The megafight in boxing that has the world salivating is Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao versus Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. This event would have the number 1 and 2 pound-for-pound entrants squaring off against each other in a display of stark contrasts both in style and persona. It is hero vs. villain, supreme offense vs. consummate defense, and shy humility vs. brash arrogance. Whether or not this fight will actually gets made remains to be seen, but in the meantime, let us examine the strengths and weakness of each fighter and the differing elements which should figure to prove be the most significant factors in determining the outcome. Analyzing this fight
, these are the top 7 reasons that I believe will enable Pacquiao to emerge victorious. To clarify, I am not predicting the outcome per se, but instead, I am identifying, what I believe, to be the factors that must play a prominent role in Pacquiao’s favor if he were to win. Let’s begin.
1. Straight Left Hand
The big, straight left hand of Manny Pacquiao is his claim to fame. It is what launched him to superstardom, and made him a force to be reckoned with in the lower weight divisions. If there is any weapon in Pacquiao’s arsenal that would be considered the biggest threat to Floyd Mayweather, it is the straight left hand from the southpaw stance. I would argue that even more than a stiff dominant jab from the orthodox stance (which many pundits claim to be so instrumental in defeating Mayweather), this is the most potent and dangerous punch available against the undefeated pugilist. Indeed, I would consider the straight left the Achilles Heal, the Kryptonite, or the chink in Mayweather’s armor. To me, this is one of the main reasons why this match is so compelling. The straight left is not only Mayweather’s weak point, but a weak point of the Philly Shell defense that Mayweather employs, and thus an inherent weakness for all Philly Shell defense practitioners. (I analyze the Philly Shell defense more in depth, both its strengths and weakness in my article, “Sugar” Shane Mosley The Strategy to beat Floyd Mayweather, Jr.)
Mayweather’s brain is hardwired for attacking and defending against the orthodox stance, as with most fighters. Yet the Philly Shell is especially susceptible to the southpaw stance because the low left hand leaves the chin inadequately protected against the straight left hand (note: the right guard to the side of the face against left hooks and chin tucked under the shoulder roll still leaves an opening straight left down the middle). Mayweather obviously knows this. Often, Floyd resorts to bring his left guard up high against southpaws in defense that he normally wouldn’t use against orthodox fighters, and often resorting to blocking, rather than slipping or ducking straight left hands. Mayweather has had noticeable trouble against southpaws in his career Zab “Super” Judah (lost first 4 rounds, tagged, rocked, and suffered an unofficial knockdown), DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (tagged and rocked), and even Sharmbe Mitchell (tagged, embarrassed and subsequently noticeably agitated). His toughest fight he admits was Emmanuel Augustus. Augustus is an orthodox fighter, but as anyone who has seen him fight (especially in his heyday) knows, he is very, very unconventional. Although Floyd was ultimately successful in each case, he had some rough moments. I would contend that this difficulty was largely due to the distinct spacing and positioning of the fighters that occurs when an orthodox fighter battles a southpaw. This phenomenon often makes orthodox fighters uncomfortable (Southpaws are used to this, as they are used to fighting orthodox fighters. Ironically, they are often uncomfortable fighting other southpaws, as there are not as many southpaws).
Moreover, before the fight with Judah, Mayweather’s father, Floyd Mayweather, Sr., if I remember correctly, that he did not want his son to take the fight, because he didn’t want him to fight a southpaw (in the pre-fight HBO special). Pacquiao has all the power, speed and explosiveness of Zab Judah, without the endurance and character issues. And when the possibility of the fight with Pacquiao was introduced, Mayweather Sr. accused Pacquiao of taking PED’s in an interview, but then said he didn’t want his son to take the fight for a different, yet unelaborated, unspecified reason. Floyd Mayweather Sr. knows his son’s style better than anyone. He knows the inherent weakness of the Philly Shell to southpaw, and particularly to the southpaw straight left hand. I would argue that the reason he doesn’t want his son to fight Pacquiao is not that because he believes Pacquiao is on PEDs, but rather because he is a simply a southpaw a fast, powerful southpaw with a devastating straight left. Pacquiao will be the best southpaw that Mayweather has ever faced. Rest assured, if the fight ever came to fruition, Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, will take a close look at the Judah fight (along with the fights with the other southpaws and Emmanuel Augustus) in devising his strategy. Roach knows that Manny’s left hand will be a huge key to winning this fight.
