By Ivan G. Goldman
Lots of fighters, trainers, and other experts have been doing a fine job analyzing the intricate advantages and disadvantages of each fighter in the history-making super-contest this Saturday night.
It’s Manny Pacquiao’s straight left against Floyd Mayweather’s shoulder roll, Floyd’s straight right against Manny’s vulnerable southpaw stance. And so on. And all that is fascinating.
Inevitably, we hear that it all comes down to who wants it more. That’s often true, but in this case their desire to win may be too strong to even measure. Unless there’s a rematch, which is unlikely, this will be the biggest fight of their lives, the chief standard by which their fantastic decades-long careers will be quantified.
Bernard Hopkins expects a knockdown or two because in the split-second give and take of offense, defense, and counter-offense, there will be moments when something won’t work for one of them.
At the start, the pressure is on Congressman Pacquiao, who feels the weight of the entire Philippines nation on his shoulders. In order to win, he’s got to hurt his man and then take advantage of the opportunity. But Mayweather needs only to do what he’s done his entire career — slip or blunt what’s coming at him, counter it from his lengthy list of offensive tricks, and, as usual, win more rounds.
In fact, according to Oscar De La Hoya, Mayweather doesn’t even need to win all those points by himself. He merely, as old-timers like to say, needs to make it close enough to steal.
“Look,” Oscar told the Los Angeles Times, “it’s Las Vegas, Mayweather’s hometown. His picture’s on the side of the MGM. The close rounds are going to go to Mayweather. It’s big business. It’s no secret.”
Yes, Oscar doesn’t much like Floyd, and the feeling is mutual. But if you check the video of Floyd’s first outing against Jose Luis Castillo, you know The Golden Boy isn’t imagining anything here.
Or just check the record of the fight that almost everybody agrees Castillo won. It was April 20, 2002, MGM Grand, three lopsided scores for Mayweather were turned in by John Keane, Jerry Roth, and Anek Hongtongkam. And just to make sure everybody got the message, the Nevada commission chose Roth to score four additional Mayweather bouts and Keane one more.
You could argue that Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) gets no favors in Las Vegas, where he lost a crazily scored split decision to Timothy Bradley in their first contest and came away with only a draw against Juan Manuel Marquez in their first fight after knocking down Marquez three times in the first round.
And none of this is a secret to Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs), who is one of the best money weapons Las Vegas can bring to bear against rival Macau, which stole so many of the city’s high-rolling visitors.
You could find two other reasons Floyd wins in Las Vegas. One, he almost always deserves to win, and two, judges, who’ve never seen him lose, expect him to win. So they’re susceptible to seeing what they expect to see instead of what’s actually happening. Plenty of scientific experiments prove this phenomenon exists. Behavioral scientists even have a term for it: cognitive bias.
It’s no secret that much of the sweet science has to do with what’s in the mind – both in terms of intelligence and emotions. Each of the fighters will try to bend the emotions of the other and make him doubt his powers.
After the fight starts, Floyd will try to induce Manny to believe, at least in his subconscious, that Floyd just can’t be beat in Las Vegas, that he’s too slick and all the factors that favor him are too overwhelming.
Except there’s also this: Floyd didn’t want this fight. CBS Chairman Les Moonves had to intervene to get him to accept the largest purse in history, and it still wasn’t easy, not even with a 60-40 split in Floyd’s favor. Why? Because something in Mayweather’s mind told him no, don’t do it.
During the course of the contest, it will be up to Manny to remind Floyd just what it was that made him hesitate.
Neither fighter has an easy task ahead.
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.