Yes, I believe Manny Pacquiao has exactly what it takes to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr on Saturday. Before I explain why, I should address the elephant in the room: bias. Since there are so many different emotions and alliances wrapped up in this fight, I feel it is my duty to establish my own emotions (or lack thereof) and feelings toward both fighters.
Let’s get this out of the way; Even though I am picking the “Pacman”, I do not blindly support Manny Pacquiao. In my opinion, he has never beaten Juan Manuel Marquez. I scored their first fight a draw and the next two in favor of Marquez. I am a much bigger fan of Pacquiao than I am of Marquez’s but I call them as I seem them. For whatever reason, Marquez has Manny’s number. Such is the way these things go in the sport of boxing. I am a fan of Manny Pacquiao but I am not blinded by my fandom. I’ve picked against him on several occasions.
Although I am not picking Mayweather in this fight, I am not a Floyd Mayweather Jr. hater. Regardless of my less than positive feelings toward him as a human being, as a boxer Mayweather is the best technician I have ever seen in the ring. His ability to improvise and morph, in real-time, into whatever gives his opponent the most trouble is something as special and unique as I have ever witnessed. He is so special I cannot remember a time that I have ever picked against him.
I have said for years that Juan Manuel Marquez was this perfect puzzle piece where all of his strengths seemed to fit right in-line with every one of Manny Pacquiao’s weaknesses. This is also an apt description of how I feel Pacquiao’s strengths serendipitously fit right in-line with Mayweather’s very few “weaknesses”.
Floyd Mayweather’s biggest weapon is his defense. Specifically, his “shoulder roll” defense. If you are reading this, you have seen it. Historically, this defense’s advantages do not carry over when fighting a southpaw. Of course, with his superior skillset, this has not stopped Mayweather from using it in recent bouts against left-handed fighters, but earlier in his career he had chosen to switch to a more traditional “high guard” when a lefty poses some problems for him. You can witness this in action during Mayweather’s fight with Zab Judah, if you want.
If Floyd Mayweather sticks with the “shoulder roll” he is going to allow Pacquiao to lead with his very underrated right hook. Quick-footed Pacquiao will then be able to step to his right to negate Floyd’s famous straight right counters and follow-up with strong left-heavy combinations from awkward angles. Yes, for as much as everyone loves to talk about Pacquiao’s powerful straight left, it will actually be his right hook that can be the difference maker if Mayweather remains in his preferred defensive stance.
Mayweather is an improviser, he plays jazz in the ring. If he suspects the “roll” isn’t cutting it, he will go to the high guard. If and when this happens, consider it a small victory for Manny Pacquiao. If Floyd abandons his preferred stance, he has been taken out of his comfort zone and forced to rely on his second option. Combine this with the fact that Pacquiao can now start firing straight lefts down the middle and you have a fight that stylistically begins to favor Manny Pacquiao.
I know what you are asking. Why have no other left-handed fighters been able to capitalize on this in the past? The answer is simple: none of them were Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao has the most unique combination of strengths in boxing. He is fast and powerful. He has power in both hands. His motor allows him to put out a high volume of punches over a full twelve rounds. He possesses an awkwardness that made Timothy Bradley leave their first fight with a broken foot and their second fight with a calf injury. Compare Pacquiao with any other southpaw that Mayweather has ever fought, and there is no comparison. Over the entirety of his Hall of Fame career Floyd Mayweather has never seen anyone like Manny Pacquiao. Period.
The fight is about more than Manny punching Floyd. Floyd Mayweather isn’t helpless in there. Just as Mayweather has never fought anyone like Pacquiao, the same can be said of Pacquiao with regards to Mayweather. Floyd is still going to make Pacquiao miss a bunch. He’s still going to land some very crisp counters. Mayweather will probably frustrate Pacquiao and look like he is taking control of the fight at times. All of these things that people are saying; Manny can’t avoid the straight right, Manny is reckless, Manny has been knocked out… it’s all true. Does it mean that Manny will lose? Not necessarily.
Mayweather doesn’t have knockout power. Maybe it is his age, maybe it is his propensity to wear softer gloves to protect his hands… whatever it is, he rarely seems to have his opponents in physical trouble. Mentally? Oh, he frustrates the hell out of them. Even shuts them down but physically? Even when he’s landing at will, Ricky Hatton moments are few and very far between.
Everyone wants to point to the Juan Manuel Marquez knockout and say “If he can do it, Mayweather can do it!” but that ignores so many nuances. First, it ignores Pacquiao’s history of being able to absorb punishment from bigger stronger punchers. It also ignores how much of a once-in-a-lifetime punch that was. It ignores the fact that it took Marquez four fights and over 1,700 punches to land that one. Finally, it ignores how and why it happened.