2. Right Hook
In the aforementioned fights with southpaws above, not only was the straight left hand an effective weapon, but also the right hook. I would even argue, more effective. Mayweather was dropped (unofficially) by a counter right hook by Judah, rocked badly by a right hook by “Chop Chop” Corley, and tagged by a right hook by Sharmbe Mitchell. All these shots, though maybe not fight changing, further illustrate Mayweather’s susceptibility to the southpaw stance, and specifically in this case, to the right hook. Again, fighting a southpaw is backwards for Mayweather; it is awkward for him. He is uncomfortable, and doesn’t see the shots coming as well as from a conventional fighter. He sees the left hand coming, but is awkward in defending it. In all three examples mentioned above, Mayweather did not see the punch coming.
What does this mean for Manny Pacquiao? Pacquiao’s maturation into a complete fighter was because he integrated the right hand and specifically the right hook. Before the second fight with Erick Morales, Manny was a one-handed fighter a left-handed bomber. After the fight, and for the rematch, Freddie Roach’s goal was to make Pacquiao a smart, two-fisted boxer, attacking from all angles. Did it work? Erik Morales knocked out for the first time in his rematch with Pacquiao largely because of the right hook, nicknamed “Manila Ice.” In the rubber match, it was obvious Morales just could not see the right hook coming (which consequently, made it difficult to see the left hand coming as well). He elected not to continue after tasting the canvas for the final time in the third round. Ricky Hatton (before he was flattened by a heavy left cross) was initially hurt and dropped (and arguably never the same in the fight) by a counter right hook to the jaw. If Mayweather chooses to defend with the Philly Shell, his left temple, and behind the left ear is vulnerable to the right hook upstairs. Manny Pacquiao’s right hook must play a vital role if he hopes to upend the favored Mayweather and he has an excellent one with which to work. It is second only to his straight left hand in potency.
3. Volume/Combination Punching
Mayweather is at his best against slower, conventional, orthodox fighters. He loves to get off first (potshot), move and reset; then repeat. His defense is specifically tailored towards big, one-at-a-time shots big overhand rights and booming left hooks (Though Mayweather was hurt in his last fight in the second round by two overhand rights by Shane Mosley, in my opinion, I would argue it’s not a punch that Mayweather is normally susceptible to, but that he fell for a veteran trap for the first shot a jab to the body, followed by the right hand upstairs and for a the second, Mayweather just missed on a left hook upstairs which left him open to a perfectly timed counter right that was thrown almost simultaneously).
Pacquiao needs to overcome Mayweather’s defense by attacking with shorter, straighter shots, and tight hooks, thrown in flurries and combinations, and pressure Mayweather to the ropes. Manny must keep pressuring Mayweather to the ropes throughout the fight, so he can throw meaningful combinations. Otherwise, in the middle of the ring, Mayweather has an out. He will jump back when Pacquiao attacks, then slide and circle away from danger, and then reset. Pacquiao must counter Mayweather’s potshotting and two-punch combinations with higher volume punching to outwork and outscore Mayweather if the fight ends in with a decision. I believe that Mayweather’s goal is to dominate totally offensively and defensively by “hitting and not getting hit” in the purest sense. He will refrain from a firefight unless forced to engage in one, like we had seen in his last fight. If he is tagged, hurt and embarrassed, he will respond decisively and definitively, with an offensively-minded and determined aggression in return. In my opinion, since Floyd doesn’t like to exchange and open up, Manny’s best chance in catching Floyd and really hurting him would be within the context of a combination. It won’t be one big shot that stops Mayweather or defeats him by decision. It will be the one or ones that he doesn’t see coming. The best chance for this is in high volume, punches in bunches, combinations, and flurries.
