Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: Expert Picks for the Superfight

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterApril 30, 2015

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: Expert Picks for the Superfight

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    After six years of endless back and forth, recriminations and accusations, copious and never-ending banter, the time for talk is finally over. After all the disputes over drug testing, money and merit, it ultimately comes down to a single question.

    Who is the better boxer?

    Will it be Manny Pacquiao, the offensive southpaw dynamo? Since exploding onto the scene with an upset win over Lehlohonolo Ledwaba back in 2001, Pacquiao has wowed boxing fans with his fast left hand and his unyielding and unwavering commitment to taking the fight to his opponents.

    Or, as the oddsmakers seem to believe, will it be Floyd Mayweather, the defensive genius who makes his opponents miss—and then makes them pay? The master of the shoulder roll, Mayweather has rarely been tested in a career that places him among the very best fighters of all time. 

    "People have criticized me about being a defensive fighter," Mayweather said at his gaudy arrival ceremony at the MGM Grand on Tuesday. "But last night when I was at home sitting with my mother and daughter, I thought to myself, 'I'm proud of myself. To be in a sport for 19 years, the main thing is I'm going to be able to get out of the sport and still be sharp, have a sharp mind.'"

    Pacquiao, appearing confident and relaxed at his own more laid-back gathering of fans and media at the Mandalay Bay hotel Tuesday, believes his style will overwhelm Mayweather's vaunted defenses.

    "I'm different than the first 47 he fought," Pacquiao said. "I'm faster than them and I'm very confident for the fight. This is the moment that I believe he will experience a loss…My confidence right now is different than any other fight I've had. I feel excited and I have to prove something. I like being the underdog, because my killer instinct and my focus are there."

    These differences are part of what makes this fight so compelling. This is a clash—not just of styles, but of temperament, culture and approach.

    As always, our expert team of boxing analysts has taken a swing at predicting what will happen when two future Hall of Famers square off. We'll each pick a winner and attempt to justify it. Disagree? Give us your best guess in the comments.

    Jonathan Snowden covers combat sports for Bleacher Report.

Lyle Fitzsimmons

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Who wins the fight? When and how?

    I liked Mayweather if they’d have fought in 2010, and that hasn’t changed.

    While I’ll concede Pacquiao presents a challenge unlike any Money has seen in recent years, the difference between Mayweather and the Brandon Rioses, Tim Bradleys and Chris Algieris of the world is pretty drastic, too. I think Floyd will be more of an offensive player in this fight than most expect, and I anticipate him landing at least one right hand that changes the night’s dynamics. 

    Precision offense will be the story by the time it’s over—by TKOin Round 10.

    How will the result impact Floyd's legacy?

    He’s not the best fighter ever. In fact, he would probably be no better than the third-best welterweight in the world in the division’s early-1980s glory days. But getting to 48-0 against his generation’s biggest rival can’t do anything other than elevate Mayweather to at least temporary status as this generation’s—and this century’s—best fighter.

    How will the result impact Manny's legacy?

    A stoppage loss to someone who’s unbeaten in 48 fights is no obstacle to enshrinement in Canastota, but it’ll no doubt take some luster off the aura Pacquiao constructed while climbing the weight-class ladder. Before meeting Pac-Man, Mayweather was the one with the “but he never faced…” asterisk. Come May 3, it’ll be the Filipino who’ll be reminded of Money.

    Will this be remembered as one of boxing's greatest fights?

    Great event? Yes. Great fight? Not necessarily. It’ll be competitive and compelling enough, but it won’t feature the sort of to-and-fro superfight action that people associate with Ali, Frazier, Leonard and Hearns. Instead, it’ll be recalled as much for the pay-per-view numbers and the years-long buildup as for the actual in-ring events of May 2.

    Will the fight generate as much money as it's expected to?

    Floyd and Manny will cash paychecks with lots of zeroes. Bob Arum and Al Haymon will add on to some pretty nice homes. The pay-per-view numbers—amid protests from those railing against price tags—will erase the 2.4 million standard set by Mayweather and the Golden Boy in 2007. If the criteria is money, it’s the greatest fight of all time. 

