Early Analysis: Pacquiao Against Mayweather?

pablo liesenbergContributor IDecember 9, 2008

It was predictable. In the wake of the Pacquiao vs De La Hoya fight, and as Pacquiao has clearly knocked De la Hoya off his PPV visibility title with a conclusive victory, someone who supposedly had “nothing left to prove” now has. For the right price tag, of course.

Floyd Mayweather Junior, oh how we have missed you, so much that I have even forgotten your nickname. Oh. It just came back, it is “Money”. Doesn't that sound oh-so-pre-bubble and so out of touch with the new economic reality? But I am going on tangents.

The key question here is to provide some analysis on what might happen if Mayweather and Pacquiao (I arrange their names alphabetically, not by merit in the ring) meet. One safe prediction: promotional success.

Come on, this would be the first time in a while that the sports' superstars meet in their prime age at the cusp of their accomplishments and accompanying helpings of hype. Both wildly accomplished. Both with passionate fans behind them that will swear their idols are unbeatable and the greatest the sport has ever produced. Fight hype at its best.

Both fighters are stellar, but both also bring very contrasting styles to the ring.

Let us start with Floyd Mayweather Junior: a gifted stylist, but one that has proven that there is a lot of toughness behind the stylish boxing stanza. A lot of ink and commentary has been Mayweather's speed—I think the whole speed argument has become a lazy analysts' tool. Speed advantages are only visible against inferior athletes.

What fighters like Mayweather really have is excellent intuition to time their opponent—to figure out how they fight, how they set up punches, and how to take advantage of it. It is not a matter of a faster nerve connection or super-natural synapses between nerve cells, it is about having a fighter's eye and brain and figuring out what the opponent is doing, and having the athleticism to execute on it.

And Mayweather has excellent ring generalship. He masters the art of just outdoing his opponent, of figuring him out and exploiting his weaknesses. He is not that much faster, really—in fact, he got outlanded and countered by Judah early in their fight, but that fact is a blueprint in what Mayweather does at his best: study and learn his opponent, then time and gradually beat him to the punch, all the while protecting himself.

Mayweather is a very efficient fighter, kind of like Toney and Hopkins, but without ever having to disrupt opponents with tricks.

Then, we have Pacquiao. It is easy to declare him unbeatable after his one-sided demolition of De La Hoya. So I will not. I will blend the Pacquiao that had two close, tough fights with Marquez with the Pacquiao that dominated De La Hoya. The De La Hoya fight confirmed what I wrote in my analysis—that Pacquiao has very underrated boxing skills. Well, no more - now the world truly knows Pacquiao is more than just berserk attack.

Yes, De La Hoya was woefully slow, but Pacquiao's ring generalship and his movement was a boxing skills showcase, and he showed great and very effective aggression combined with defensive elusiveness. Pacquiao is very aggressive, but he is also very calculated in his aggression, and can resort to a more gradual destruction of his opponent by exploiting the combination of skills and power.

So the matchup against Mayweather and Pacquiao is a dream come true because finally we shall see someone as skilled as Pacquiao putting pressure on Mayweather. The key to this fight is how Mayweather will respond—will he draw into levels of brilliance previously unwitnessed, or will he be happy to not get hurt, go into a mostly defensive shell, and claim he won because he didn't get knocked out afterwards?

Will Pacquiao's huge success finally draw complacency and soften a warrior who has always been able to turn it up another notch when he had something new to prove?

Size will not be a factor in this fight—these are both fighters that are always superbly conditioned and have come up the weights, and have always looked great at whatever weight. These are both fighters who have power—admittedly it seems Pacquiao more so—but are not crushing one-punch knockout artists anymore.

And we have Mayweather, who fights very well off his back-foot while countering opponents' aggression, and Pacquiao, who -despite his versatility- is at his most comfortable when he can step in and unleash a fierce exchange.

These are both fighters who could prove to be each others' kryptonite: Mayweather may be the one fighter with the science and sense of timing to disrupt Pacquiao as he steps in (he can take a look at the Marquez fight to see how it is done, too), and Pacquiao may be the one fighter who could push Mayweather into an overly defensive shell for 12 rounds and look like he outclassed him.

Time to put my chips on the table, you say? OK. I will go with Pacquiao. But he better train for this one even harder than he did for the De La Hoya fight, because it will pose a totally new challenge. But I think Pacquiao has the tools to offensively overwhelm Mayweather and steal enough rounds of the latter. I say Pacquiao wins a decision.

And by then, Pacquiao will join my boxing shrine along with guys like Hagler, Duran, Hearns and Chavez—guys who never shirked a challenge, and who provided awesome entertainment. I have the utmost respect for Mayweather, and I'd pick him against almost anyone else up to 160—but Mayweather's science may not be able to overcome Pacquiao's pressure, gift and desire.