Analysis: Mayweather toys with Canelo in snoozer

September 15, 2013 in Boxing, Sport

MayweatherBeast_crop_north

People who wanted to see him lose have gone home disappointed yet again. At the end of 12 rounds at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Floyd “Money” Mayweather cruised to his 45th win in 45 fights (and earning about AU$45 million doing it) by outpointing Mexican idol Canelo Alvarez — and it wasn’t even close. Mayweather danced, moved, blocked, deflected, pot-shotted and countered all night on his way to what should have been a near-shutout, though the ineptitude of (at least one of) the judges gave us a majority decision with laughable scores of  116-112, 117-111 and 114-114.

Mayweather was dominating so much that he didn’t need to take any real risks. That’s probably why the fight was so boring. If there was any tension at all, it was from the anticipation that maybe Canelo could catch Money with a big shot, a big shot that looked less and less likely as the fight progressed. Big fights at this level are rarely the slug fests boxing fans hope for, but this one was a snoozer. And to be fair, it wasn’t all Mayweather’s fault.

I was surprised, not by the outcome, but by the way the fight progressed. The fight was made at a catchweight of 152 pounds, which favoured the natural welterweight (147 pound limit) Mayweather over the natural junior middleweight (154 pound limit) Alvarez, but the 23-year-old young gun did little to impose his 15-pound advantage over the 36-year-old veteran on fight night. (Canelo weighed in at 152 but ballooned to 165 while Floyd dropped from 150.5 to 150)

It was almost as though Canelo resigned himself to the fact that he would have to knock Mayweather out before the opening bell. I thought he would rush Mayweather early, catch him off guard, and put the pressure on early; not allow the master craftsman to adjust so he could dictate the pace. But instead, Canelo was super cautious in the first few rounds, feinting more than punching, and even then mostly throwing just straight body blows. I suppose the strategy was to try and take Mayweather’s legs away from him early to slow him down a little, and then come on strong in the middle to later rounds to take advantage of their perceived fitness advantage from the 13-year age difference.

It was a horrible idea, because it allowed Mayweather to relax into his game plan without any sense of real danger, and more importantly, rack up a huge lead on the score cards. With Mayweather’s unmatched accuracy, foot speed and defense, it was always going to be impossible for Alvarez to outbox him, but that was exactly what he tried to do. There were a couple of rounds where neither guy did a lot that could have gone either way, but after six I had Mayweather winning each and every round.

Then Canelo’s corner finally urged him to start putting on the pressure, and he did, but it wasn’t enough as Mayweather found an answer for every onslaught. The most success Canelo had was when he had Mayweather on the ropes (an extremely rare sight all night, mind you), where he would tag him with successive heavy body blows. But those punches are never as impressive to the judges as the snapping counters Mayweather landed to Canelo’s head.

Instead of Mayweather tiring and slowing down, it was Alvarez who started to look like he needed a break. His stopped using his jab and allowed Mayweather to get into his pocket and tee up sharp lead rights and one-two combos. On the other hand, Canelo’s power punches started getting wider and more telegraphed, allowing Mayweather to easily dodge or deflect them.

It was a boxing clinic that purists will appreciate, but it was also frustrating to watch Canelo get so frustrated by his ability to catch his opponent. It wasn’t that Mayweather was unwilling to engage in exchanges — it was just that he didn’t need to. Even when they did exchange, Mayweather seemed to get the better end of it, always finishing off with a sharp punch before tying the young man up. Before the fight analysts said that Canelo was probably still a few years off reaching his prime, and they were probably right. He never gave up, but he just seemed more and more deflated by his failure to launch any sort of meaningful assault as the fight wore on.

The experts, most of whom picked Mayweather, only gave Canelo a puncher’s chance. That’s what I gave him as well. And it looked like that’s all he had all night long. At least he is US$5-12 million richer, and losing against the pound-for-pound king won’t drop his stock by much.

Compubox numbers are generally misleading, but here they paint a compelling picture. Mayweather landed 232 punches at 46%, while Alvarez landed just 117 punches at 22%. Game. Set. Match.

At the end of the day, it was a very disappointing superfight because it did not come anywhere near to fulfilling the hype. A lot of early posturing, very sporadic action, no knockdowns, no big shots landed, no fighter in any serious trouble, and an early foregone conclusion regarding the result. Canelo (who fell to 42-1-1) was supposed to be an exciting young stud who would give Mayweather a run for his money and even potentially end the unbeaten reign, but instead he simply walked right into the Mayweather steam train. Apart from the huge speed disadvantage in hand and particularly foot speed (not to mention technical skill), Canelo also failed to make the fight more interesting because of a silly game plan. You just don’t try to outbox the best boxer in the world.