    Will there be a rematch?

    The reality on May 3 is that neither guy can make as much elsewhere as they can together, but, given the decisiveness of the result, it’s not likely. Pacquiao will head to 140 to either restore his status or put Terence Crawford over, while Mayweather walks away for good—realizing it’ll never get any better than May 2.

Kelsey McCarson

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    Chris Hyde/Getty Images

    Who wins the fight? When and how?

    Manny Pacquiao will defeat Floyd Mayweather by a close decision. The fight will be 12 rounds of close, competitive fighting, but judges will favor Pacquiao’s aggression, volume punching and willingness to move forward where Mayweather would rather retreat. It might even be controversial, but judges will give Pacquiao the nod just like they always do in close fights. 

    Pacquiao will defeat Mayweather the way Sergey Kovalev beat Bernard Hopkins. Don’t mistake me. He won’t win every round the way Kovalev did. But he will apply constant pressure to Mayweather in the same way as well as use excellent footwork to counteract Mayweather’s attacks. Pacquiao's speed and aggression will give him the early rounds, and he'll split the rest of them for the win. 

    How will the result impact Floyd's legacy? 

    A loss to Pacquiao is not good news for Mayweather’s legacy. Pundits who believed he was ducking the prime version of Pacquiao between 2009 and 2012 will now be bolstered by seeing a version of Pacquiao most consider less than prime defeat him now. Still, Mayweather's talent and ability will never be in question among historians. 

    How will the result impact Manny's legacy?

    Pacquiao’s legacy was secure before the Mayweather fight. His wins over Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales coupled with his impressive run above 140 pounds made him a shoo-in for all-time-great status already. The win over Mayweather will vault him into the rarest air of all. He'll be ranked in the top 10 of all time on most lists. 

    Will this be remembered as one of boxing's greatest fights? 

    Yes and no. I think people will remember it the way they remember Roberto Duran’s win over Sugar Ray Leonard. That was a huge fight at the time and historically important. It was also fun to watch. But no one considers it one of the best fights ever the way Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns is viewed. 

    Will the fight generate as much money as it's expected to? 

    This fight will generate as much money as is expected. It will shatter all live-gate and PPV numbers known to man and prove boxing is still a big-time sport when the right conditions come together. Mayweather-Pacquiao is the biggest fight of a generation. People want to see it. It's just that simple.    

    Will there be a rematch? 

    I think there will be a call for a rematch because of the closeness of the fight. But I do not expect a rematch because of all the difficulty there was in putting this fight together in the first place. I think Pacquiao will move on to something else, maybe even outside of boxing. And I think Mayweather will try to redeem himself against Amir Khan or Danny Garcia in September. 

Kevin McRae

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Who wins the fight? When and how?

    Floyd Mayweather wins this fight by unanimous decision.

    It’s odd to feel increasingly indecisive about a long-held belief this close to the fight, but as much as my heart wants to say Manny Pacquiao finds a way, my brain still says that Floyd’s speed, counterpunching and overall boxing IQ carry the day in a close fight. Manny wins the early rounds, but Floyd takes over in the second half for a competitive but clear win. Gimme Money by a score of 116-112.

    How will the result impact Floyd's legacy?

    The naysayers will say this win doesn’t matter as much as it would’ve five years ago, but it’s better late than never. Mayweather removes a significant gap from his resume with a win over his longtime rival and cements his status as an all-time great. Not the greatest, despite what the fanboys say, but a place at the table for sure.

    How will the result impact Manny’s legacy?

    Pacquiao has far less to lose here than Mayweather. He’s been beaten before and isn’t constantly forced to defend his aura of invincibility, which makes him better able to absorb a loss in the “Fight of the Century.” Will it sting? You can bet on that, but in the overall picture, it won’t damage his legacy too much, so long as he doesn’t get completely outclassed.

    Will this be remembered as one of boxing’s greatest fights?

    It has the potential to be a blockbuster or a dud. Pacquiao’s relentless pressure will make things very interesting, particularly in the early going. But once we settle into Floyd’s familiar rhythm down the stretch, this will look like a show we’ve seen before. So, no.

