, when he had free reign on the chin of an apologetic Victor Ortiz. Don’t think Pacquiao will make the same mistake.
While both guys possess enough power to leave an impression, Mayweather holds the slight edge in power. Also take into account, Pacquiao will more than likely be the same size as Mayweather, if not slightly smaller.
Mayweather is used to fighting guys like Marcos Maidana, Canelo Alvarez, guys outweighing him by more than 15 lbs. or so. The image of anyone of Pacquiao or Mayweather getting stretched out is not out of the realm of possibility, but may be unlikely.
For those clamoring for the vision of seeing Mayweather, bruised, bloodied and knocked out, keep dreaming.
Mayweather will get touched up, may get bruised up, but the KO is improbable. Pacquiao couldn’t stop Algieri, Brandon Rios, Timothy Bradley; fighters moving up in weight to challenge Pacquiao and fighters who have not displayed the same defensive skills or chin resilience of Mayweather.
The power of Mayweather will be key because it will allow him to keep Pacquiao honest and it can deter Pacquiao from overwhelming Mayweather by consistently lunging in and attacking.
Sometimes an underrated strategic aspect of the sport is body punching. Mexican great Julio Cesar Chavez made a living off body punching. Other all-time great body punchers would include Mike McCallum, Jake LaMotta, Roberto Duran, Joe Frazier, the list goes on. In recent years, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez come to mind.
Floyd Mayweather is an underrated body puncher. A particular punch that stands out from his arsenal is his patented jab to the body, where he digs his left hand towards the inner pits of an opponents’ stomach, taking the starch out of punches, part of the systematic breakdown of an opponent.
Pacquiao has three losses via knockout. Most noticeably, his devastating KO defeat from the hands of arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. He was also stopped twice earlier in his career by–you guessed it–body shots.
Mayweather is going to attack Pacquiao’s body, with the goal of sapping the Pacman’s strength, speed and stamina. Attacking the body will also open up other opportunities to attack Pacquiao’s head.
Manny being Manny:
Manny’s natural ability, natural instincts, will play a major role. Every fighter enters the fight with a game plan.
Of course Pacquiao can do this.
What happens when the plan is broken? Mayweather’s adaptability has already been discussed. A fighter will rely on natural instincts.
Pacquiao is the definition of a true warrior and when things get rough, he ceremoniously throws his hands up and lets loose with fists of fury. The more you open up, the more opportunities to get countered will be present.
In this case, Pacquiao’s aggressiveness is a double-edged sword. There is the possibility of overwhelming Mayweather, but there is also the possibility of catching a punch you do not see coming.
Mayweather has some dog in him too. When the going gets tough, he responds accordingly. The biggest misconception about the “Pretty Boy” is he lacks that toughness and grit other fighters get praised for.
Mayweather was stunned by Shane Mosley, DeMarcus Corley, Zab Judah. And when stunned, he fought back and made adjustments.
He has faced bigger guys like Cotto, Alvarez, Mosley, Maidana, De La Hoya, etc. He has endured dog fights. Check his bouts against Maidana, Emmanuel Augustus, Jesus Chavez, Jose Luis Castillo and others.
The fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao will be exciting for the simple fact it is happening, so in the event itself, it’s exciting.
The actual fight itself may not live up to the hype; at least to the casual fan. This will be a strategic fight, a battle for territory, a battle for ring geography, a battle for range and position. Feints and jockeying for position will be involved and it will resemble a chess match early.
The key is establishing the pace of the fight.
If Mayweather gets Pacquiao’s timing and rhythm down, the fight will essentially be over. He will attempt to push Pacquiao back and walk him down, controlling range with his jab, as he possesses a five-nch reach advantage and will attempt to systematically break Pacquiao with body punches.
Another thing Mayweather has going for him, playing into the range adaptability and intelligence of Mayweather, is his ability to fight on the inside.
Because if Mayweather turns out to be outgunned in the hand speed department and can’t get off from the outside, he can essentially force a fight in the trenches, to somewhat negate Pacquiao’s effectiveness.
Mayweather has also had to listen to critics and uninformed fans disrespect his credibility as a fighter for the past several years despite his incredible accomplishments.
Despite fighting excellent opposition, embarking on a successful career spanning across three decades, three decades of championship excellence and an unblemished record, for years the critics have dismissed him and heralded Pacquiao as the superior fighter.
This is an opportunity for Mayweather to prove the naysayers wrong.
Can Manny Pacquiao win this fight May 2nd?
Absolutely. Anything can happen in boxing, all it takes is one punch to change the course of history.
But Floyd Mayweather possesses a wide range of tools, the attributes and has the versatility to win this fight.
To quote arguably Mayweather’s biggest detractor, esteemed boxing journalist Larry Merchant, “He [Floyd Mayweather] fights as naturally as a fish swims. And sometimes that fish happens to be a shark.”
Video Credits: Special thanks to TenderViddlez, Wilson Kayden, Dontae’s Boxing Nation, Fight Hype and Expert Boxing Videos.