I still think stylistically, the only guy out there who could potentially give Mayweather trouble is a prime Manny Pacquiao (and even then Pacquiao would be a major underdog), but we all know that ship has already sailed. A bout with the recently-KO’ed Pacquiao could still become an eventual reality, but let’s just see how the Filipino congressman does in his upcoming November 23 bout against Brando Rios first.

Fight Preview: Mayweather vs Cotto

May 5, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

Love him or loathe him, you have to respect Floyd Mayweather’s boxing skills and ability to make tens of millions of dollars every fight. Apparently for his upcoming fight (May 5 in Las Vegas) against Miguel Cotto at the junior middleweight/super welterweight limit 154 pounds, Mayweather is being guaranteed a record US$32 million, which will probably swell up to US$50 million or more because he gets a chunk of the PPV profits.

I have to say, the numbers have surprised me. I felt like Floyd’s star was fading a bit because he’s going to jail after this fight (for beating and threatening the mother of his children) and because the megafight with Manny Pacquiao fell through again for the gazillionth time. Miguel Cotto, while still a dangerous fighter, just didn’t seem like an opponent that would generate this kind of buzz. After all, few would argue that he isn’t quite the same fighter after having suffered brutal beatdowns at the hands of Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao.

However, Cotto avenged his questionable loss to Mr Plaster Hands and has allegedly put those confidence issues of the past behind him. Plus he is fighting at a comfortable 154 pounds, where he has fought his last three fights, whereas Mayweather is coming up to this weight for just the second time in his career (the other being a “split” win against Oscar de la Hoya that was really a unanimous victory). Does Cotto (37-2, 30KOs) have what it takes to hand Mayweather (42-0, 26 KOs) his first loss?

Cotto’s advantages

Let’s be honest. On paper, at least, Cotto doesn’t look like he stands much of a chance against the defensive maestro Mayweather. But unlike Mayweather’s last fight against the untested Victor Ortiz, I think Cotto stands slightly more than a puncher’s chance.

First of all, as mentioned above, 154 is a better weight for Cotto than it is for Mayweather. This was proven when Cotto weighed in at the limit while Mayweather came in 3 pounds light at 151. Even though he won, the last time Mayweather fought at 154 he wasn’t as impressive as he had been at 147, which makes one wonder whether the added weight will make a difference.

Secondly, Cotto is four years younger than Mayweather at 31 years of age. Granted, Cotto has a lot more mileage on his boxing pedometer than the rarely marked Floyd, but as they say, age can catch ip to boxers in a hurry. I doubt it will happen to Mayweather in this fight, but if he loses, I’m sure it will be one of the first excuses brought up.

Thirdly, Cotto has the tools, as least theoretically, to bother Mayweather. No one has been able to execute the plan, by the way, but the supposed blueprint to beat Mayweather involves a nice, stiff jab and a lot of powerful body shots. Cotto has both of those things and the mental discipline to carry out the game plan. And he should be stronger than Mayweather at this weight. I wouldn’t say he is a devastating puncher but he definitely has the requisite power to hurt the Pretty Boy.

Fourthly, Mayweather could be distracted by his upcoming jail sentence. He hasn’t shown it so far, but it’s hard to believe that it isn’t lingering in the back of his mind. Interestingly, some commentators have pointed out that Mayweather relentlessly taunted the late Diego Corrales before their bout because Corrales was heading to prison for domestic violence against his pregnant girlfriend. Oops.

Lastly, Cotto said he has renewed his passion for boxing after his revenge victory against Margarito last year. I don’t know if he’s just saying this to mess with Mayweather (remember, Cotto was named as one of the guys that Floyd was “ducking” years ago), but if that’s true then we might see the Cotto of old that was considered one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet.

Mayweather’s advantages

Okay, Mayweather pretty much has an advantage in everything else. Mayweather is taller (5’8″ to 5’7″), has a significantly longer reach (72″ to 67″), has taken much less damage over the years, has better defense, is quicker, more durable and more skilled in just about every way. And to top things off, they are fighting in his hometown of Las Vegas. It’s hardly even fair.

Prediction

Common sense dictates that Mayweather should dominate. So many of his opponents have said the same thing: the dude is simply in a different class. You might not be able to see it on the screen but when you face him you find out the hard way.

But there’s something about this fight that just feels a little different to me. I’m no clairvoyant but when every expert predicts that a fight will turn out a certain way (in this case, Cotto being competitive early on but Mayweather turns it up and peppers him into a beehive for a late stoppage or unanimous decision) — the outcome usually ends up being entirely different.

You’d be crazy to pick against Mayweather here, and arguably, in any fight (I’ve never picked against him before), but you know what? I’m feeling kinda crazy. All the analysis in the world isn’t going to be able to foresee how the fight will pan out. My head says Mayweather with ease, but my heart says Cotto in a stunning upset (and putting an end to those Pacquiao-Mayweather dreams). And I have to go with my heart.

Tomorrow I’ll either be eating crow or saying I told you so.