    Will the fight generate as much money as it’s expected to?

    You’re asking the wrong guy. Entirely too much attention in the build for this fight has focused on the financial aspects and not the hand-to-hand combat that will ensue on May 2. Will it break records? It seems destined. Will lots of people make lots of money? Absolutely. Does the average fan care about that stuff? Maybe the boxing “fan” does, but the people who were here before and will be here after don’t.

    Will there be a rematch?

    There was no rematch clause written into the contract, which means that, depending on the result, we’d likely have to navigate this entire process a second time for a second fight. No thanks. The only way I can see it is if there’s some controversy or they make even more bank than expected.

Briggs Seekins

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Who wins the fight? When and how?

    I'm already on the record as picking Floyd Mayweather by decision and I'm not about to back off on that now. It still seems like the most likely outcome to me. However, I'll concede that while I was 100 percent confident Mayweather could beat Pacquiao by decision a year ago when I didn't even think the fight was ever going to take place, as the actual event looms before us now, I do see how it's possible Manny Pacquiao could pull it out.

    Pacquiao's right hook/straight left could be very effective at taking away Mayweather's shoulder roll defense. Unfortunately for Pacquiao, Mayweather is outstanding at using lateral movement to fight on the outside. Mayweather's best weapon is the straight right, which is a dangerous punch for an aggressive southpaw. Mayweather has a substantial reach advantage and should be able to make Pacquiao pay when the smaller fighter tries to move into range to attack.

    How will the result impact Floyd's legacy?

    The impact on Floyd Mayweather's legacy will be positive, but not as positive as it would have been if this fight had happened three to five years ago, when Pacquiao was at the peak of his amazing climb through the weight classes.

    Now that Juan Manuel Marquez has already knocked out Pacquiao, Mayweather beating him won't seem like the same accomplishment it would have been in 2011. There is a committed group of fans who simply hate Mayweather, and they will continue to accuse him of cherry-picking, disparaging this win because Mayweather waited until Pacquiao was too old, even though Mayweather is even older.

    How will the result impact Manny’s legacy?

    If I'm wrong and Manny Pacquiao wins this, it will have a tremendously positive impact on his legacy. He'll have a solid argument that he's the true No. 1 fighter of this era. Combined with his amazing climb from 112 pounds up to 150, giving the other top star of the era his first loss will probably bump him into the all-time top 10 for some people.

    Ultimately, though, I don't think he'll win. And I don't think this fight will have a major impact on his legacy. He'll continue to be viewed as one of the best fighters of the early 21st century and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    Will this be remembered as one of boxing’s greatest fights?

    I will be very pleasantly surprised if this ends up being remembered as one of boxing's greatest fights. I just don't see the two men's styles matching up properly for that to happen.

    What I do think is that it can go down something like the Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvelous Marvin Hagler fight. That was a bout between the two biggest stars of the 1980s, and it was a fight that happened a half decade after fans first started calling for it. It wasn't a Fight of the Year, but it was a very interesting tactical fight between two elite boxing talents.

    I also think the fact that Mayweather is less mobile now than he used to be may lead to a little bit more excitement than some of us are expecting. I won't be bored during this fight. I'm hopeful that the casual fans tuning in won't be bored. But it's not going to be a Ward-Gatti, Ali-Frazier kind of fight.

    Will the fight generate as much money as it’s expected to?

    I think the fight will make as much money as expected. Even with an economy that is still sluggish, this is one fans have been waiting years for. Just based on the amount of attention it is getting from the mainstream sports media, I think it's obvious this fight will break records.

    Will there be a rematch?

    I think a rematch is highly likely. If the fight is at all close, expect to see one. As long as Pacquiao doesn't get knocked out, a percentage of his diehard fans are going to accuse Mayweather of cheating and proclaim Pac-Man the true winner.

    If Pacquiao wins, Mayweather should be highly motivated to avenge his only career loss. I think this fight will be somewhat close and that a rematch will be worth nearly as much as the first fight, possibly even more. No way will either side want to leave that kind of cash on the table this late in their careers.

