At last, Mayweather-Pacquiao: Who Will Win?

February 22, 2015 in Best Of, Boxing, Sport by pacejmiller

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About six years ago, I jumped the shark like everyone else and thought the fight of the millennium between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao was going to happen. We all know how things turned out that time, and the time after, and the time after that. And so I was not holding my breath amid recent renewed speculation after Pacquiao knocked down outgunned challenger Chris Algieri six times in November en route to a shutout victory. But at last, the word — which came from Mayweather via his stupid app — is official: the fight is happening. No more false starts. No more childish posturing. No more excuses. May 2, MGM Grand, Las Vegas. Lock it in.

You can read all about the excruciating details of the negotiations and how it’s going to smash every boxing revenue record ever — elsewhere.

In short, it’s going to be a joint PPV by HBO (who has the rights to Pacquiao) and Showtime (who has the rights to Mayweather), the first since Mike Tyson took on Lennox Lewis in 2002. Mayweather dictated the terms and Pacquiao basically agreed to everything, including a 60-40 split in Money’s favour, the date, the venue, the gloves, who will enter the ring last (Pacquiao), and even the order of the names of the promotion (“Mayweather-Pacquiao”).

The random blood testing for performance enhancing drugs, which broke down negotiations the first time, has been agreed to, with Pacquiao claiming that he insisted anyone failing a drug test must pay the other party US$5 million. Analysts estimate that Mayweather will take home around US$150 million, while Pacquiao will come away with US$100 million.

Thanks to everyone involved in making it happen, I will now finally get to explore something just about everyone has had an opinion on for six years: who will win?

Who’s the favourite?

For the record, Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) is a strong 70-30 betting favourite at the moment, and there’s a very good reason why. He has never been defeated in 47 fights against 45 opponents (he fought Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana twice each). The defensive maestro has never been seriously in danger of losing a fight, having only been rocked a handful of times (he was “buzzed” by DeMarcus Corley back in 2004 and had his legs momentarily turned into jelly by Shame Mosley in 2010), though to his credit he always found a way to hang on and adjust his way to victory. He’s never even been officially knocked down (though he his glove definitely touched the canvas when Zab Judah hit him with a good shot in 2006).

Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), on the other hand, has been knocked out three times overall and lost two consecutive fights in 2012 — a controversial split decision against Tim Bradley (since avenged) and a one-punch KO loss against nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez — before reeling off unanimous decision victories in his last three.

Both guys have slowed down at slight but noticeable levels. Mayweather will be 38 later this month, while Pacquiao turned 36 at the end of last year. Mayweather’s last KO came against Victor Ortiz in 2011, but that wasn’t a legit knockout because Ortiz was too busy looking in the wrong direction after becoming embarrassed by a blatant headbutt. Money’s last genuine KO actually dates further back to 2007 against Ricky Hatton. Pacquiao hasn’t had a KO since Miguel Cotto in 2009, the last in a streak of four consecutive stoppages.

Tale of the Tape

PacMay

Common opponents

common

Strengths and Weaknesses

Styles make fights, and there’s no styles better matched than that of Mayweather and Pacquiao. One is a defensive specialist with once-in-a-generation reflexes, a supreme counterpuncher who knows how to adjust to any opponent and pick his spots offensively to frustrate anyone he’s ever faced. The other is the most exciting boxer-puncher of his era, a relentless offensive tornado with endless energy and destructive power in both hands who can throw accurate multipunch combinations in the blink of an eye from awkward angles.

While we won’t really know how the matchup will play out until May 2, there are a few relatively objective facts that can help us assess what could happen. For starters, we know that despite being the naturally bigger man, Mayweather will unlikely press the offense, though it remains to be seen whether he will allow Pacquiao to stalk him around the ring because he’s shown more willingness to go toe-to-toe in recent years (Maidana, Cotto, etc).

Here’s how I think the individual attributes of the fighters stack up:

matchup

Why Mayweather will win

There are some people out there who believe Pacquiao will be an “easy” fight for Mayweather.

First of all, Mayweather is naturally bigger and has a five-inch reach advantage. He’s a technically superior boxer. He has the defensive moves to neutralize Pacquiao’s punching power and aggression, and he’s also just as fast. Most of all, he’s a supreme counterpuncher, and we know Pacquiao struggles with counterpunchers. The argument is: if Pacquiao struggles so mightily against Marquez, who could barely win a single round against Mayweather, just imagine what Mayweather will do to Pacquiao!

The scenario that would unfold if the above turns out to be true would see Mayweather taking two or three competitive or even losing rounds to feel out Pacquiao before adjusting and dominating the rest of the fight. He would continuously beat Pacquiao to the punch with accurate right hands and pot shots to the stomach, shoot off sharp counterpunches, jump out of harms way before Pacquiao could set his feet to launch combinations, and use the shoulder roll to deflect punches that do land. He’d frustrate Pacquiao to no end and dance his way to a dominant unanimous decision. Mayweather would be too cautious to go after a knockout, but if Pacquiao gets careless or too reckless like he did with Marquez, there’s a good chance Mayweather might knock him out.

Why Pacquiao will win

Those who believe Pacquiao will end Mayweather’s unbeaten record are convinced that the Filipino has all the tools necessary to give the American trouble, especially now that Money has shown more willingness to stand his ground and engage.

Mayweather is said to have trouble with southpaws — Corley, Judah, etc — because the shoulder roll is designed for orthodox fighters, and Pacquiao will be the most dangerous southpaw he will ever face. Mayweather apparently hates southpaws so much that his father asked Top Rank (when he was promoted by them) not to match his son against a left handed fighter.

