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.

Pacquiao knocked out cold by Marquez!

December 9, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP

What a fight, what a stunning KO! This was an outcome few people saw coming, but boy was it a glorious finale to a rivalry between two ultimate warriors. In their fourth and best fight, Juan Manuel Marquez KO’d Manny Pacquiao with a crushing right hand counter at full force that connected flush on the Filipino’s chin with a second left in the sixth round, sending Pacquiao crumpling to the canvas like a sack of potatoes. It was every bit as devastating as the Pacquiao punch that KO’d Ricky Hatton or the Sergio Martinez punch that KO’d Paul Williams. I’m not sure if there was a count but it didn’t matter because Pacquiao was out cold for several minutes afterwards, though fortunately he was eventually able to get up and congratulate his conqueror.

It was a remarkable action fight full of twists and turns. Pacquiao (who weighed in yesterday at the welter limit of 147 pounds) started out the aggressor and most probably took the first two rounds by landing more punches and more effective punches than Marquez (143 pounds). The lead left hand proved effective for Pacquiao while Marquez appeared willing to spend more time to figure things out, using body blows to try and slow his opponent down and set up power shots up top.

It turned out to be the right strategy for Marquez, as just when it appeared Pacquiao might start cruising to a points victory, Marquez turned the tables in the third round with a huge overhand right after a body feint than floored Pacquiao for the first time in their four fights. It was a demonstration of the kind of power that the “new” Marquez possessed at welterweight, and it showed that his muscles were not just for show.

Pacquiao got up and survived the round, and it seemed like Marquez might begin to overpower the Pac-man. But instead, Pacquiao was able to find his legs and gutted out a fourth round that could have gone either way.

In the fifth, Pacquiao grew even more aggressive and evened the tables with a straight left hand that struck Marquez on the chin, forcing the Mexican to land his glove on the floor. The knockdown was not a devastating one but it showed that Pacquiao still carried some sting in his punches. As expected, Marquez came back valiantly with some big blows of his own, until Pacquiao unleashed a punishing right hook that clearly hurt him. This time, it was Marquez that had to hang on until the end of the round, and to his credit he did so fighting out of the corners.

Things looked great for Pacquiao for most of the sixth round as he busted up Marquez’s face with more sharp punches, widening the gap on the Compubox scores (which Pacquiao dominated 94 at 37% to 52 to 21%). He appeared to be hurting his opponent and even prompted suggestions that he might finish Marquez off soon.

But I don’t think it was a lucky punch that turned out the lights for Pacquiao because Marquez had clearly been timing that right hand counter all night, and he just happened to land it perfectly. Pacquiao was getting confident and perhaps a little careless, and it was obvious he was trying to finish off the sixth round on a strong note. And so when Pacquiao lunged forward with a right hand with a second left in the round it played right into Marquez’s hands. The Mexican warrior craftily evaded the blow and launched a beautiful right hand that connected right on the button – from behind you could see the crushing force jolt Pacquiao’s cranium. He collapsed face first to the canvas and seconds later Marquez was celebrating on the corner post.

What a sensational, action packed fight. No matter who you were going for, you have to admire the skills and hearts of the two fighters.  It certainly lends credibility to the argument that Marquez is the better fighter and has been all along, or at least the suggestion that Marquez is Pacquiao’s kryptonite.

I’d prefer to see the two of them fight someone else now or retire. In the aftermath of the KO there were immediate rumblings about a fifth fight, but I think Marquez has nothing left to prove against Pacquiao. Yes, Pacquiao was winning the fight up to that point (leading 47-46 on all three scorecards and probably would have gotten the sixth round too had the fight not ended there) and had hurt Marquez, but that KO was a perfect ending to their rivalry — there could not have been a more definitive conclusion after so many close fights. If they keep fighting, when will it ever end?

This whole time boxing fans were thinking Floyd Mayweather Jr was Pacquiao’s fated rival but as it turned out Marquez held that role all along. I guess now we will never see Mayweather-Pacquiao, but at the same time I don’t think too many people care anymore after being jerked around for so many years. Pacquiao said immediately after the fight that he is not going to retire and is going to come back, but I think it’s a good time for him to hang up the gloves. No shame in going out on a punch like that from an opponent like Marquez. But on the other hand, if they fight again, I’m pretty sure I’ll be watching.