 

Excuses running out for Mayweather-Pacquiao

January 13, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

The latest Ring Magazine cover featuring Mayweather and Pacquiao

The Mega-fight that may never happen

The biggest boxing match of all-time between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao has been (or not been) in the making for almost three years, ever since Pacquiao defeated Ricky Hatton in May of 2009.

But of course, there has always been something in the way.  First it was a dispute over Olympic-style blood testing not required by the sanctioning bodies.  Then it was Floyd Mayweather Jr wanting to take a break.  Then there were the negotiations that supposedly took place but supposedly didn’t.  Then it was the defamation case against Mayweather for alleging Pacquiao used/uses performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  Then it was the legal troubles of Roger Mayweather, Floyd’s uncle and trainer.  Then it was Mayweather going to jail for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.  There was always some crap in the way, and after a while, it all smelled the same.

[If you want a headache, check out Fighthype's negotiation timeline of Mayweather-Pacquiao: Part I; Part II]

New developments

Just when it looked like the most lucrative fight ever would never take place because of greed, egotism, selfishness and (for lack of a better term) cowardice on both sides, there was an unexpected twist.  A Las Vegas judge agreed to delay Mayweather’s short 90-day jail sentence to 1 June 2012, allowing Mayweather to commit to his pre-scheduled 5 May 2012 fight date at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Interestingly, Mayweather’s camp initially announced the 5 May 2012 fight date on 2 November 2011, less than a week after Pacquiao’s promoter,  Bob Arum of Top Rank, claimed that the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would “never, ever”  happen because of Mayweather.  At the time Mayweather announced the date, they were without an opponent (a strange thing in itself), but they did proclaim that they were after the biggest fight possible, and that was with “the little fella”.  It could not have been more clear that they were finally and officially calling out Pacquiao, who was coming off an unimpressive victory over Shane Mosley and was about to head into his third war with Juan Manuel Marquez 10 days later .

After Pacquiao narrowly escaped with a controversial majority decision win against Marquez on 12 November 2011 (which many thought he lost), the stage was set for the two to finally make the fight happen. But then Mayweather was sentenced to jail (6 months, 3 months suspended), essentially derailing the fight once again.

A follow-up to Mayweather's challenge tweet

Arum ducking and dodging

Following the handing down of Mayweather’s sentence on 21 December 2011, Bob Arum declared that he was going to the Philippines to present to Pacquiao four options for his next fight, none of which included Mayweather because he was going to be unavailable.  The options were: Miguel Cotto, whom Pacquiao had already knocked out, Juan Manuel Marquez, whom Pacquiao had already fought three times, and Lamont Peterson and Timothy Bradley, two young but relatively unknown opponents.

None of the four were even remotely as appealing as a Mayweather bout, but Arum enjoyed using Mayweather’s jail sentence to justify that he had no other alternative.  More importantly for the greedy 80-year-old, it meant he could milk his cash cow Pacquiao for longer, as a loss to Mayweather would clearly diminish Pacquiao’s value or even send him into permanent retirement.

What Arum didn’t expect was the judge to delay the sentence and allow Mayweather to fight on 5 May 2012, and for Mayweather to then expressly call out Pacquiao on Twitter.

“Manny Pacquiao I’m calling you out let’s fight May 5th and give the world what they want to see,” Mayweather tweeted, followed by, “My Jail Sentence was pushed back because the date was locked in.  Step up Punk.”

The temporary reprieve for Mayweather must have caught Arum off-guard, because he was obviously flustered and began contradicting himself as to why Pacquiao could not fight Mayweather on May 5.  When Mayweather became unavailable, Arum was happy to suggest 5 May 2012 (which is Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo) as a possible fight date for Pacquiao’s next fight, especially if was going to be a fourth bout with the Mexican Marquez.  When Mayweather suddenly became available, May 5 was suddenly “out of the question.”

“June 9 is perfect,” Arum told The Times from The Philippines. “May 5 is out, that’s impossible.”

To make the excuse less pathetic, Arum said he would be willing to chip in for lawyer fees to try and postpone Mayweather’s jail sentence until after 9 June 2012, but everyone could see through it.

Other lame justifications Arum proffered included the cut Pacquiao suffered against Marquez (even though it would be completely healed by May) and the fact that Mayweather would need to be re-licensed to fight again in Nevada (even though there is ZERO chance of that not happening).

Arum basically shot the whole thing down: “We’re fighting in June, one of the four guys,” he said to ESPN.  “My mission is to go over to the Philippines and talk about these four guys. If Manny feels he wants to go in May, he will tell me. I want to make sure Manny’s cuts are healed. We won’t fall under this kind of pressure. June is much more likely for Manny’s fight, not May.”

