For several months now, ever since the realistic possibility of a Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather fight had begun to loom, I’ve been sifting my brain to try to determine who I thought would win.
And for the majority of that time, the winner has seemed about as clear to me as what may have transpired between Tiger Woods, the fire hydrant, his wife, and the golf club at 2:25 am that November morning in Orlando.
But take heart my fellow boxing fans, for I have, at long last, projected a winner. And Floyd be thy name.
While I am quite aware that somewhere on the order of ninety-two million Filipinos and a respectably large segment of Western society will disagree with me, they will not change my mind.
Few fighters in pugilistic history have gone on more of a roll than the one on which Manny Pacquiao now finds himself. He has been annihilating some of the best boxers in the world.
He made Oscar De la Hoya look like a fraternity pledge going through a hazing. And what he did to Ricky Hatton was plain obscene. It should have been televised on Cinemax during the wee hours of the morning in place of the softcore porn which normally airs there.
After a competitive first five rounds, which also happened to include two knockdowns by Manny, he found his rhythm and proceeded to tyrannize Miguel Cotto, adding a couple of complimentary new tatts to the face of his heavily tattooed adversary in the process.
Mayweather’s ascent to the top of the pound-for-pound charts was not nearly as abrupt or dazzling as was the Pac Man’s. After a virtuoso performance against undefeated Diego Corrales in 2001, a fight that many experts had picked Corrales to prevail in, he simply kept winning. And he did so almost always quite convincingly against a healthy sized collection of high quality opponents.
He really hasn’t been in a tightly contested fight since facing Jose Luis Castillo twice in 2002. His win over De la Hoya was by split decision, but there are few, if any, people outside of East L.A. who felt that Oscar won.
Floyd started out slowly, surveying his opponent while taking little risk, as Floyd tends to do, and slowly dialed up the thermostat, counterpunching and potshotting Oscar into abandoning his strategy along with his WBC belt.
And most recently, little Floyd masterfully dominated Juan Manual Marquez, a fighter whom Pacquiao had monumental issues dealing with in two bouts, which resulted in a draw followed by a disputed win.
Looking at the common opponents of Money and the Pac Man, the aforementioned De la Hoya and Marquez, it is difficult to get any insight into predicting a winner. The common opponents theory is known, even by casual fans of the sport, to have little relevance in determining fight outcomes.
The saying that “styles make fights”, although old and worn, is probably the truest axiom in the business. This is precisely why I’m picking Floyd to win the fight. Not only does he have the style known to give Manny fits, but also the speed and ring savvy to execute it like no other.
Attempting to beat Pacquiao by standing and boxing with him, as De la Hoya and Cotto aspired to do, is about as promising as the hope that the Browns will be playing the Rams in the upcoming Super Bowl. He’s just too quick and capable of throwing powerful shots from unusual angles.
Trying to pressure and brawl with him is about as smart a bet as Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian making it to their golden anniversary. Ask Ricky Hatton, assuming that he has regained any memory of the fight, his nationality, or his name after the epic smackdown the Pac Man laid on him.
What type of style does it take to deal with the Filipino superstar? That of a sharpshooting counter-puncher. This is the style of Juan Manuel Marquez, whom many feel beat Pacquiao in their last fight. It is also the style of Mr. Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. And no one is better or quicker at it than he.
Pacquiao’s M.O. is to attack. And he does so in a very skillful and slick manner, using in-and-out as well as side-to-side movement while throwing sharp, fast punches at times from nearly inconceivable angles.
Even a fighter with the appalling quickness and defensive skills as Mayweather would have difficulty attempting to trade hands with Pacquiao. But Floyd doesn’t trade. Never has.
His game is to use his prodigious foot speed to stay out of harm’s way, spot openings, and fire lightning-quick, accurate, and precisely timed shots and then move away again until he recognizes the next opportunity.
Marquez found quite a few of those opportunities. Floyd will find more. There exists a gaping difference in speed and defensive ability between Floyd and Marquez, as exhibited during their recent fight.
One could argue that Manny has improved since his last fight with Marquez nearly two years ago. I don’t disagree. Were they to fight for a third time, Pacquiao would be an ample favorite and deservedly so. Even so, for the first five rounds of their fight, Cotto got to Manny. And he got to him often.
Mayweather, a faster and more skilled fighter with a proven style for making life difficult for Pacquiao, is going to get to him more often and for a longer stretch of the fight.
But in order to pull this off, Floyd will have to remain vigilant and on the move for the entire fight.
He will sometimes allow his opponents to get close to him and then depend on his considerable defensive skills to evade their punches at close range. He will relax to the point that the opponent will cross midfield, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to let them into the red zone, let alone the end zone.
I don’t see this working effectively against Manny. His hands are too quick, and he punches at such befuddling angles. If you let the Pac Man cross midfield, he’s got the skills to make it into the end zone.
But Floyd has always been prepared for his opponents. I have yet to see him gassed or unable to maintain his distance for the full 12 rounds. And when he has been determined to make a statement, he has tended to do so emphatically.
Considering the skill of Pacquiao, I don’t see an emphatic win for Mayweather. I’m predicting a victory by close decision in a fight that will have its share of shifting tides and in which Floyd will get hit far more than he ever has in any of his previous fights.
Ultimately, I see Floyd’s movement, timing and hand speed overcoming Manny’s quick-handed, sharp punching attacking style.
We may never find out what happened that early morning between Tiger Woods, the fire hydrant, his wife, and the golf club. But come fight night, the real pound-for-pound king will be revealed.
Either way, we’re going to see two all-time greats fighting while still in their respective primes. This is something that happens, on average, less than once a decade, my friends. It doesn’t get any better than this.