As for me, I was wrong again in my prediction. From now on I’m going to live like this guy.

Fight Prediction: Pacquiao-Marquez IV

December 7, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

The fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night in Las Vegas is what it is. No one (other than the people making a lot of money from it) is “excited” about it. Sure, it’ll likely be a close, exciting fight, like the previous three times they met in the ring, but will it really “settle things once and for all” like the fighters and promotions claim? Wasn’t that what the third fight was supposed to do?

Pacquiao-Marquez is a strange rivalry. Trilogies usually have one guy winning and first fight, the other guy winning the second, and then a third fight to determine the ultimate victor. In this case, Pacquiao is officially undefeated against Marquez after three fights (going 2-0-1, although the first fight, a draw, would have gone Pacquiao’s way had one of the judges scored round 1 correctly and given Pacquiao a 10-6 round instead of a 10-7 round after he dropped Marquez three times), but many experts and fans believe Marquez won all three.

So what does this fourth fight achieve? It won’t change the results of the first three bouts. Maybe Pacquiao will knock Marquez out. Maybe Marquez will finally get the victory he deserves. Or perhaps, there will be another controversial decision. Then what? Are we going to see a fifth fight?

Even Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, has said it before: that Pacquiao and Marquez could fight each other a hundred times and it will be close and controversial every time. Should we believe anything different will happen this time?

Interestingly, when I looked around online for predictions, boxing experts and writers are predicting a close but uncontroversial Marquez decision. The reasoning is that after the outrage surrounding fight no. 3, which many felt Marquez won comfortably, the judges will be, consciously or subconsciously, influenced to favour Marquez in their scoring. These are, of course, the same people that predicted Pacquiao would steamroll Marquez and knock him out in their previous fight.

There are other factors too. Marquez is looking huge, buffed and cut, meaning he has transitioned to welterweight extremely well and appears to have added power without losing much speed. Pacquiao, on the other hand, hasn’t looked impressive since he beat Antonio Margarito more than two years ago (and hasn’t knocked out or even knocked down an opponent since Miguel Cotto a year before that). He’s obviously slowing down and appears to have lost the devastating form that took him to the very top of most pound-for-pound lists, they say. All other things being equal, the logical outcome is a Marquez points win.

The few that are backing Pacquiao insist he is a different fighter and will finally knock Marquez out. They say Pacquaio had leg cramps last fight (and that he won’t have them again this time), he was distracted (watching a Boston Celtics game before the fight) and his personal life was in complete disarray (his marriage was on the rocks and he was gambling, philandering and drinking).

I’m not sure I buy all of that because we never hear any of the negative stuff about Pacquiao until after his fight or just before his next fight to explain lacklustre performances. It just comes off like a poor excuse. And let’s not forget, Pacquiao supposedly turned his life around prior to his previous fight with Tim Bradley, and he lost that one (though to be fair, everyone apart from the judges thought he won, albeit not very impressively).

Pacquiao supporters also point to suggestions that Marquez, wary of the judges, will be going for a knockout himself and negate his biggest strength: counterpunching. That’s unlikely to me, because he’s a counterpuncher by nature. Marquez said it himself that he will be more aggressive but won’t be looking for the KO, though if the opportunity presents itself he would go for it.

What holds more water is the way Freddie Roach has been talking about Pacquiao. Freddie talks up Pacquiao’s conditioning and form before every fight, but this time he seems genuinely excited. He was eager to point out how Pacquiao has knocked down his sparring partners four times during the camp, which has not happened in a long time. That means a lot more to me than all that religious awakening stuff.

And I also haven’t forgotten that Marquez is 39 years old. Granted, he’s aged well and is no ordinary 39-year-old, but there is a chance his counterpunching reflexes and speed are just that little slower than last time.