Jonathan Snowden

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Who wins the fight? When and how?

    The hardest part of handicapping a fight like this is dealing with the fighters' respective ages. Mayweather is 38. Pacquiao is 36. While both have maintained their physical tools so far, they are each of an age that can see a fighter come to the ring and suddenly just not have it anymore.

    Until that happens, however, it's hard to pick against Mayweather. He may struggle with Pacquiao's speed and unusual southpaw style in the early rounds, but as the fight reaches its climax, he will adjust as he always does. The lead right hand will land more and more often. Pacquiao will chase but come up just short time and again—including on the scorecards.

    Mayweather by decision (115-113)

    How will the result impact Floyd's legacy?

    A victory over Pacquiao will answer any lingering questions about where Floyd stood among his peers. At the very least, a win will establish him as the best fighter of his era. Where he stands historically is a question for the very wise or the very bold. I'm not either.

    How will the result impact Manny's legacy?

    Collectively, we've already come to terms with where he stands in the grand scheme of things. A loss like the one to Marquez tends to lead to some reflection. Pacquiao is a top 50 fighter of all time and arguably the best southpaw ever. That doesn't change with a loss here.

    Will this be remembered as one of boxing's greatest fights?

    There's no reason to expect a great fight from two aging veterans. Especially when one of them is Floyd Mayweather, who no doubt intends to spend the evening holding Pacquiao tight. It will, however, be remembered as one of the biggest fights of all time—and I'm sure that will be enough for both men.

    Will the fight generate as much money as it's expected to?

    The powers-that-be are so convinced this one is a guaranteed hit that they didn't even bother to do much in the way of promotion. And maybe they are right. The fight's mere existence was enough to get worldwide, top-shelf media coverage. People, for whatever reason, really care about this fight. And, I suspect we'll find, they are willing to pay to watch it.

    Will there be a rematch?

    Right now, in the heat of the battle, both sides are suggesting there won't be a rematch. But if the fight is close, and I think it will be, there will be great public demand for one. Once the checks start pouring in, walls will come tumbling down—and the fighters will do what it takes to walk away with one last enormous pay day this September.

Tom Weir

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Who wins the fight? When and how?

    Mayweather wins when the judges’ cards are totaled up. It will be close, and there will be plenty of howling and debate about a split decision.

    Pacquiao will win the punch count, but Mayweather will be more accurate and elusive. I think it will start slow, with a lot of caution, and will go the distance with no knockdowns. I think it’s going to be a fight with a lot of clinches, a lot of stop-and-go, the kind that’s hard to score conclusively.

    How will the result impact Floyd's legacy?

    Mayweather could win the fight but lose with the public if he sticks to his typical and often boring hit-and-run tactics. Tons of fringe fans will be watching, and they’ll expect to see something epic, something equal to the best of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard or Mike Tyson. But that’s not Floyd’s style.   

    How will the result impact Manny's legacy?

    Win or lose, I think Pacquiao comes out looking good. He’ll be the one who makes the fight, the one who takes it to the other guy, the one who makes fans feel like they got their money’s worth. And fight fans always love an underdog.

    Will this be remembered as one of boxing's greatest fights?

    Very doubtful, unless Mayweather stuns the world and goes toe to toe with Pacquiao. Or if one of them is staggered early but roars back. More likely is a repeat of Mayweather-De La Hoya, with a lot of chasing and a minimum of connecting. The spectacle will outshine the action.

    Will the fight generate as much money as it's expected to?

    I think so, and I think it should. It’s ridiculous that it’s taken this long to make the fight happen, but it will be years (and possibly decades) before boxing has another compelling showdown of this magnitude. A lot of people are going to chip in on the $99.99 charge and make it a Super Bowl party kind of night.

    Will there be a rematch?

    I’m probably in the minority, but I don’t think so. If Mayweather wins, he’ll want to coast to a perfect 50-0 grand finale to his career, not take another risk against Pacquiao. Remember, Mayweather’s fight with De La Hoya also broke every financial record, but there was no rematch. And if Pacquaio wins, he can walk away with the pound-for-pound title and the last laugh.