Big bang theory: Rapier against sledgehammer
LAS VEGAS—Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. never went to college, but they know a few things about the laws of physics that govern the acceleration of a gloved mass and its impact on another object in the ring.
Neither Newton nor Einstein nor any rocket scientist had experienced being that object and still managed to understand what inertia launches a projectile that lands with such devastating force on a moving target a few inches away.
So they and lesser lights must step aside when the finest practitioners of the sweet science present their own dissertation of boxing’s big bang theory here on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Something has to give when the fastest and most powerful fists collide with the most impregnable defense in the fight game in a showdown described only in superlative terms. Many call it the fight of the century. Everyone agrees it’s the richest ever. Mayweather himself calls it “the biggest event in the history of boxing.” And Pacquiao considers it “my date with destiny.”
Quite simply, it is the fight everyone wants to see, the fight the world has been waiting for. The moment of truth. It is also the fight that almost did not happen.
They will be fighting for the undisputed world welterweight championship, uniting Mayweather’s World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association crowns and Pacquiao’s World Boxing Organization belt. But this fight transcends all weight classes in the fight game. It transcends all the alphabet soup of international boxing associations. This one is for the world championship of all boxing.
Not since ‘Thrilla’
No fight has generated such interest among Filipinos since “Thrilla in Manila” 40 years ago, when Muhammad Ali destroyed Joe Frazier in an epic battle described by boxing writers as one of the greatest fights ever.
Parallels have been drawn between the so-called fight of the century and the 1975 “Thrilla,” which is still fresh in the minds of the sportswriters who will have the privilege of covering both fights 40 years apart. Both fights are the defining moments of the fight game in their respective eras.
Brushing aside Mayweather’s cocky assertion that he’s greater than “The Greatest,” the undefeated American may have a few reasons to compare himself with Ali. They’re both smart, patient, cunning and crafty. In a recent television interview, Mayweather described himself as a “sharpshooter” with a “wild and reckless” target in his cross hairs.
Like Ali, Mayweather swaggers around the ring with brash and brassy confidence and archetypal finesse. But the parallels end there. Ali was as entertaining as Mayweather is dour. Ali was the quintessential showman, always going for a knockout, while Mayweather is cold and calculating, content with running away to a safe and boring decision, like a prey happy to escape his predator. That’s how he managed to stay unbeaten in 47 fights.
Oscar de la Hoya, boxing’s Golden Boy until he lost to both Mayweather and Pacquiao, says it’s unfortunate that Mayweather equates his being undefeated to greatness. “It doesn’t work that way. You have to dare to be great,” he says.
Forty years after his memorable fight, Ali is still revered as “The Greatest.” But it remains to been seen if, four decades from this defining moment with Pacquiao, Mayweather will still be remembered as “The Greater.”
Like Smokin’ Joe
In many ways, Pacquiao fights more like Frazier—daring, heavy-fisted, courageous and aggressive, like a predator going after his prey. Like Smokin’ Joe, Pacquiao is pure heart. He is a plodder, advancing like a tank and willing to take a few hits just to land a big one. Before getting to the point where they were made to fight for their legacy, both men had to endure big blows, losses, knockdowns and even knockouts (Frazier had one, Pacquiao three). By De la Hoya’s yardstick, Pacquiao would be closer to greatness than Mayweather thinks he is.
Like Ali, Mayweather prefers to wield a rapier and slash his way to victory. Like Frazier, Pacquiao wields a sledgehammer and bludgeons opponents to submission.
As it was between Ali and Frazier, it will be a classic confrontation of rapier versus sledgehammer and style versus power, if not good versus evil.
That last analogy is quite a stretch although some quarters in Team Pacquiao want to range a Bible-quoting family man, a confessed womanizer and gambler until he saw the light as a Christian, against the money-driven, flamboyant convicted abuser of women. Faith is the driving force behind Pacquiao’s crusade. For Mayweather, it is money.
In this age of the Internet and cable television, there are as many boxing experts as there are boxing fans. Everyone has his expert opinion and his fearless forecast. Las Vegas experts, however, have spoken louder than anyone else. They are not convinced by Pacquiao’s pronouncements that he is back to the old deadly form that saw him knock out the likes of Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and De la Hoya. They have pegged the odds at 2-to-1 in Mayweather’s favor.
The oddsmakers are not the only ones favoring Mayweather. The whole fight contract—the richest ever in boxing—favors Mayweather, from the 60-40 sharing of the prize money to blood-testing and even the choice of gloves. Even the announcement of the big fight after five years of waiting had to be on Mayweather’s terms.
Still, Pacquiao, who lost a lot of his bargaining chips when he dropped a controversial decision to Timothy Bradley and was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez within a six-month period in 2012, acceded to all of Mayweather’s onerous terms.
“Para matuloy lang (Just to make it happen),” Pacquiao explained. That he was willing to accept the conditions, which had caused the fight negotiations to drag on for five years, indicated his willingness to fight Mayweather.
2 opinions that matter
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, had accused the Mayweather camp of ducking a fight with Pacquiao, the reason for the tug-of-war that ended early this year when Pacquiao let go of the rope and gave Mayweather everything he wanted just to make him climb the ring to face the Filipino. Besides, Pacquiao said, he relishes being the underdog.
In the cacophony of expert opinions and fearless forecasts, the ones that carry the most weight are those of the two men who have fought both Pacquiao and Mayweather a combined total of 74 rounds—Marquez and De la Hoya.
Marquez, the scrappy Mexican who fought a total of 42 rounds with Pacquiao and 12 with Mayweather, gives the American the edge by decision because he’s a smart tactician who uses distance, speed and ring generalship to full advantage. Pacquiao, he says, must win by a knockout, which he very well is capable of doing.
De la Hoya, too, says Pacquiao must win by knockout and not leave the outcome to the judges. Pacquiao has been robbed before (remember Bradley I?) and boxing’s Golden Boy sees Mayweather, who calls Las Vegas home, stealing a hometown decision.
De la Hoya, who lost a close 12-round split decision to Mayweather in a fight that even Floyd Sr. thought De la Hoya won, says that everything else being equal, the fight will go to the one who wants it more. Given that Pacquiao had been chasing Mayweather for five years for this fight, there’s no question on who has the heart and greater will and desire to win this.