So how do I see the fight panning out? Honestly, I don’t know. Conventional wisdom suggests another close fight, one that could go either way. Everyone is guessing that it will either be a clear(er) Marquez decision or a Pacquiao KO. Given that I’ve been wrong in just about all my boxing predictions ever, I thought I’d go out on a limb and guess something different from the mainstream. Accordingly, my prediction is that Pacquiao will shock everyone and win a clear cut decision. I don’t think he will knock Marquez out, but I do believe there could be knockdowns and there will be punishment.

Not again! Pacquiao-Marquez IV set for December 8

September 16, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

It’s decisions like these that make it so hard for me to keep following boxing. Manny Pacquiao, fresh off his ludicrous decision loss to Timothy Bradley, has decided to fight Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time. The bout is scheduled for December 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and everyone involved will make lots of money.

In fact, it appears money was the driving factor for this bout. Floyd Mayweather Jr, the guy who represents the most dough, just got out of prison and has shown no interest in fighting this year, so the bout everyone wants to see is still out of the question. (And let’s face it, even if all the stars were aligned these two would probably still refuse to fight.)

Consequently, Pacquiao was presented with three options, all three of whom he has fought before. The apparent order of interest from Pacquiao was as follows:

1. Miguel Cotto, who refused to come down in weight and chose to fight Austin Trout in New York instead. Pacquiao dominated and knocked out Cotto in a catchweight fight in 2009 that was actually closer in the first few rounds than most people remember. It was also financially lucrative, with Pacquaio getting a reported $22 million to Cotto’s $12 million.

2. Juan Manuel Marquez, who has fought Pacquiao three times, with Pacquiao leading 2-0-1 (the two wins were a split and majority decision). Many people continue to insist that Marquez won all three. The last time they fought was in November last year, with Pacquiao escaping with a majority decision and Marquez storming off in disgust.

3. Timothy Bradley, who outpointed Pacquiao in a June fight Pacquiao clearly dominated, and even sparking a post-bout review into the iffy decision. Bradley continues to be thought of as a minor draw despite the victory.

Is this picture wrong to you? Shouldn’t the order of preference be the other way around? Shouldn’t Pacquiao be furious with the Bradley decision and want an immediate rematch so he could knock him out, regardless of how much money he would be making? And if Bradley’s not available, shouldn’t Marquez be more enticing than Cotto considering many people think Pacquiao lost to him three times already? And what’s the point of fighting Cotto again when he’s already knocked him out convincingly? And if you really wanted to fight him that bad, then why not fight at the higher weight rather than forcing Cotto to drop down in weight again?

As a Pacquiao fan for many years, this is a massively disappointing piece of news. I’m disappointed in him, personally. I’m sure even some of his most fervent fans feel the same.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s long-time trainer, made his objections known — he wanted Bradley. ”Manny knew I would prefer Bradley,” he said. “I think the money was a huge factor. Bradley doesn’t bring the people Marquez does. But I would have rather had revenge for that bad decision in June.”

Roach also knows fighting Marquez for a fourth time represented an enormous risk because of the controversy surrounding their last bout. Chances are Pacquaio would start off down three rounds on the scorecards as the judges might feel like they need to right a past wrong, he said.

I agree. From a quality perspective, Pacquiao-Marquez IV is obviously higher than Pacquiao-Bradley II, but it’s a stupid move from a career perspective for Pacquiao. With dwindling skills and a political career to look after, he doesn’t have that many fights left. That loss to Bradley didn’t harm his career that much because everyone knew he won. But a legitimate loss to Marquez, which is highly likely by the way, will kill just about all interest in the Mayweather fight. Moreover, it will be an affirmation for the many people that believed Pacquiao has never been as good as Marquez and should have lost all four bouts.

Of course, nothing is a surprise anymore with Bob Arum running the show and whispering in Pacquiao’s ear. Arum is scum who only cares about how much money Pacquiao can make him and keep making him. We’ve all tried to rationalise some of Pacquiao’s questionable opponents in the past, but it’s gotten to a point where everything looks like an excuse now. There’s no excuse for this one. If he wanted to settle the score with Marquez, there is no reason why it couldn’t have come after avenging the loss to Bradley, or even after setting up the Mayweather fight (win or lose).

I have a feeling a few years from now, we’ll be looking back at Pacquiao’s career (and Mayweather’s, for that matter) and be saying, “He was so good, but it’s such a shame he tarnished his legacy with such stupid career choices.”

