By Ivan G. Goldman
Look at the way Floyd Mayweather fights and you see the science within his strategy. He knows he’s conducting not one battle, but twelve. Fights are scored one round at a time, and he needs to win at least seven of them.
Manny Pacquiao’s view is different. He’s a destroyer. He knows what Floyd knows about scoring, but he thinks less about points and more about waging fistic warfare. They both have a tremendous will to win, great conditioning, and an obsession with speed. They rarely confront an opponent who can throw with equal velocity. In this case they will.
Floyd, like all great counter-punchers, tries to strike the target before his opponent’s shot can complete its mission. Counter-punch well enough and the opponent’s punch never lands. It’s short-circuited by the quicker response. Manny, on the other hand, thinks less about hitting his target and more about smashing it. Speed is the ticket for both, and any decent trainer can tell you that without proper balance neither would succeed.
One way to foil a counter-puncher is to feint, to make him believe you’re going to throw so he’ll open himself up to get at you. Then you strike. It’s a tricky business, boxing. There’s a counter-move for every move. And these two fighters are so fast the mind can barely process what they’re up to.
Sometimes Pacquiao’s the counter-puncher, and sometimes Floyd goes first. They don’t want to fall into a predictable pattern. Meanwhile, their minds can’t shut down. They have to keep up with what’s going on.
I haven’t found one guy in my gym willing to predict a Pacquiao victory. On the other hand, just about everybody believes it’s quite possible. His combinations erupt seemingly out of nowhere, at any time.
Look at videos of Mayweather’s fights and you find plenty of instances when he neutralizes punch after punch within a combination and then punishes the frustrated transgressor with accurate shots of his own.
Look at Pacquiao’s videos and you find sustained, potent aggression, a merciless series of barrages that torment and confuse. You see slick footwork that carries him away from harm and delivers him into attacking position in the blink of an eye.
Mayweather fans love to point to Pacquiao’s fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, when Manny’s aggression backfired. Thinking he had his opponent ready to go, he got careless and left himself open for the sixth-round right hand that ended the fight. Mayweather, on the other hand, toyed with Marquez, beating him to the punch time after time, foiling one move after another.
But look at other opponents and the picture changes. Pacquiao beat up and stopped the great Miguel Cotto. Mayweather weathered the storms and outpointed him. Oscar De La Hoya? A similar story.
Then there’s Shane Mosley. He staggered Mayweather early, but Floyd proved once again he’s no creampuff. Hurt Floyd and he finds a way to survive and counterattack before too long. They both won just about every round against Mosley.
Ricky Hatton? A two-fisted body-killer who was just too one-dimensional for these two. Floyd stopped him in the tenth, Manny in the second.
It’s debatable who did better against their common opponents because you could argue that getting kayoed by Marquez pretty much cancels out Pacquiao’s other outings. Also, they fought their common opponents at different stages of everyone’s careers, so you don’t want to give the outcomes too much weight.
Then there’s officiating. Let’s be candid. Las Vegas is Floyd’s town. When it comes to attracting dollars, he’s its 21st century Elvis. If the fight’s close, it’s hard to imagine Pacquiao getting the breaks. That’s one reason why he’s remained a 2-1 underdog.
Manny could find success with his straight left against Floyd’s shoulder roll, especially if he follows it up with a right hook. Right hooks come from an unfamiliar place. Floyd’s straight right can do some damage against Manny’s southpaw stance and disrupt his attack, but can it do enough? Floyd also has a great left hook, another potent weapon against southpaws.
Manny loves to go to the body. Floyd loves to counter to the head of body-punchers. That struggle could determine the outcome.
I don’t think Mayweather wanted this fight. One by one he chose other opponents, settling for much smaller purses than he knew he could earn against Pacquiao. To some degree he was shamed into this showdown as he succumbed to the logic of CBS Chairman Les Moonves, who had to intervene to make the event a reality. Mayweather loves his legacy, and to protect it, he needed this fight.
Floyd has a better chance to win, but I have to believe he won’t.
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.