Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao is the biggest possible fight in boxing right now. Even the most casual boxing observer knows those two names.
Unfortunately, it also seems like the fight with the least shot of happening. There has been hangup after hangup preventing one fighter or the other from signing the contract. First, there was the blood testing issue. Now that that has been at least semi-resolved, there are now disputes about how the money will be split. And while it might not seem like it, the clock has started ticking. Both of them have 30 pretty far in their rear view mirror, with Pacquiao turning 33 in December and Mayweather at 34. While they haven't shown slippage yet, not everyone can be Bernard Hopkins. Age will start to set in eventually.
But that begs the question: Should the fight ever take place, how will it unfold, and, more importantly, who will get the win?
Manny Pacquiao has got a style all his own. Originally just a one-dimensional brawler, overly reliant on a straight left hand that hit like a shotgun, he has added quite a few technical wrinkles to his game over the years. Since his ascent from featherweight, he has learned a crippling right hook (patented by trainer Freddie Roach as "Manilla Ice"), excellent combination skills and a good arsenal of defensive moves. He is by no means a southpaw cutie, but he has progressed far beyond the straight-forward blunt instrument of years past. Now, he combines his outstanding natural gifts with technique to make a unique and devastating offensive style.
Pacquiao's litany of knockout victims includes Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Miguel Cotto, Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton. He also has wins over Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez (whom he will fight for the third time in November).
Floyd Mayweather is the purist's boxer. He is a throwback fighter, a technically superb counter-puncher with every trick in the book. He wins his fights by completely neutralizing his opponent's offense and landing sharp counter shots. The result is often embarrassing and emasculating for his opponent and—to this point—always a Mayweather win. He has been so dominant that a fighter is usually considered to have "almost won" if he as much as wins a round or even lands a hard punch. His hands are lightning quick, he has underrated power and seemingly impenetrable defense.
It is very hard to spot a weakness in his game. If there is one, however, it is that his shoulder-roll guard seems to be somewhat more open to southpaws with good straight lefts.
Mayweather has wins over Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton, Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales.
Pacquiao Won Every Round Against Shane Mosley, Who Turned in a Lackluster Performance
Remember Floyd's only weakness? It just so happens that Pacquiao's best shot is the straight left. And is it ever a good one. While he hasn't had one-punch knockout power since his days at much lower weights, he consistently hurts, rocks and drops much bigger guys with one big left hand. And there are few who are faster to compound their success with a quick flurry. Mosley was unable to follow up on Mayweather when he had him hurt in the second round of their fight; Pacquiao shouldn't have that problem. And while he doesn't have Shane's crushing one-punch power, he can compensate that with sheer volume and blinding hand speed.
Also, Mayweather is known for being patient and selective with his punches. When he starts cooking, Manny Pacquiao can throw upwards of 90 punches a round. He consistently tallies 1,000 punches a fight, an impressive number. Mayweather is content to sit between 500 and 650, picking his shots carefully and landing at high percentage. The most likely way Pacquiao can win is by suffocating Mayweather's own offense with a lot of low accuracy shots and hope that the judges give him rounds on aggression.
I have heard it aptly put that Floyd Mayweather has no style of his own. Instead, his style is whatever gives him the best chance to beat you. While that might be a slight exaggeration—there are definitely constants in his fights—it speaks volumes about his remarkable adaptability and the fluidity of his technique. So it is difficult to predict exactly what his game plan would be should he ever face Pacquiao.
One thing that is definitely sure is that it will include a steady diet of right hands and movement. Pacquiao has shown difficulty dealing with both in the past. Both times against Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales, Pacquiao seemed unable to make any adjustments, and he took right hand after right hand flush on the chin. He showed a granite chin standing up to the punches, but they were eye catching power shots that won the Mexicans rounds.
And when fighting Shane Mosley, Pacquiao seemed unable to start his offense. When Shane stood right in front of him, he seemed comfortable and fought in his customary exchanges, using his hand speed to overwhelm his opponent. However, if Mosley so much as took a step to his left, Pacquiao was lost. He had trouble finding the range on his left hand and did not realize he could check his opponent's movement with a right hook. If lil' ol' me can spot those weaknesses, Floyd Mayweather certainly can.
Most importantly, Floyd is one of the most adaptive fighters I have ever seen. He gets hit, then he changes his defense and takes that punch away. Shane Mosley thought he found an answer when he landed two hard, clean right hands in the second round. He utterly failed to land another one all night. And the same could happen to Pacquiao. Even if he has flashes of success early, Floyd will take his best weapons away from him as the fight goes on. Pacquiao has not shown similar ability to adjust.
At the end of the day, Floyd Mayweather is too fast, too slick, too good for Pacquiao. Right now, Pac reminds me of Tito Trinidad at the apex of his career: He is an exciting fighter and absolute death on someone who will try to out-fight him, but a skilled boxer like Bernard Hopkins, Winky Wright or, in this case, Floyd Mayweather could make him look average. I can see a slow-paced, tactical fight with isolated explosions of activity that would favor Pacquiao. Unfortunately for him, those flurries would be few and far between. The rest of the night, I could see Mayweather controlling the range and pace of the fight, engaging when he wanted and making Pacquiao miss whenever they were in close.
People predicting a war are either being optimistic or not really thinking about the fight. A war requires two-way action, with both fighters contributing to the fight. Of all the possible ways the fight can go, that is probably the least likely. Regardless of who wins, it will look more like a typical "Mayweather fight" than a typical "Pacquiao fight." That is, slow and measured.
The same goes for those saying that this will be the fight to "save the sport of boxing." If anything, the crazy hype around this fight is bad for the sport. Because casual fans think that this is the only worthwhile fight that can happen right now, the delay in signing leaves them saying that boxing is dead and nothing is going on. And if the fight should ever happen (which seems unlikely at this point), a slow fight would simply reinforce the notion that boxing is boring and that "UFC"—actually mixed martial arts—is the superior sport.
Still, at the end of the day, they are the two best fighters in boxing. While there is a lot of competition for the spots behind them, most every respectable pound-for-pound list has them occupying the top two spots. In every other sport, the best match up with the best. Only our crazy, crooked sport would allow these petty politics to interfere with a true championship bout. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and the two of them will end up in the ring together before it is too late.