In Pacquiao-Marquez IV, Pacquiao was beating Marquez worse than he ever had. Marquez was a bloody mess by the 6th and final round and Manny got reckless going for the kill at the end of the round. He got caught because Marquez planted his feet, stood in there and traded.
Floyd Mayweather does not do this. He does not commit to his punches in this way and he does not throw punches in bunches. Floyd Mayweather throws crisp, accurate low-risk one-punch counters. Can he knock Manny out with one of these? We will find out on Saturday, but history shows that if you want to hurt Pacquiao, you have to go through hell to do it. That doesn’t sound like the Floyd Mayweather I have been watching for nearly two decades.
While everyone (including Freddie Roach) obsesses over Floyd Mayweather’s vaunted straight right, I would say to keep an eye out for left hooks and uppercuts. It’s just the kind of wrinkle that make’s Floyd so dynamic. His “check-left hook” is a powerful and sneaky punch that can punish Pacquiao for stepping away from Floyd’s right with a predictable rhythm. As for the uppercuts… Why does no one point out how susceptible to uppercuts Pacquiao has been over the years? Floyd isn’t just a defensive master. When Floyd wants to do some damage, he has all of these punches at his disposal.
What I have just illustrated is that both of these fighters have the skillset to make the night difficult for the other. It’s going to be a close fight. Any predictions of a whitewash, are misguided. Even if one of them get knocked out, I guarantee that it will have been a very close fight up until that moment. History will not remember it that way but we will experience it that way while it is happening.
If I believe it will be a close fight, why am I so confident that Pacquiao is going to come out victorious?
The first reason is very simple. Pacquiao is an aggressive fighter with a high-volume, come-forward style that judges tend to smile upon even when it isn’t entirely effective. Even if Manny’s connect rate is low, there is still a good chance that he will land more punches per round than the more patient and accurate Floyd Mayweather Jr. I think it is very reasonable to expect Pacquiao’s style to get the nod in close rounds. In a close fight that makes a difference.
The next reason is because of how Floyd has won his fights in recent years. Whether talking about De La Hoya, Guerrero or Maidana, Floyd has rope-a-doped his competition into oblivion. Everyone comes out desperate to bully Mayweather, pin him against the ropes and “punish” him. They are so obsessed that they smother their own punches, gas themselves out and then spend rounds 4-12 looking lethargic and ineffective. Meanwhile, Mayweather preserves his energy and remains fresh enough to pick apart his weakened opponents. Mayweather has increasingly relied on this strategy as he has gotten older, and Pacquiao will not provide him with this advantage.
Manny Pacquiao is not that kind of fighter. He’s not a guy that wants to wrestle and smother his opposition. He’s a small guy that maintains great control over his distance and I don’t see him falling into a trap like this and gassing out over the course of the fight. A fresh Manny Pacquiao that has Floyd on his bicycle all night, will become increasingly effective over the long haul.
Lastly… I just have a feeling. Don’t blame me, blame Mayweather. Afterall, it’s Floyd and the way that he handled the entire six-year odyssey of making this fight that has me questioning his confidence.
I was stunned on the day that Floyd Mayweather insisted on a mandatory drug policy in the face of a fight with Manny Pacquiao coming to fruition. One must remember, that this was not normal in 2006. Oscar never asked Floyd to do blood and urine testing nor did Mayweather ask Ricky Hatton. We never heard a peep from Floyd Mayweather Jr. about drugs until the Manny Pacquiao fight was thiiiiiiis close. Right then I said to myself, “Wow, Mayweather thinks Pacquiao is that dangerous?”
The point isn’t drugs or drug testing. The point is that once upon a time, Floyd Mayweather was so unsure of his ability to beat Manny Pacquiao that he could only surmise that Pacquiao must be cheating. When Pacquiao would not acquiesce his testing demands, Floyd didn’t say “Screw it, I can beat him anyway.” He turned the fight down and started a smear campaign.
I can’t ignore this situation. It reminds me of the way that I could not ignore the fact that Roy Jones Jr. seemed to be avoiding Antonio Tarver for years. I always considered Roy Jones Jr. to be the superior fighter in every way and couldn’t make any sense out of it. His own doubt made me wonder if Tarver would give him a much tougher fight than everyone was expecting. History says that Roy Jones Jr. was correct in questioning his chances against Tarver.
If a fighter displays “doubt”, I consider that a huge tell. I trust that Floyd Mayweather knows way more about himself and about boxing than I do. I believe he has doubted his chances against this guy in the past. If uber-confident Floyd Mayweather doubts his chances, then I have no choice but to doubt his chances as well.
So there is it… I am certain that Manny Pacquiao is going to hand Floyd Mayweather Jr. his first loss. It will happen in a close fight but it will happen nonetheless. I can not believe there is only one day to go. It’s a great time to be a boxing fan!