Pacquiao-Mayweather: it’s all about the nickname

November 22, 2009 in Boxing by pacejmiller

Mayweather-Pacquiao: it's gotta be done

The fans want it.  HBO’s president Ross Greenburg promises it.  Top Rank chief Bob Arum says he would be an idiot to not make it.  Freddie Roach has been wanting it for some time (and thinks Pacquiao will definitely KO Mayweather).  Rugged Man demands it**.  The fighters?  Well, they haven’t really said they don’t want it.

Pacquiao will always espouse that crappy ‘I let my promoter decide who I fight’ line, but at least he has said he’s willing to fight anybody and when asked point blank in a recent interview he said for the record that he wants to fight Mayweather.  And besides, if both Arum and Roach are determined to make it happen, then that effectively equates to Manny wanting the fight.

Therefore, the way I see it, whether the ultimate boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr will happen may depend on which of Floyd’s two nicknames he wants to adopt: ‘Money’ or ‘Pretty Boy’.

If Floyd is all about the ‘Money’ (as he claims to be), then there’s no way this fight won’t get done.  Initial reports indicate that a fight between the two biggest names in boxing at the moment who also happen to be the top 2 pound-for-pound fighters in the world (how rare is that?), would surely challenge if not smash the PPV record set by De La Hoya-Mayweather in May 2007 (2.44 million PPV buys).  There is not a single fight out there between any two living fighters that would generate anywhere close to the type of money that Pacquiao-Mayweather would make.  Even with a 50-50 purse split (discussed further below), Mayweather would make more than double what he could make going 70-30 with any other fighter in the world.

On the other hand, if Floyd wants to remain a ‘Pretty Boy’, he can keep on ranting about how boxing ‘is a business’ or ‘doesn’t work like that’ and that he won’t do business with Bob Arum (his former promoter with whom he had a difficult falling out).  Or, as Freddie Roach best put it: “When [Mayweather] says he wants 65 percent of the revenue, that’s like saying he doesn’t want to fight.”  Not saying that Floyd can’t get the ‘Money’ and remain a ‘Pretty Boy’ by outclassing Pacquiao without taking a beating, but there’s no way Floyd thinks that it will be a walk in the park for him.  He’s seen Diaz, De La Hoya, Hatton and Cotto.  All of them (except Hatton who went out too early) looked like they had been through meat grinders after the fight.  His father, Floyd Sr, is so traumatised by Pacquiao’s dominance that he has accused the Filipino superstar of being on performance-enhancing drugs.

So does Mayweather even want the fight?

I think he does, even if it’s just for the money.  As made abundantly clear on his heated interview with Rugged Man, Mayweather doesn’t care about his legacy.  Actually, he already believes that his legacy (as one of the greatest of all time) is set in stone.  Perhaps, but if he doesn’t end up fighting Pacquiao or (to a lesser extent) Shane Mosley, that legacy will be tarnished forever.  Mayweather has already carved out a reputation as a dodger of dangerous opponents (regardless of whether the reputation has merit).  A single bout against Pacquiao which Mayweather says he can easily win will go a long way towards erasing that reputation, and more importantly, will make Floyd more money than he’s ever seen.  No one doubts that Mayweather has the ability to beat Pacquiao, which is what makes his reluctance so frustrating.

Maybe it’s just posturing to put himself in the best position when the time comes to talk about the purse split.  Maybe he just wants to stir up more controversy and paint himself as the ‘bad guy’ for more publicity for the fight.  Maybe’s he’s genuinely afraid of Pacquiao.  Or maybe he’s just a douche.  Regardless, Floyd Mayweather Jr has been mouthing off about Manny Pacquiao since the Filipino’s impressive victory over Miguel Cotto.

“I’m in a no-win situation,” Mayweather said.  “If I beat Manny Pacquiao you know what they are going to say?  ‘You are supposed to beat him, you are Floyd Mayweather, you are the bigger man.’  If I knock him out they’ll say, ‘You’re supposed to knock him out [because] he’s been knocked out before.’  I’m in a no-win situation and when I beat him no one is going to be surprised because he’s been beaten before.  Whatever I do to Pacquiao has been done before.  He’s been beaten on three occasions.  And if I knock him out I don’t want the world shouting because he’s been knocked out twice before.”

When Floyd Mayweather Jr says fighting Pacquiao is a “no-win situation” for him, all it is doing is make him look like he is looking for a way out.

