Boxing fans love to pit the greats against each other in hypothetical fights; Ali-Tyson. Leonard-De La Hoya. Duran-Chavez. Until last week, the boxing world was resigned to add Pacquiao-Mayweather to the list of superfights that would only ever exist in our imaginations.
After years of failed negotiations and finger-pointing, we can all finally say that it is ON. The impossible has has happened. Last month we saw Mayweather and Pacquiao exchange phone numbers at a basketball game. In about two months we’ll get to watch them exchange leather in a boxing match. Here is the first official breakdown of the dream match that will become reality on May 2, 2015.
STRENGTHS: Near impenetrable defense. Superb hand speed, slick footwork. Accurate counter punching makes opponents hesitate. Great ring tactician. Exploits opponents’ weaknesses and makes perfect adjustments in the ring. Can win rounds with ring generalship alone. Confidence. Underrated power.
WEAKNESSES: Legs have noticeably slowed; has been spending more time on the ropes as of late and is ever-so-slightly easier to hit. Low punch output and unwillingness to trade punches give aggressive opponents opportunities to steal rounds. Suspect chin. Has had trouble with quick foes and southpaws.
KEYS TO VICTORY: Work the jab. Must earn Pacquiao’s respect by hurting him. Do not allow Pacquiao to gain confidence and momentum. Jabs and straight rights to the body. Throw sweeping rights when Pacquiao is circling and try to catch him with the right uppercut as he lunges in. Tie up Pacquiao, stay off the ropes. Must take risks and throw hard shots to give Pacquiao something to think about. Must always be ready to take advantage of Pacquiao’s occasional wild swings.
STRENGTHS: Elite hand and foot speed. Southpaw stance. Powerful left cross, lightning-quick combinations start from all angles. Good lateral movement, tricky footwork. Solid power in both hands. Punches in bunches. Accurate during exchanges. Power in the late rounds. Underrated defense and boxing ability.
WEAKNESSES: Vulnerable chin. Punch output has dropped significantly over the years; can no longer sustain whirlwind offense. Susceptible to the right hand. Defensive lapses. Sometimes over-commits and leaves himself wide open.
KEYS TO VICTORY: Combinations. Attack with ferocity but get out quickly. Do not get overzealous. Don’t let Mayweather dictate the pace. Constant movement; use footwork to create openings and keep Mayweather off-balanced. Watch out for the right and protect midsection from jabs that accumulate. Do not walk into any punches. Cut of the ring and take full advantage when Mayweather is on the ropes.
ANALYSIS: The fighter who is better able to adjust to his opponent’s quickness will have the big advantage. In this regard Pacquiao will have the upper hand as he has faced quicker fighters than Mayweather’s recent foes, fighting Tim Bradley twice and Chris Algieri. For years FLoyd has enjoyed having a distinct advantage in speed. He will not have that luxury against Pacquiao, who is just as fast as Mayweather, if not a little quicker.
Contrary to popular belief, Pacquiao has had very good success against pure counter punchers. The fighters who have given him the most trouble–Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales and more recently, Tim Bradley, all fought Pacquiao toe-to-toe when they needed to in order to keep Pacquiao’s offense in check. They counter punched but they also matched Pacquiao punch for punch, something that Mayweather has never done against any opponent and is highly unlikely to do to Pacquiao. Mayweather likes to wait for his opponents to finish punching before answering back on his own terms. Pacquiao can take advantage of Mayweather’s lulls and win rounds by being more active.
Mayweather absolutely must hurt Pacquiao in order to beat him. The only way Floyd can stifle Pacquiao’s offense is by showing that he is capable of knocking him out. Otherwise, Mayweather will not be able to keep up with Pacquiao’s work rate, speed and movement. With that said, Mayweather is the more dangerous fighter, capable of delivering a fight-ending blow at any given moment. Mayweather is in this fight until the final bell. Pacquiao cannot afford to be careless at any point during the match. Mayweather can and will make him pay.
Interestingly, Mayweather needs a knockout more than Pacquiao, Vegas judges be damned. Pacquiao’s style and speed are simply a bad match up for Floyd. This could easily turn out to be a one-sided bout in Pacquiao’s favor unless Floyd awakens the lion that we all hope he has in him. Floyd would either fold under Pacquiao’s brand of pressure or he will show the greatness that we’ve been wanting to see. If it’s the latter, be prepared to witness one of the greatest fights in boxing history.