When pressure persisted, Arum came up with alternative “reasons” for why 5 May would not work.  This time, it was because the date made no “economic sense”.  According to Arum and Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz, the MGM Grand’s 17,000-seat capacity was too small and that they ought to wait until a 45,000-seat outdoor stadium in Vegas is completed in late May to host the fight.  This larger arena would fetch an estimated additional $30 million.

For whatever reason, reports later surfaced that Arum was no longer pushing the new arena “reason” and was willing to stage the fight at the MGM Grand, but he still wanted a date in late May as opposed to Mayweather’s scheduled May 5 date.

He also added a new potential excuse: Mayweather will need someone to guarantee his fight purse (as Golden Boy Promotions isn’t going to do it), something which he will do for Pacquiao.  It’s not really something he needs to be concerned with as this will need to be worked out from Mayweather’s side.

Manny Pacquiao speaks out

Manny Pacquiao, for his part, has received a lot of flak from critics and fans alike for “hiding behind his promoter”.  In the past, Pacquiao simply said that he left the matchmaking up to his promoter (Arum), and that it was his job to fight whoever they put in front of him.  That stance is no longer working, because at the end of the day, Arum works for Pacquiao, and if Pacquiao wants to fight Mayweather, all he has to do is tell Arum to make it happen no matter what.

Initially, Pacquiao’s camp was defiant, posting this statement on the Examiner.com: “We don’t take MAYWEATHER’S tweet seriously, and are always ready to fight the undefeated AMERICAN anytime. Sign the contract, sign a statement. If you really want the fight, we say yes.”

Later, perhaps due to mounting pressure, Pacquaio has become more vocal, telling Filipino news outlets that Mayweather is definitely the one he wants.  “I’ve said this over and over before and I’m saying this again, I want Floyd Mayweather Jr to be my next opponent and I haven’t changed my choice despite recent developments,” he said to PhilBoxing. “I am meeting with my promoter, Bob Arum on Tuesday and I will insist that the fight with Mayweather be given the preference than the four others in the list I will fight next.”

Pacquiao also added: “I will abide by his [Mayweather’s] demand for drug testing. I am even agreeable to get lesser purse just so the fight would push through. In other words, as far as my side is concerned, there will be no problem.”

Perhaps Pacquiao spoke too soon, because shortly after he backed off the “lesser purse” comment.  In a later interview with ABS-CBN news, Pacquiao said: “To all my fans, we are still waiting for Mayweather to say ‘yes’ to a 50 percent split of the revenue and the fight is on.  He should be the one to say ‘yes’ because he has so many representatives. If he accepts it, he will make $50-60 million.”

However, it was also reported that if Mayweather does NOT accept a 50-50 split, then the fight will not pull through and Pacquiao will fight one of the four pre-named opponents.

So now we wait for Mayweather to respond, though given the history of this debacle, a number of other “issues” could potentially pop up at any minute and derail the whole thing again.  But one thing is clear: both the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps are running out of excuses to make the fight happen, and if the fight is not made by the end of 2012 (some would say May), both men’s legacies will be tarnished forever.

Thoughts

If what Pacquiao says is to be believed, the only thing holding up the fight is Mayweather agreeing to a 50-50 split, something he is bound to do regardless of whether he believes he is entitled to the lion’s share.  After calling out Pacquiao in such a public fashion, there is simply no way that Mayweather can allow the fight to fall, certainly not for something like the purse split.  Everyone has always assumed the split will be 50-50, and suggestions of anything else will be met with the condemnation of the whole boxing world.

Sadly, reality is much murkier.  Pacquiao makes no mention of the bigger issue, the date.  There is a real possibility that something as silly as the date of the fight will stop it from happening this time (after all, all other excuses have been exhausted).  The crux of the matter appears to be whether Mayweather can genuinely get out of his 5 May 2012 commitment.

First of all, we know there is no real reason why Arum cannot accept a 5 May 2012 date.  Sure, a later date and a bigger venue might make more money, but if it comes down to it, the fight is going to be the biggest fight of all time no matter where it is held.  Earning say $50 million instead of $70 million is better than not earning anything at all.  If Mayweather can legitimately prove that he cannot budge from the May 5 date for contractual or court-stipulated reasons, then Pacquiao and Arum will become the “duckers”.

On the other hand, there is not enough information out there about the flexibility of Mayweather’s arrangements with the MGM Grand.  Is he contractually locked in to 5 May 2012?  What will happen if he doesn’t fight on that date?  If they were just “holding” the seats for him and it’s not really that hard to get out of it, and with jail not commencing until 1 June 2012, there is no real excuse for Mayweather not to agree to a later date either.

News outlets outside the US appear to be siding with Pacquiao, saying that he has “called Mayweather’s bluff”, but if you ask me, both sides are trying to test each other.  Both sides want to be the one left standing at the end, the one that can say, “I told you, he was the one ducking ME!”

