‘Recklessness’ may be key to Pacquiao’s victory
Not long ago, there was another pure boxer dominating the lower weight divisions. They called him “Iron Boy” but the baby-faced Ivan Calderon of Puerto Rico was more of a “Pretty Boy,” a moniker once owned by Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Like Mayweather, everything about Calderon’s boxing was sublime. Boxing experts took particular notice of his defense, footwork and ring generalship, which all made up for his lack of punching power.
He was virtually untouched as a straw weight and then as a light flyweight, going undefeated in more than 30 fights. Then in 2010, at 35, he ran into Giovani Segura, a less gifted but tough Mexican who would knock him out more easily in their rematch.
Like many other boxers that came before him, Calderon grew old overnight.
Fans rooting for Manny Pacquiao could only hope for a similar ending for Mayweather’s undefeated run when the two best fighters of their generation finally face off on Sunday at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
But are there signs, based on his more recent fights, that the man who has undeservedly christened himself “The Best Ever” is actually slowing down?
To slow down doesn’t just refer to the loss of mobility, the ability to fight on one’s toes and utilize every part of the ring to his advantage. Feet are just as important as hands in boxing. They’re important to ring generalship, setting traps and moving away from one.
Freddie Roach has been trying to get into Mayweather’s head, claiming that he has lost a step or two. He’s not been moving around as much, Roach adds, suggesting that at 38, Mayweather is ripe for the picking.
Boxing’s ‘old man’
Indeed, the esteemed trainer sees something in Mayweather the rest of us in the gallery do not. But what did you expect?
Mayweather is an old man in boxing terms and definitely not as quick as he was five or 10 years ago. He is more prone to the jab and is throwing fewer punches but still making each of them count.
But this version of Mayweather is still capable of making Pacquiao—boxing’s only titleholder in eight different weight divisions—look clumsy or ordinary.
“He’s reckless,” the brash Mayweather said of Pacquiao, a telling one-liner indicating how he intended to conquer the unpredictable Filipino.
This meant Mayweather would be capitalizing on Pacquiao’s mistakes—and they are not few—as he had done with his last 47 opponents. The last one was Argentine Marcos Maidana, who tried twice and failed each time to put a dent on Mayweather’s immaculate record.
Their first encounter in May 2014 had the boxing world drooling over the prospect of Mayweather finally slowing down.
Maidana, an all-action brawler slightly refined under trainer Robert Garcia, came out punching from the get-go, driving Mayweather to the ropes and catching him in the head and body from odd angles. The first half of the 12-rounder wasn’t easy for Mayweather and for three rounds or so, it seemed the crude Argentine had finally solved the so-called “Mayvinci Code.”
But as expected, Mayweather out-thought and out-fought Maidana during the second half of the fight and earned a majority decision.
With the Pacquiao fight nowhere in sight, fans called for an immediate rematch. What was supposed to be a tougher outing for Mayweather turned out to be an easy rout.
He moved all around the ring, not actually running, but picking his spots, putting Maidana where he wanted him to be, then potshotting the Argentine. And we thought Mayweather had lost his feet?
Styles make fight
In Mayweather’s last 10 fights, no other fighter probably posed a more serious challenge than Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto. Mayweather cruised to easy victories against Canelo Alvarez, Robert Guerrero and Juan Manuel Marquez.
A well-past-his-prime Shane Mosley caught Mayweather with two good right hands to punctuate combinations that included fakes to the body early in the fight. But Mayweather sucked it up, adjusted then outboxed Mosley the rest of the way.
Don’t be deceived by Mayweather-Pacquiao predictions based on how they performed against common opponents. Styles make fights, they say, but there are many other factors leading to a victory or defeat.
Yes, Pacquiao bludgeoned Cotto en route to a TKO in the final round. But they fought at a 145-pound catchweight, meaning the naturally bigger and stronger Cotto was drained.
It was the same story with Oscar De La Hoya who was so beat up in their 2008 outing that he could no longer answer the bell for the ninth round. The bout was fought at 147 pounds, another catchweight that worked against De La Hoya, who fought as high as middleweight.
Against Mayweather, De La Hoya was at the more comfortable light middleweight limit. Mayweather won a split decision but struggled early with the Golden Boy’s jabs.
The Cotto fight was a different story for Mayweather. Though he won a unanimous decision, the scorecards didn’t exactly reflect the closeness and competitiveness of the fight.
A converted southpaw, Cotto caught Mayweather often with the jab, pinning him often on the ropes more than the American would have probably wanted. He bloodied Mayweather’s nose at one point but soon settled with predictable combinations. It was only a matter of time before Mayweather figured him out.
More impressive in the Cotto fight was Mayweather’s mental toughness. He was going to jail for domestic abuse afterward but whatever anxiety he had wasn’t enough to spoil his unblemished record. Why Mayweather was beating his women is another story.