Desert Robbery: Tim Bradley shocks Manny Pacquiao in controversial decision

June 10, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

I told you it was gonna be a weird fight. Everything about it felt a little “off”, from Manny Pacquiao’s religious awakening, his well-publicized calf problems and the drama with conditioning coach Trevor Ariza to him weighing a career-high 147 points. From those predicting a Timothy Bradley upset (including himself, with a mock Bradley-Pacquiao II poster and ticket) to the delay over the Heat-Celtics game 7 and Pacquiao’s bizarre stalling just prior to the bout (warming up his calves on a treadmill). The night just had a surreal feel to it.

And those concerns were proven right. Despite dominating the fight – and when I say “dominate” I mean it in every sense of the word – Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao somehow lost a split decision to Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley at the MGM tonight. Inexplicable. 115-113 three times, twice to the winner.

This was not a “close fight that could have gone either way”, like the first two fights between Pacquiao and his arch rival and Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez. It was not a “close fight that one guy ought to have won”, like what some have said about Pacquiao-Marquez III (with Marquez being the rightful victor). It wasn’t even a case of one guy taking his foot off the pedal with the fight seemingly in hand, only to allow the other guy to sneak home a victory, ala Oscar de la Hoya vs Felix Trinidad. This was, frankly, a flat out robbery, the worst of its kind.

Not one of the experts covering the fight gave the bout to Bradley. In fact, I can’t see a single scorecard (apart from the three official ones), that gave Bradley more than four rounds (which would mean a 116-112 Pacquiao decision). Many gave Bradley ONE round, which made it a 119-109 virtual shutout. Personally, I had it 118-110 after giving Bradley two rounds, and one of those might have been a pity round. Put it this way: even Bradley’s own manager reportedly had it 8-4 in Pacquiao’s favour. Heck, even Floyd Mayweather’s dad, Floyd Sr, said Pacquiao won and there was clearly “a gap” between the two fighters.

Whichever way you look at it, this has to be one of the most outrageous decisions in boxing history, and one that is almost certainly dirty. Even the worst incompetence could not have produced this kind of result.

Bradley was the busier fighter of the two, but Pacquiao was by far the more effective. It’s hard to remember a single clean punch from Bradley, and certainly not one that troubled Pacquiao. On the other hand, Pacquiao landed several crisp shots throughout the fight (though to be fair, most of them early on), and some of them forcing Bradley to bend his knees and wobble back.

CompuBox stats are said to be misleading, but not when they are this wide. Pacquiao landed 253 punches at 34% to Bradley’s 159 at 19%. He landed 63 jabs to Bradley’s 51. He landed 190 power punches at 38.5% to Bradley’s 108 at 27.7%. And he landed more punches than Bradley in 10 of the 12 rounds.

There will now be a rematch in November as per the option clause in the contract. Is anyone else suspicious? Bob Arum, the promoter for both men and very possibly Satan in disguise, acted outraged by the decision. Apparently, he had it 10-2 in Pacquiao’s favour. He added, before the decision was announced, that Bradley told him, “I tried hard and I couldn’t beat the guy.”

Interestingly, Arum also  said, “I have both guys, and I’ll make a lot of money in the rematch, but it’s ridiculous.” Mmm…does anyone smell fish? The popular conspiracy theory making the rounds on the internet now is that Arum rigged the fight to make more money from the rematch, and so that Pacquiao could continue delaying his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr – maybe even kill any possibility of the megabout happening altogether. Another theory is that Pacquiao’s contract with Arum’s Top Rank is nearing its expiration date and his cash cow has not signed an extension, suggesting he might jump ship to rival promoter Golden Boy. (For those of you who don’t remember, Pacquiao stirred up controversy last time when he allegedly signed with both promoters, only to have a judge later rule that he belonged to Top Rank, with Golden Boy taking a small percentage of earnings.) Could this be Arum’s way of trying to hold on to Pacquiao for a little longer or to punish him for not signing an extension?

Some might say it is karma for Pacquiao’s decision over Marquez in their third fight, but at least that fight was close. This was just another black eye on the already-battered sport of boxing.

 
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