Both sides to blame

The truth is, this fight could have been made back in 2010, after Mayweather defeated Juan Manuel Marquez and after and Pacquiao dismantled Miguel Cotto, when both men were at their peaks.  Even if they do fight in 2012, Mayweather will be 35 and Pacquiao 33, and it’s arguable that the best years of both men are now behind them.

Now disgruntled fans have become sick and tired of all the posturing and mind games and criss-crossing accusations from these two very wealthy athletes and all the false hope and broken promises they have delivered over the past few years.

Initially, the fans were split.  Probably more blamed Mayweather for the fight not happening the first couple of times, but some also blamed Pacquiao for not accepting the blood testing protocols.  Then the tide shifted, and while Pacquiao still has his loyal supporters, the blame has gradually but surely shifted to him and Bob Arum.  Arum’s latest excuses has only worsened the situation for the Filipino superstar, who is already going to be fighting off PED accusations for the rest of his life, thanks to baseless accusations of the Mayweathers, of course.  More recently, a large contingent of fans in the middle has emerged, fans who see both of them as co-conspirators in this tiring charade.

Despite the passionate rantings of supporters from both sides, the objective truth is the both camps are to blame.  It comes down to two egotistical sides who want to make the other side look bad and their life difficult simply because they hate each other and simply because they can.

The first time around, the fight fell through because Pacquiao refused be submitted to Olympic-style random blood testing up to the day of the fight.  Mayweather deserves blame for making up his own rules by insisting on testing not required by the sanctioning bodies.  Whether or not random blood testing SHOULD be introduced in boxing (of course it should be), it is not Mayweather’s job to force it upon others and it’s not something Pacquiao ought to be forced to accept.  If Mayweather did not make such demands, the fight would have happened already.  What the demands did do, however, was plant seeds of doubt about Pacquiao, which has slowly but surely grown into an army of people who are, despite not having a shred of evidence, utterly convinced that “Pacroid” either used or still uses PEDs.

Conversely, Pacquiao also deserves blame for refusing Mayweather’s demands.  As many have pointed out, why refuse if you have nothing to hide?  Why turn down a potential $50 million pay day because of a few needles, needles Mayweather would also be subjected to?  For whatever reason, whether it’s superstition or because Pacquiao believes it “weakens” him, he turned it down, and for that, he must bear some of the blame, and he must also accept the backlash and rumours that have accompanied it.

On the whole, the blood-testing issue was arguably more Mayweather’s fault and reflected an unwillingness to seriously put his undefeated record on the line — at that time.  Many people have forgotten that Mayweather implemented a “sliding” cut-off date in negotiations.  Mayweather initially wanted a 14-day cut-off for random testing while Pacquiao wanted 30, though he was later willing to drop that down to 24 days as some pointed out that he had blood drawn 24 days out from a previous fight.  By the time Pacquiao agreed to 14 days (this was around the second fallout), Mayweather had begun to insist on random testing up to the day of the fight.  If 14 days was good enough before, why not the second time around, especially it would have essentially ruled out any PED usage anyway?  Seriously, what can one hope to achieve with 14 days of PED usage that would not be detected in post-fight tests?

Of course, when Mayweather decided to embark on one of his famous “vacations” when the time was ripe for negotiations, that would also be his fault.  He is obviously entitled to take time off when he wants, but when the whole world wants to see the fight, it’s certainly a curious decision, one that does not help his “ducker” status.

There was also that whole bizarre debacle when Arum stated that he had been negotiating with Mayweather advisor Al Haymon through HBO’s Ross Greenburg, while fellow Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe refuted that any negotiations took place at all.  Greenburg eventually backed Arum, but given Arum’s history of lies and the dispute over what actually constituted a “negotiation”, it was safe to say that even if “negotiations” took place, they didn’t get very far at all.

At the time, it was easy to label Mayweather as “running scared”.  After all, Pacquiao had demolished in superior fashion former Mayweather foes such as Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton, and was coming off an impressive victory over Miguel Cotto, a guy some say Mayweather also “ducked.”  Mayweather faithfuls clung on to Mayweather’s right to a break and not be pressured into a fight when he isn’t ready, the opinion that Pacquiao was feasting on Mayweather “leftovers”, and the always useful “take the test” line to shift the blame back to Pacquiao.

Shifting blame

It’s difficult to recall when the momentum shifted in Mayweather’s favour, but there is no doubt that it did.  Perhaps it started with Pacquiao’s decision to fight and his lacklustre win over a seriously declined Shane Mosley on 7 May 2011, another Mayweather “leftover”. Remember, Mosley was thoroughly outclassed by Mayweather a year before that, and had shown nothing in a stinker of a draw against Sergio Mora.  No one wanted Pacquiao to face Mosley and yet he did, over better alternatives in Marquez and Andre Berto.  Pacquiao copped flak for the decision and deservedly so.