Floyd has also been trying to shift the blame to Pacquaio in case the fight doesn’t happen.  As quoted in Dan Rafael’s blog at ESPN, Mayweather says that Pacquiao doesn’t want to fight him because Manny knows he can’t beat Floyd.  Despite not having said once that he wants to fight Pacquiao, Mayweather is now saying that Manny has not come out and said publicly he wants a piece of Floyd.  This may be true, but Pacquiao doesn’t need to.  Arum makes Pacquiao’s fights and Arum has made it unequivocally clear that he will do everything he can to make the Mayweather bout happen.  In contrast, according his own words, Mayweather is his “own boss”, speaks for himself and “tell it like it is.”  This actually makes Floyd look worse because it just means it has been his own personal choice to dodge all the top, prime welterweights, and that if a fight with Pacquiao doesn’t happen, it’s because Floyd doesn’t want it to.

In response, Bob Arum simply said: “All I want to say is that my guy [Pacquiao] has said, ‘We’re here, we’re ready to fight Mayweather.’ ”  This was confirmed in the link above to the video interview.

In the end, I don’t think Floyd really has a choice.  Neither does Manny for that matter.  If either one of them backs out from this fight to take on another boxer (or retire), especially when all the stars are seemingly aligned, there will be so much public backlash and animosity against that man that it will have a permanent impact on his reputation and career.

Purse and weight negotiations

The logical purse split for a fight of this magnitude is 50-50.  Most commentators are now of the opinion that this will not be difficult to achieve given the amount of money that is at stake.

From Pacquaio’s side, the man doing the negotiating is obviously Top Rank’s Bob Arum.  And on Mayweather’s side, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy will represent Floyd (as Floyd has signed a 5-fight deal with them).  Al Haymon and Leonard Ellerbe are Floyd’s advisers who will liaise closely with Schaefer to ensure the negotiations reflect Floyd’s intentions.

There will probably be a bit of back and forth with both sides arguing that they should get he lion’s share of the purse.  Mayweather’s camp will argue that he is undefeated and that his PPV numbers against their common opponents (De La Hoya, Hatton and Marquez) were better than Pacquiao’s.  On the other hand, Pacquiao’s camp will argue that Manny’s most recent PPV numbers (the Cotto fight did at least 1.25 million buys) are more impressive than Floyd’s (the Marquez fight did 1.05 million PPV buys) and that when Mayweather fought De La Hoya and Hatton, the global financial crisis hadn’t struck yet.  Plus, Marquez really only made a name for himself because he was in two very tight contests against Pacquiao.

I believe they will settle on 50-50 in the end.  Both Mayweather and Arum’s egos are too big to allow the other to get even a couple of percentage points on them.  And honestly, I think 50-50 is a fair result.  There is no doubt that Pacquiao is the bigger international superstar at the moment and is by far the more exciting fighter, but Floyd is an equally big draw because he’s also a crossover star and people would pay to see him lose.

As for the weight, there shouldn’t be much controversy.  147 pounds.  Pacquiao may try to seek a Cotto-esque weight of 145, but as we have seen Mayweather’s fight with Marquez, Floyd doesn’t really care about the contracted weight restrictions.  The weight should be a big advantage for Mayweather as we know that Manny maxes out at around 148 on fight night whereas Floyd, who refused to be re-weighed for the Marquez fight, should be at least 155.

Preliminary prediction

So assuming this megafight will happen some time around May 2010, it’s time to make a preliminary prediction.

I just want to preface this by saying that there is no point comparing the Manny Pacquaio of the past to the Manny Pacquiao of now.  Too often I see people downplaying Pacquiao’s chances in this fight based on what happened to him more than 10 years ago (when he suffered 2 KO losses and a draw as a weight-drained Flyweight or Bantamweight) , against Erik Morales (who won their first encounter via decision but was knocked out in the 2 rematches), and against Juan Manuel Marquez (with whom Pacquiao had a draw and split decision win over, though both were questionable).  Morales was Pacquiao’s last loss and it was more than 4 years ago when Pacquiao was at super featherweight (130 pounds).  The two fights against Marquez were at featherweight (126 pounds) and super featherweight (130 pounds).  Pacquiao is a true 140-147 pounder now, and he is much better at this weight.  He has somehow managed to increase his speed, power and endurance, and he is now significantly more experienced, patient, and obedient when it comes to following Freddie Roach’s game plans.  There’s just no comparison.  If he fought the fat, old Marquez we saw against Mayweather now…well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

As for the Pacquiao-Mayweather, it’s a tough call, but I see three possible scenarios.  The first is that Floyd Mayweather Jr is simply too big and too skilled, and just outboxes Pacquiao with his superior reach and defense to claim an easy points decision victory, kind of in the same mould as the Marquez fight.  Floyd has a 5 inch reach advantage (72-67) on Pacquiao, and is the naturally bigger man with phenomenal speed and an awkwardness that will frustrate any fighter.  Pacquiao has never fought someone as quick, skilled and big as Mayweather, and it could prove to be a gap too wide.