Pacquiao is an awesome combination puncher. Not only does he have blistering hand speed, but he often throws them in 4-, 5-, 6-punch combinations. And most dangerous of all, he is creative and unorthodox, throwing shots from all angles, attacking both upstairs and downstairs. This should be very disconcerting for Mayweather if he does not gain the respect of Pacquiao early. Specifically, within the combinations or behind a jab, a very effective punch (along with the straight left and the right hook) would be the uppercut (right and left, but especially the left), to the body and to the head. As Mayweather tends to duck from the waist, the fear of a left uppercut should curtail that practice at least temporarily for at least this fight. A perfectly timed one, if it catches Mayweather flush in mid-duck, potentially could be fight changing in effect. And speaking of Mayweather’s tendency to duck this way, a nicely timed straight left to the head in mid-duck also should be devastating in effect, if caught flush. However, Mayweather seems to realize that this maneuver is more risky when fighting a southpaw, and tends to duck like this less frequently. Instead, he elects to cover up more frequently with earmuffs (especially against the ropes), exposing himself for body shots, and specifically the liver shot that is normally protected with low his left guard in the Philly Shell. Normally, the solar plexus and chest should be open to a body attack with the Philly Shell. If Manny trains specifically to target these areas while punching in combination, and adjusts and reacts (by change back to the more traditionally targets as the head, beltline and liver, etc) as Mayweather adjusts defensively, Pacquiao will have an excellent chance becoming the undisputed pound-for-pound champ.
Besides Zab Judah, there is no other fighter that Mayweather has ever fought that is as fast as Manny Pacquiao. But unlike Judah, Manny is not a frontrunner; Pacquiao’s conditioning is excellent. Not only is Pacquiao’s hand speed blistering, but his foot speed is as well. Pacquiao’s lateral movement, and well as his darting in and out of range is superb. Pacquiao’s foot speed is on the most elite level. If Mayweather stays on the ropes or in the corners and covers up, it will be an uphill battle for him to win rounds. If this is what happens, then he may even get stopped. But unless Mayweather gets hurt and wobbled by a shot or a couple of shots, I can’t imagine him just simply getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume of shots like De La Hoya or Clottey. But it may be.
The key is for Pacquiao to use his speed effectively throwing shots in fast combinations, moving in and out of range to avoid counters, and moving side to side to get angles and make Mayweather keep resetting his feet (especially if Mayweather gets aggressive on the attack, instead of countering, like he did with Mosley). Since his move up in weight, all of Manny’s opponents have commented on the speed of attack punches coming from all angles, darting in and out, moving side to side. He must not let Mayweather nullify this advantage by standing right in front of him, throwing one shot at a time.
Pacquiao’s best defense is his food movement, not his head movement. In fact, I would assert that head movement is probably Pacquiao’s biggest defensive liability, though it has improved as of late. Therefore, he must constantly be moving, especially laterally, to make effective use of his speed for defensive purposes. He must not stay stationary in front of Mayweather, staring at him, posing and feinting, thinking of the next move. This will give the speed advantage to Mayweather, who has the edge when it comes to upper body mobility (on defense), and potshotting (i.e. the lead right hand on at a time). In other words, Manny’s defensive advantage in speed is his foot movement, and on offense, it is his straight left behind the jab, and several-punch combinations. Pacquiao must keep be aware of this speed factor at all times in the ring, especially on defense.
Raising his profile (as well as raising some eyebrows), Manny Pacquiao has torn through his opponents as he as risen in weight. He has knocked out David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto. Joshua Clottey was obviously intimidated by the power of Manny Pacquiao, as he covered up in a shell most of the night (and even noticeably winced from a few scorching body shots). As he has come up in weight, Pacquiao definitely has brought his power up with him. In my opinion, one secret to his success is that much of his added bulk is on his legs. Not only does this help with lateral movement, endurance, and his ability to absorb shots, this also gives him a stronger, sturdier base for his power shots. His thighs and calves are thick like tree trunks. Contrast this to Shane Mosley, though has a thickly built upper body, looked shaky on his thinner legs against Mayweather (granted that this was perhaps due to nervousness as well).
For his part, Floyd Mayweather has faced his share of powerful punchers Diego Corrales, Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Shane Mosley. They all have fallen short against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Manny must not fall into the trap (like others before him) of being intent on and being obsessed with trying to hurt, and knock Mayweather out, with one big shot. As I mentioned before, if a knockout is to come, the best chance for Manny Pacquiao is within the context of a combination, possibly in an exchange; or perhaps even a nicely timed and placed counter shot or two. That being said, he must NOT load up on shots. Mayweather is much too defensively skilled to get caught like that. Yes, perhaps he may hit Mayweather with a lucky shot or two, but to rely on this is foolhardy to say the least just ask Mosley. And Mayweather has shown he can recuperate, and go on and dominate a fight afterwards. To truly be effective with his power, and perhaps send Mayweather to Queer Street, Pacquiao must stay within himself and the game plan of punch volume and combinations. The source of his power is generated from speed, angles and the volume of punches, and not desperate, wide, loaded up, one-at-a-time haymakers. Pacquiao is an offensive fighting machine, not a brawler, and definitely not a lucky one-punch wonder.