Not long after Pacquiao announced his next fight against Marquez, Mayweather made a comeback statement: he was going to take on young lion Victor Ortiz.  Many people applauded the decision — Ortiz was a dangerous opponent, young and strong and a southpaw, meaning he could be viewed upon as a Pacquiao tune-up.  At the time, Ortiz was certainly considered a more dangerous opponent than either Mosley or Marquez.

And then, Mayweather dominated and KO’ed Ortiz, while Pacquiao put in another disappointing performance against Marquez, an opponent most thought he would steam-roll the third time around as catch-weight welterweights.  The fact that Pacquiao got a majority decision when many thought he lost only added more fuel to the Pacquiao hate-wagon.  The defiant “Pactards”, who defend Pacquiao no matter how unreasonably, only made things worse for the Filipino congressman’s reputation.

Pacquiao had been at the top for too long and people were starting to wonder whether he still deserved it.  While Mayweather was tackling dangerous foes, Pacquiao was still allowing greedy Arum to dictate his every move and forcing the public to endure his crappy fights against unworthy opponents.  It is no wonder why several news organisations replaced Pacquiao with Mayweather as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, a position Pacquiao had held ever since his impressive victory over De la Hoya.

Coupled with the latest developments, where Mayweather has called out Pacquiao and Arum has responded with some unconvincing and transparent “excuses”, it ‘s easy to see why Pacquiao has switched places with Mayweather as the person to blame for the fight not happening.

Nevertheless, just as it was harsh to put all the blame on Mayweather at the beginning, it’s not quite right to say it’s all Pacquiao’s fault this time.  Mayweather did, after all, lock in a date and place before even speaking to Pacquiao’s camp.  It’s the biggest fight of all time and Mayweather isn’t exactly allowing much room for negotiation.  If Mayweather was entitled to “take a break” to avoid the fight for no good reason, why can’t Pacquiao refuse Mayweather’s arbitrary date?  Why can Mayweather make his own rules all the time and why does Pacquiao have to accept them?

Then again, this harks back to the previous failed negotiations just before the Pacquiao-Margarito fight, when the two sides were reportedly close to agreeing to a deal, only to have everything fall apart at the last minute.  That time, Arum was the one making the ultimatums and forcing Mayweather to “take it or leave it”.  If Arum can do that, then why can’t Mayweather?

But like it or not, the bigger share of the fault WILL lie with Pacquiao this time if the fight falls through.  For years they have been saying that Mayweather doesn’t really want the fight.  Well, Mayweather has made it crystal clear that he not only wants the fight, he wants it to be his NEXT fight.  He even has a date and venue locked it.  Sure, Pacquiao and Arum can come up with all the excuses in the world why May 5 or the MGM Grand is not a good time or place, but unless they can come up with a legitimate reason to shift the burden back on Mayweather, no one will forgive them if the fight doesn’t happen.  And they know it.  May 5 or late May — either way, it’s got to happen.

The waiting game

Notwithstanding all of the above, the fight can still very well be made for May 2012.  This is the closest they’ve been, and all that’s required is for Mayweather to agree to 50/50 and late May, or Arum and Pacquiao to agree to May 5.

Pacquiao will likely go in as the underdog in this fight, and there is a good chance he will be outclassed (or “exposed”, as some Mayweather fans like to say), but it’s better to see him take the beating of a lifetime than to not step into the ring with Mayweather at all.  If he truly fights for the fans like he says, then he’s got to make the sacrifices necessary to make the fight happen.

The same can be said for Mayweather.  While he will be the favourite (as he always is), there is still a sizeable risk of losing, but having an “L” on his record against Pacquiao will do far more for his legacy than to retire undefeated but with that big question mark hanging over it.

And so we wait.

Pacquiao-Marquez III: Close, Controversial Pacquiao Win

November 13, 2011 in Boxing, Sport

Does this look like the face of a winner?

Seems like some things will never change.  Few people believed that the old adage ‘styles make fights’ would apply every single time, but once again it prevailed tonight.

Despite what many expected would be a brutal annihilation, Manny Pacquiao just won a close, controversial majority decision over arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez (114-114, 115-113, 116-112).

Plenty of people thought Marquez won the first two fights, in 2004 and 2008, and the same will be said for fight number three.  I’ve only watched the fight once, but I had it a 114-114 draw.  However, I cannot begrudge anyone for thinking this was a 115-114, 115-113 or 116-114 fight in Marquez’s favour.  In fact, when I heard the scores being announced, I had a feeling that perhaps an upset was written in the stars.

Honestly, it was that difficult to score.  Several boxing analysts on ESPN had it a draw.  Some had Pacquiao winning by one round.  Others said it was another robbery.  Certainly, from the boos that showered the ring immediately after the decision was announced and Marquez left the ring in disgust (in fact, objects were being showered too), it appears many ringsiders felt the same.  I was also just on the ESPN message board and the overwhelming sentiment is that Pacquiao should have lost.  Not sure if it is just the anti-Pacquiao or pro-Mayweather trolls but it is what it is.