However, I cannot see Floyd knocking out Pacquiao unless Manny loses his cool and is tagged by a big counter (like when Mayweather KO’ed Hatton).  In his last few fights, Pacquiao has demonstrated a vastly improved defense and plenty of caution and discipline.  He no longer jumps in recklessly and rarely leaves himself wide open, so the chances of a counter-punch KO are slim.  Besides, Pacquiao showed in the Cotto fight that he can take a punch at welterweight.  I have since watched the Cotto fight a couple more times, and Manny really got tagged with some nasty shots.  Stiff jabs, jolting uppercuts, ripping body blows.  And he took them all.  Pacquiao had a busted ear drum to go with bad swelling from the fight.  He could have used his trademark in-and-out style all night to beat Cotto but instead chose to stand his ground and take the shots head on.  As he said, he wanted to test Cotto’s power, and he passed the test with flying colours.  There is no way Mayweather hits harder than Cotto.  With Floyd’s brittle hands, there’s just no way.

On the other hand, the second and third scenarios I see both have Manny Pacquiao emerging as the victor – either by unanimous decision or KO.  Pacquiao has comparable hand speed to Mayweather and possibly better foot speed, and definitely more power.  Floyd may be a defensive specialist, but Manny is an offensive specialist.  I can see a situation where Pacquiao utilises his seemingly endless energy to pressure Mayweather all night and keep raining rapid combos down on him.  Floyd may bob and weave and shoulder roll and block, but every blow that connects will count.  Floyd may be fantastic at toying with guys that can only throw 1 or 2 punches at a time from orthodox angles, but it remains to be seen how he can handle someone like Pacquiao – a tireless freak with speed and power in both hands that attacks in 3, 4, 5, 6 punch combinations from angles you just don’t expect and don’t see coming (just ask Miguel Cotto).

This assessment is somewhat similar to what Freddie Roach said on ESPN:  “Whatever Floyd gives us, we’ll take.  Manny will [hit] him on the arms, the shoulders, wherever he can, and Mayweather will feel it.  There’s no way Mayweather can win the fight running, and that’s what he does best.”

Zab Judah was probably the closest thing to Pacquiao that Mayweather has fought, but he was too undisciplined and has a soft jaw.  And let’s not forget, Judah hit Mayweather with quite a few shots early on in that fight (including a genuine knockdown that wasn’t counted), but didn’t have the resiliency or stamina to carry it through to the end.

Jose Luis Castillo, who lost 2 decisions to Mayweather (the first of which some thought he won – though Mayweather had a shoulder injury at the time), sparred with Pacquiao in the lead up to the Cotto fight, and said that Pacquiao is faster and hits way harder than Mayweather.  And this is the Pacquiao at 144 pounds compared to the Mayweather at lightweight (135 pounds).  Maybe he’s still bitter about his first fight with Mayweather, but if there’s any truth to what Castillo said, then Mayweather could be in for a long night.

Accordingly, in my Pacquiao-wins scenario, if Floyd runs, I see him losing a decision.  If he stands his ground, I see him getting knocked out.

So which of the 3 scenarios is most likely?  At this stage I have to go what would appear to be the most unlikelyPacquiao by KO!  People may say that Mayweather’s style will give Pacquiao fits but the same could be said the other way around.  If Pacquiao stays patient and keeps the pressure on and is disciplined with his approach, I think he can win.  Otherwise it just means Floyd Mayweather Jr is really that good.  And after watching some of Floyd’s past fights on YouTube, I would not be surprised if he is.  The guy is truly amazing.

At the end of the day, I have a feeling that the Cotto fight will be the reason Pacquiao will win.  Floyd took an easy fight in ‘lightweight’ Marquez, and Pacquiao took the hard fight in Cotto, and I believe that will ultimately be the difference.

** For those who don’t already know, Rugged Man is an emcee who recently OWNED Mayweather on radio for 20 minutes.  Essentially, he took it right to Mayweather from the start about avoiding the big fights and said what has been on every non-Mayweather-ballhugger’s mind for years.  YouTube ‘Rugged Man’ and ‘Mayweather’ and listen to it.  It’s not only revealing but also extraordinarily hilarious.