Pacquiao is now in his prime as a boxer, and in his manhood. He is now peaking as a fighter, being developed into a complete and well-rounded boxer-puncher as well as filling out his mature frame as a full-grown man at his current age of 31. Pacquiao still has the energy and vitality that was distinctive of his youth, but now it is also coupled with discipline, a strong work ethic, and the maturity of understanding the game learned under the master tutorship under his trainer, Freddie Roach. Instead of repeated wild left hands characteristic of his early fights, he has operates with educated two-fisted assault with machine-like efficiency and effectiveness. At this point, there is no indication of decline, no slowdown, no indication of slippage just a shining example of a deadly lethal weapon in his prime. In fact, it seems “Pac-Man” continues to improve with each outing. As of now, Manny seems to be at the peak of his abilities his domination having no end insight save perhaps, unless a certain master boxer named Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has anything to say about it.
As for Mayweather himself, though he put on what some are a calling a “virtuoso” performance against Shane Mosley, there must be questions in his own mind about whether he is still in his prime. Yes, it was a dominant performance, but measured against himself a few years ago, could he honestly feel was better, or even on par technically, especially defensively? Would he have taken the same big shots a few years ago? Mayweather seemed slow to start, and flat-footed, but maybe because in that fight, he was the hunter, instead of the hunted. Yes, Floyd looked good against an aging, hesitant, nervous, jittery Shane Mosley after the 2nd round, but could we expect the same if he fights Manny Pacquiao? Could Floyd use his defense, his ring savvy and ring generalship to make a prime, aggressive, and powerful Manny Pacquiao hesitant, unsure, and resorting to desperate measures? Assuming this bout is made for November of this year, could Mayweather still manage to operate at an elite level at 33, almost 34 years old (over 34 if the fight is made after February of next year)? Being a defensive specialist that relies heavily on elusiveness based on quick head movement and upper body mobility, foot speed, reflexes and reaction time, can Mayweather trust himself, and his body to still perform at the level he is accustomed to, that we are accustomed to? As a consummate professional that prides himself on not getting hit, can he still his maintain otherworldly elusiveness while facing a whirlwind and a buzz saw that is Manny Pacquiao? Could he still do it under the immense offense pressure he is bound to face from a fine physical fighting specimen in his prime? Will he finally wilt?
By no means is Floyd Mayweather an old man, but in boxing terms, he is no longer considered a young man. He spent a year and a half of his prime years inactive (some may say wasted) in his self-imposed temporary retirement, while Pacquiao continued to hone his craft, raise his stock, and send contenders to his throne often viciously beaten back as the world watched in awestruck wonder, eventually usurping the mythical pound-for-pound kingship from the recently returning “Money” Mayweather. Also, Floyd is not the most active fighter, especially these last few years, and hypothetically, if he decides not to fight Pacquiao in November, but in May of next year, that will be another 8 months of inactivity. Meanwhile, Pacquiao will fight again in November, whether or not he fights Mayweather keeping him sharp, and free of ring rust. If these two pugilists ever meet in the ring, to win, Manny must impose his will on Floyd, making full use all of the natural advantages of youth, while steering clear of its liabilities including (and especially) ease of frustration and impatience. For Pacquiao, the strength, power, energy and indomitable will of youth must overcome Mayweather’s intelligence, defensive evasiveness, and pride (i.e. of being undefeated).