I watched the fight via online streaming, and it was commentated by a British station which featured Pacquiao stablemate Amir Khan.  Interestingly, they had Marquez winning the fight, and winning it easily, and Khan even said before the decision was announced that he’d be open to fighting Marquez if Pacquiao loses.  I’d be very fascinated to see how the commentators from other stations called the fight (apparently Harold Lederman from HBO had it 116-112 for Pacquiao).

If you have watched the fight with the commentary on, I suggest watching it again without any commentary — because they tend to be very misleading.  Watch the fight without the views and opinions of others and decide for yourself.  Did Pacquiao earn the victory or was Marquez robbed (again)?

Fight analysis

Pacquiao weighed 143 and Marquez weighed142 at the weigh-in the day before.  Both were under the catch weight limit of 144 pounds.  Marquez looked huge, at least as big as Pacquiao, and in contrast with his fight against Mayweather, his midsection was much more taut.  Pacquiao, as usual, looked ripped and fantastic.

Unlike the previous two fights, this one was more technical and more of a chess match.  No knockdowns but still a brilliant and exciting fight from start to finish.

To be fair, Pacquiao did look a lot more cautious in the earlier rounds and he appeared utterly confused at times.  He simply didn’t know how to solve Marquez’s style.  He didn’t throw as many combinations as I thought he would, or perhaps it was Marquez’s counterpunching that discouraged him from doing so.

Marquez, to his credit, bulked up successfully this time and fought using a perfect game plan.  He stood his ground, throwing jabs and rapid combinations to unsettle Pacquaio, and when Pacquiao unloaded a shot Marquez simply took a step back to get out of range, and then immediately followed with a counter combination in return.  He also threw some hard body combos, especially earlier in the fight.

To the casual observer it might appear as though Marquez was the more successful fighter throughout, but Pacquiao, who was clearly the aggressor in the latter stages of the fight, did block a lot of the combos and landed a few hard shots of his own.

I gave the first round, a ‘feel-out’ round, to Pacquiao, who was more aggressive and landed the better shots.  From there, Marquez won most of the rounds up to the midway mark, prompting Freddie Roach to tell Pacquiao in between rounds that he was behind and had to pick it up.  Pacquiao listened to his trainer and increased his work rate, but Marquez still fought very efficiently.  Those second-half rounds became very hard to score, and even if most of them they went to Pacquiao they were still extremely close rounds.  I had the fight dead even at the end of round 10.  The last two rounds were practically a wash.  I had Pacquiao winning the 11th and Marquez the 12th, but they could have easily been the other way around (two of the three judges gave the last round to Pacquiao).

When the fight ended, Marquez raised an arm in victory, and Pacquiao retreated to his corner to pray.  Boxers in close fights always think they won, but upon seeing that scene I thought maybe Marquez did achieve the upset after all.  When the first score was announced, 114-114, I thought we were on our way to a majority draw.  I still thought it might end up a draw when they announced the second score, 115-113.  The third score, 116-112, raised an eyebrow.  The fight was too close to deserve that scoreline.

I think a draw would have been the right result, but I couldn’t fault judges for a 2-point swing in either direction.  Perhaps Pacquiao, with his reputation as the reigning champ and P4P king, had enough influence, subconscious or not, to pull the judges to rule in his favour.

Post-fight quotes

Marquez:

“This is the second robbery of the two that we had, and I think this was even more clear than the first.  We won with the clearer punches. The audience protested because they saw us win again. I thought I got robbed. It happens again and again. I don’t know what else I can do to win.”

“It’s hard when you’re fighting your rival and the three judges, too.”

Nacho Beristain (Marquez’s trainer):

“I’ve always confided in this commission here, but this has been a robbery in the utmost.”

Pacquiao:

“The fans of Marquez, of course, aren’t happy, but my fans are happy.  I clearly won the fight. He is a good fighter, but I do my best. It is very clear that I won the fight.”

“He was ready for my punches.  I thought I blocked a lot of his punches.”

Re Mayweather: “Anytime, anytime, I am a fighter. My job is to fight.”

“Let’s get it on,  Let’s make the fight happen and give the people a good fight.”

Freddie Roach (Pacquiao’s trainer):

“It was a very close fight. It could have gone either way.  I asked Manny to move to the right and he didn’t.”

Punch stats

Those suggesting a robbery might want to take a look at the punch stats.  Of course, they are not fully accurate and are open to interpretation, but according to Compubox Pacquiao landed 176/578 punches (30%), while Marquez landed 138/436 (32%).

Pacquiao also had the edge in power punches, 117/274 (43%) to 100/254 (39%).

Per round, Pacquiao averaged 14 of 49 punches, Marquez averaged 11 of 36.