Pacquiao will be the fastest guy Mayweather has ever faced. He will probably be the most experienced fighter Mayweather has ever faced. He is the probably most relentless puncher Mayweather has ever faced — and with the power to hurt him. He will throw the most combinations Mayweather has ever seen. He has a Hall of Fame trainer who has studied Mayweather for the past six years while trying to come up with the perfect game plan. And unlike so many other guys Mayweather has faced, Pacquiao won’t run out of gas. This won’t be like Judah, who faded after a fast start. It won’t be like Cotto, who had the right attitude and power but not the speed or combination punching. And it won’t be like Maidana, who applied the necessary constant pressure but not the skill or ability. For the first time in his career, Mayweather will be facing someone who combines all the attributes — at least on paper — required to beat him.

The scenario for a Pacquiao victory would see him attack Mayweather from the opening bell, peppering him with non-stop combinations and lightning-quick power punches from all sorts of angles. Mayweather would block a lot of the shots, but not all of them, and his tendency to conserve his energy on offense will work against him with the judges. As the fight goes on, Pacquiao will wear down Mayweather, who doesn’t possess the requisite work rate to win rounds consistently or hold the power to turn things around with a single punch. In the end, Pacquiao will either knock out a weary Mayweather or batter him around the ring en route to a decision victory.

Verdict

Six years ago, I believed Manny Pacquiao would hand Floyd Mayweather his first defeat. Mayweather’s reluctance to throw punches, coupled with Pacquiao’s devastating power and tendency to throw a lot of punches every round, suggested to me that Pacquiao would simply overwhelm Mayweather with quantity over quality in capturing a close but comfortable decision win.

Six years later, it seems to me that Pacquiao no longer as the power to knock Mayweather out. He is also more susceptible to getting hurt after that brutal KO at the hands of Marquez, and is perhaps now less willing to take the risks he needs to pressure his opponent in every moment of every round.

Mayweather also seems to have lost a step and doesn’t have the wheels he used to have, meaning Pacquiao won’t have to chase him around as much. And can he get out of corners quick enough to avoid Pacquiao’s combination punching?

The beauty of boxing is that no one knows what will happen. For all those claiming they know what will transpire when these two men step into the ring — and will no doubt gloat if they turn out to be right — even the most educated guess is just a guess. And so my guess is that Pacman will have Money’s number on May 2, for the reasons above, but also for the reasons below.

While Mayweather deserves to be the favourite, it feels almost fated that his first — and possibly only — loss will come at the hands of Pacquiao. Despite all the talk of Pacquiao’s KO loss to Marquez and whether Mayweather has waited until Pacquiao has lost enough of his natural speed and power to take him on, it appears to me that perhaps Mayweather has slowed down even more based on his last few fights.

My prediction goes beyond simply that hunch though, as I also genuine believe that Pacquiao has a psychological edge. “Scared” is perhaps too strong a word, but there is no denying that Mayweather has been super wary of Pacquiao since the latter beat De la Hoya and flattened Hatton all those years ago. If he were so confident against Pacquiao back then he would have taken the fight head on, rather than impose — however reasonable they are — the strict drug testing protocols that weren’t around at the time. And bear in mind, Pacquiao did not flat out reject random blood testing — he just wanted there to be a cut-off date. Further, Mayweather was forced to settle Pacquiao’s defamation suit against him for the doping allegations, suggesting he has nothing concrete;plus Pacquiao agreed to Olympic-style drug testing in the subsequent negotiations years ago. To say Floyd didn’t want to fight Pacquiao just because he suspected his opponent was doping is missing the bigger picture.

Wanting to stick it to his hated ex-promoter Bob Arum seems like a more suitable reason, but even that becomes an excuse when hundreds of millions and your entire legacy are on the table. There’s a prevalent school of thought that Floyd only accepted this fight because he was being boxed into a corner. His PPV sales are down. People are not just asking — they’re demanding that he fight Pacquiao wherever he goes. Everyone’s saying his legacy will be tainted if he doesn’t fight Pacquiao and fight him right now.

Further, the nonchalant attitude he displayed towards the negotiations suggests to me that he doesn’t really want this fight. Pacquiao’s side was admittedly desperate in trying to push things along, but Mayweather appeared to be stalling at every possible turn. First it was the unreasonable demand that the PPV be on Showtime only, then it had to be the May 2 date in Las Vegas, then it was the 60-40, the gloves, and the rest. But this time, being the weaker negotiating side, Pacquiao simply agreed to everything. And when the networks said they would work things out for a joint PPV, the writing was on the wall. Even then, Mayweather was still caught up on the petty little stuff like ensuring that he’d be the one to announce the fight, and getting mad when Pacquiao’s side was leaking info after the contracts had been signed for a couple of days. That doesn’t sound like someone truly focused on the fight to me.

Of course, none of that will matter if Mayweather is simply better than Pacquaio. What makes this fight so intriguing is that an argument can be made that Pacquiao is custom-built to defeat Mayweather but also that Mayweather is custom-built to give Pacquiao fits. No matter which theory is correct, I’m banking on a great fight. Pacquiao won’t allow it to be boring. Mayweather seems to be the first opponent the ordinarily want-to-be-friends-with-everyone Pacquiao genuinely wants to punish in the ring. Mayweather has also shown that he can rise to the occasion in the face of adversity, and he knows what a dominant performance here will do for his legacy.

At this point, I don’t really care what happens. I just can’t wait to see it all go down.