Roger Mayweather, Floyd Mayweather’s uncle and chief second is generally thought of as a least a decent and adequate, if not an elite trainer. However, his resume is rather thin, as it his success as a trainer basically based on training one well-known fighter his nephew, Floyd Jr. A question that arises is, “To the extent does Roger Mayweather train his nephew?” Is it merely physical preparation, or strategic as well? And additionally, how much does his father, Floyd Mayweather, Sr. (himself an acknowledged excellent trainer in his own right) bring to the table? To what extent does Floyd, Jr. train himself (even the two brothers debate this between themselves, each emphasizing his own beliefs as to how he has contributed to the success of the junior Floyd Mayweather’s boxing career)? These questions arise because Floyd Mayweather Jr. is such a finely tune instrument. He is touted for his supreme skills, intelligence, and ability within the squared circle. He also seems perfectly capable of not needing a trainer for that matter. Roger Mayweather seems less of a tutor and mentor than a manager of a training camp someone not studied under, but dictated to to hold the mitts and offer encouragement. Is this reality or mere perception? At any rate, the underlying questions remain, “For a fight with Manny Pacquiao, is Roger Mayweather equipped and able to take his charge’s game and strategy to the next level? Can he guide Floyd through troubled waters, if called upon and need be? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Was he really a pillar of support that helped empower his nephew to regain championship form after that disastrous second round with Mosley? Again perhaps, or perhaps not. In my humble opinion, it didn’t look like it. It seemed like Floyd got through it himself. But we’ll still have to see. I believe this is largely unknown at this point.
In the other corner, Freddie Roach is arguably the finest trainer in the game today. He is the mastermind that orchestrated Manny Pacquiao’s rise and transformation, from an ordinary fighter with a big left hand, to the game’s premier offense maestro. So not only Pacquiao, but Freddie Roach must also raise his game. The maze to Mayweather’s chin is unlikely to be straightforward, but rather most likely riddled with tricky twists and turns. This requires more than a simple strategy, but one with multiple contingency plans and flexible detours. Roach’s big advantage is that he has faced Mayweather before not of course in the corner of Manny Pacquiao, but in that of Oscar De La Hoya. Even though that particular team came up short, it may offer Roach a distinct and current advantage. Since he has previously studied Mayweather in training another fighter (De La Hoya) within the context of a training camp and a fight (and not just hypothetically), Roach has a chance to glean any prior insights from that bout and rectify any errors in strategy, and apply it to the one that involves Manny Pacquiao this time around. He has also the extra motivation to redeem himself with another chance to dethrone the undefeated Mayweather this time with his closest pupil. For Manny Pacquiao, who better to have in your corner than expert trainer and trusted father-figure in Freddie Roach? The answer: No one.
Can Manny Pacquiao defeat Mayweather? Can he defeat him by knockout? The answer to both questions is yes. He can, and he has, I believe, a very good chance. He has the tools; he has the ability. But will he? That is the question. If the elements above are swayed in favor of the Filipino whirlwind known as “Pac Man,” he will win not only the fight, but the universal acclaim of boxing pundits and aficionados alike as the undisputed pound-for-pound kingpin of the world. In short, to win, Pacquiao must keep the pressure on Mayweather, and overwhelm him with combinations and volume of punches. Manny must not get frustrated with Floyd’s elusiveness, but continue to methodically attack Floyd with punches from all angles, darting in and out, even when not receiving immediate dividends. Defensively, he must avoid that potent straight right of Mayweather, effectively dodging, and/or blocking it, while countering with straight lefts, right hooks, and other unorthodox shots. If Manny Pacquiao can keep the pressure on Mayweather for the full 12 rounds, it may not last that long. Floyd Mayweather will have finally met his match.
However, the outcome is obviously no foregone conclusion in either way. That is why they fight the fights in the ring and not on paper. Hypothetical analysis is little more than a bitter tease if the fight does not actually materialize (and in the case it does materialize, analysis becomes all the more intriguing, becoming an invigorating exercise in intellectual foreplay to heighten anticipation, perhaps even building towards a climatic frenzy for some come fight time). The sport of boxing is clamoring for this fight in a collective cry, like a crazed mob by night that must be heard, demanding justice, demanding satisfaction. This match must be made; it is too compelling not to be made the elite level of skill, the fighters in their primes, the controversy of the negotiations, the contrast in styles, the passionate warrior spirit of Pacquiao, the technical precision of Mayweather, and the supremely prestigious and coveted title of best pound for pound boxer in the world on the line. What more could one want?
The call to fight must be answered. The question of supremacy must be answered. Let not the fight exist only in the realm of imagination and speculation, when it does not have to be that way, like when comparing the fighters differing eras. Let the die be cast, the gloves be laced, and the bell be rung. Let the question be settled, once and for all, in the ring, who will be king.