Mano a mano: Defense, offense, technique, stamina, wear/tear, speed, who’s in their corners
It’s finally upon usWhat was deemed impossible, almost left for dead due to competing egos and interests five years ago, is actually happening: Floyd Mayweather Jr. is fighting Manny Pacquiao.
Not even Pacquiao’s brutal knockout by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012 could diminish the importance of this fight. Three fights and three decisive decision wins later, the only fighter to win world titles in eight weight classes is back on track.
So who’s the best fighter of this generation? It’s a question no boxing expert or online poll could answer. Only Mayweather and Pacquiao could settle it in the same ring, mano a mano.
Here’s a look at the fighter’s individual strengths and predispositions and how these could play out during the actual fight.
PACQUIAO vs MAYWEATHER
Pacquiao is a whirlwind of a boxer-puncher moving in and out from many different angles. It’s not easy to time his punches because he’s so unpredictable and he has power in both fists.
The primary weapon is the left hand, but through the years he has developed an equally potent right.
The offense begins with his feet. He feints once or twice to freeze his opponent and land his combos.
His quick feet allow him to bridge the distance and touch his opponent.
He is explosive. He can throw six to 10 punches in a single burst. This volume punching, thrown with great speed, is seen as something that could neutralize Mayweather’s defense.
An underrated weapon in his arsenal is the left upper cut, the same punch Zab Judah used with occasional success against Mayweather.
Mayweather is the perfect boxer, a superb technician.
He doesn’t throw as many punches as Pacquiao but is very accurate. He has a lethal right hand, the weapon of choice against southpaws. He also loves to throw lead left hooks, at times followed by a quick left to the body. He often darts in with jabs to the body to force the opponent to lower his defense so he could target the head.
The late Diego Corrales experienced this feast of left hooks.
Mayweather is probably the best counterpuncher in the business, better than Juan Manuel Marquez who caused Pacquiao problems in their four encounters.
He loves to lean back and move his head in a split second to avoid an attack then throw his counter right.
Pacquiao has underrated defense, which like Mayweather’s, involves footwork. His constant head and upper body movement befuddles opponents and keeps them guessing when he will actually attack.
Against Miguel Cotto and Tim Bradley, he occasionally stood in front of them, his hands up, probably to test how powerful their body punches were. It would be a bad idea against Mayweather, who works with precision and who is at his best against a stationary opponent.
This department clearly belongs to Mayweather. He subscribes to the idea that boxing is about hitting and not getting hit.
He has perfected the shoulder roll defense. This makes it difficult to target the chin, which is tucked behind his left shoulder. The right hand is raised to cover the other side of the head. The formation also protects him from body punches.
Sugar Ray Leonard once said he would aim for the temple, instead of the chin, if he were to fight Mayweather.
Mayweather’s tendency to lean to his right while in defensive position could put him in a position for Pacquiao’s lead left hand.
There was a time when Pacquiao was known as “The Destroyer.” It was a testament to his reckless, devil-may-care approach to boxing—and it worked. Then he met Freddie Roach.
Under Roach, Pacquiao kept his fierceness but developed finesse. His punches became more accurate and less wide. He became a two-fisted fighter.
Trainer and boxer experimented on the so-called “Manila Ice,” apparently a right hook, during the first fight against Erik Morales. Pacquiao lost a bloody decision but the right hand has since become a dangerous weapon.
Mayweather is definitely the more polished fighter, one who has mastered every aspect of the “Sweet Science.” He is good at setting up traps and is comfortable whether he fights on the ropes or at the center of the ring. Ricky Hatton learned about this the hard way. What was supposed to be his territory, fighting on the inside, was thoroughly dominated by Mayweather.
Don’t buy claims that Mayweather is a runner. He moves when he needs to, he stands in front of the opponent when he wants to. He’s smart.
Both fighters are used to having an advantage in stamina against previous opponents. This time, it’s even. You don’t see Mayweather or Pacquiao fading in the championship rounds because of their intense training. They’re both relaxed coming into a big fight and this shows in the way they execute. Tense fighters tend to become rigid and tentative.
Another even aspect for Mayweather and Pacquiao. Both fighters are gifted with hand speed. They can throw two, three or four punches before the defense can react.
Against slow and limited brawlers like Brandon Rios, Pacquiao can feast on right hooks to the head and body, an upper and a left straight to the chin.
Always a beauty: Mayweather’s lead left hook followed by another one to the body in very quick succession. Roy Jones Jr., boxing’s top pound-for-pound fighter for about a decade, was also very good at this.
WEAR and TEAR
Pacquiao, 36, has been through many battles because he’s a fighter at heart. He loves to exchange, fight toe-to-toe. Through the years, he has learned to be smarter with his skill set. It’s amazing that he remains at the top of his game at this age, with 64 fights, and especially after that brutal one-punch KO by Marquez in 2012.
Though 38 and with 47 fights, Mayweather is not all used up, thanks to his fighting style. It’s been good enough to preserve his body from any serious punishment. His defense and footwork are so good that he’s rarely in serious trouble. His two fights against Jose Luis Castillo and the one against Cotto were bruising. But there’s hardly any trace of wear and tear at this stage in Mayweather’s career. Less-gifted fighters would not have lasted this long.
The success of the Pacquiao-Roach tandem is legendary. It all began when a then scrawny Pacquiao walked into Roach’s Wild Card gym on Vine Street in Hollywood. They clicked after a brief session on the mitts. Roach, a student of the great Eddie Futch, has guided Pacquiao’s amazing rise through eight different weight divisions.
The strength of the relationship lies in Pacquiao’s ability to listen and execute the game plan. He’s unlike many boxers who tend to stray off the plan, fight with their ego, when in trouble.
For the biggest fight of his career, Mayweather will again have his father Floyd Sr. as lead trainer. The relationship resumed four fights ago. Mayweather has refocused on defense following a surprisingly difficult fight against Miguel Cotto.
Mayweather learned the craft from his father, a former professional boxer. Uncle Roger, a former two-division world champion, will remain in his corner.
Roach claims Mayweather is better off with his uncle Roger, telling the Los Angeles Times: “The dad gets too excited in the corner, doesn’t give good direction.”
Mayweather is seen as a complete boxer that he could probably exist without his corner. His father is confident that he will outclass, and even KO, Pacquiao.
Floyd Sr. is quite familiar with the Filipino boxer-puncher. He trained England’s Hatton, who was knocked out cold by Pacquiao.