Not to say that this is proof of a Pacquiao victory, because it is not, but it does add weight to the suggestion that this was a close fight that could have gone either way.

Where to from here?

Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter (and Marquez’s promoter for this one fight) has suggested a fourth fight between the two in May to decide once and for all who is the better fighter.  I dunno.  I thought this fight would be it.  They could fight 100 times and the result might be the same every time.

I say let Pacquiao fight someone else (ah hem, MAYWEATHER — who must have loved the result and might finally be willing to take the fight now given how it turned out) and regardless of whether he wins or loses, and if Marquez is willing, let their fourth fight be the last of Pacquiao’s career and let him ride off into the sunset.

Mayweather recently announced through a spokesperson that his next fight is in May, and they alluded to the ‘little fella’ as his next opponent, which everyone assumes is Pacquiao.

As for the drug testing problems that have derailed two prior negotiations?  Both Pacquiao and Arum have said it is not a problem anymore.  Pacquiao is now willing to be subjected to Olympic style blood testing (ie random up to the date of the fight), and the only problem was that Mayweather allegedly had an issue with Pacquiao training overseas, as this would mean that two drug testing associations are required to carry out the tests (as the Philippines is out of the USADA’s jurisdiction).  But provided it is still Olympic style drug testing carried out by a credible testing body, it is hard to see this being the issue holding back potentially the most lucrative boxing match of all time.

So now we wait and see.  And hope.

PS: On paper, you may argue that Pacquiao has widened the gap.  The first fight was a draw, the second a split decision and now a majority decision…

Mayweather to take on Ortiz; Pacquiao tune-up?

June 8, 2011 in Boxing, Sport

Just when I thought we’d never see him in the boxing ring again, Floyd Mayweather Jr has suddenly announced that he will take on WBC Welterweight title holder Victor Ortiz on 17 September 2011.

Bogged down by various legal dramas, the last thing I expected was for Mayweather to declare that he was ready to step back in the ring.  He hasn’t fought since defeating Shane Mosley in May 2010, meaning it will be a 16 month lay off for him.

Two ways to look at this.  The first is that Mayweather is needs money but doesn’t want to take on the man everyone wants to see him fight: Manny Pacquiao.

(I won’t go into the history of it all, but essentially negotiations between the two fighters have broken down twice already over additional drug testing procedures, and may or may not have broken down a third or fourth time according to Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum when Mayweather allegedly tried to price himself out by asking for $100 million.  Mayweather’s camp denied further negotiations ever took place, though third parties contradict this denial.  There is also the additional issue of Pacquiao suing Mayweather and his family for defamation for suggesting that Pacquiao is on performance enhancing drugs.)

Mayweather’s decision to take on Ortiz is a curious one because Arum has stated all along that if Mayweather comes to the table, he will be Pacquiao’s number one choice.  No one else matters.  This means that if Mayweather really wanted to fight Pacquiao all he had to do was pick up the phone after Pacquiao’s win over Mosley last month, and the fight would have been made already.

Instead, Mayweather waited until Pacquiao signed to fight Juan Manuel Marquez for a third time on 12 November 2011 before announcing a fight of his own.

More interestingly, Mayweather has refused to fight Pacquiao allegedly because of completely unsubstantiated PED accusations, and yet the man he has chosen to fight, Victor Ortiz, was recently implicated in PEDs by the man he had just beaten, Andre Berto.  Of course, Berto’s assertions were also completely unsubstantiated, but if his suspicions of Pacquiao were sufficient to destroy the megafight, then why not Ortiz too?

The second and more optimistic view is that Mayweather is taking on Ortiz as a tune up for Manny Pacquiao in 2012.  Mayweather undoubtedly will want to shake off some rust after the long lay off, and Ortiz just happens to be a young, strong stud AND a southpaw, something which Pacquiao is also.

I sure hope the second view is the right one and the potentially biggest fight of all time will happen next year!

The Matchup

Apart from Pacquiao, everyone just assumes that Mayweather will win no matter who he fights.  But Ortiz is a dangerous opponent, coming off a solid but close decision win against previously undefeated Andre Berto in April.  He has a strong 29-2-2 (22KOs) record and as mentioned above, is a southpaw, and Mayweather has tended to struggle more against southpaws.

Furthermore, Mayweather is now 34 years old and might be slowing down.  We won’t really know for sure until we see him in the ring, given how long it’s been, but it is possible.  On the other hand, Ortiz is just 24 and appears to have hit his prime after the brutal battle against Berto.

I’d still say the risks are low because of the experience and skill factors, but just like Marquez has a chance of unseating Pacquiao, Ortiz could also shock the world against Mayweather.  For the sake of Mayweather-Pacquiao happening next year, I hope both men can win.

PS: I mentioned in an earlier post the Marquez was to take on David Diaz as a tune up before Pacquiao, but this fight has fallen through because of financial considerations.

 
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