Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao versus Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. – easily the undisputed biggest fight in boxing. As prelude to May 2nd's epic battle, let us look at the strengths and weaknesses of each fighter – this time from the side of Floyd Mayweather – and see which key factors should sway the fight in Floyd’s favor. I am selecting the top 7 reasons that will be the recipe for victory for Floyd Mayweather. Again, I am not predicting the he will win as such, but merely identifying, what I believe, to be the essential elements for Mayweather to emerge victorious. Here they are:
1. Straight Right Hand
Mayweather most prominent key to victory is no secret: Straight right hand – straight right hand – straight right hand. For Mayweather to win, he must effectively land that straight right hand, whether as a lead or a counter, to the body, but especially to the head. The straight right hand down the pipe is common knowledge as the classic, main weapon against a southpaw. His straight right hand is regularly one of weapons of choice, but it rises to de facto primary, bread and butter status against southpaws like Pacquiao. As a lead, the straight right hand can expose Manny’s defensive liabilities. As a counter, if it lands effectively, will slow Pacquiao’s offensive gumption, causing him to become hesitant and stand (thinking, waiting) unmoving in front of Mayweather, and thus more vulnerable to lead right hand potshots. Further, as Mayweather has never been known as a volume puncher, each right hand must count (landing at a high rate), with each being a telling blow. But if Manny Pacquiao can find a way to effectively neutralize this punch, by anticipating it, either by blocking or dodging it, then it may be a long night for Floyd Mayweather. However, neutralizing the straight right hand of Mayweather is easier said than done because of his tremendous hand speed. Opponents, though they may know this punch is coming, still have difficulty effectively dealing with this punch due to its sheer velocity. They don’t see it coming, though they know it’s coming – just ask Zab Judah, De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, or Shane Mosley, to name a few who eat their share of right hands. The biggest question for Mayweather, I believe, will be the effectiveness of this punch. It is the main key for him in this fight.
2. Jab/Left Hook
Throwing jabs and left hooks (especially leaping/ lunging, lead left hooks preferred by Mayweather) can be a hindrance for both parties because of the somewhat awkward dynamics of the range and spacing in a fight between an orthodox and southpaw fighter. Orthodox (left-handed) jabs are easily blocked and can even be swatted down by the opponent’s (lead) jab (right) hand before even in comfortable range to fire off. Regardless, just the different angle and the proximity of the opponent’s lead guard can be a mental barrier in pumping the jab. Left hooks to the head need to be thrown in closer to be effective, again because of the angle and proximity of the lead guard. The additional barrier of the lead shoulder is also there to contend with, along with the different, more awkward angle. Overall, this apparent awkwardness is especially the case for the orthodox fighter, as they are not used to fighting southpaws (although southpaws are used to fighting orthodox fighters, and are thus more comfortable. Ironically, they are also not used to fighting other southpaws, and can be uncomfortable for them as well).
Therefore, against southpaws, “Money” Mayweather largely disposes with the left hand, not using those weapons as he normally would against an orthodox fighter. Instead He uses the right hand as his main, primary weapon (as mentioned above). However, this can become fairly predictable (especially against a southpaw – since they used to fighting orthodox fighters, and are therefore naturally and automatically wary of the straight right hand, I would expect, by endless drilling). And Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, will assuredly especially tailor training camp for Pacquiao to defuse Floyd’s apparent main weapon. Because of this, Floyd must mix in the left hand either as a jab and/or the left hook (unless, of course, Pacquiao really becomes an easy prey to the right hand early and often in the fight, as was Mosley, then it would be unnecessary). Mayweather must use angles to throw the jab, by either creating angles himself, or in concert with Pacquiao’s movements, by reacting to, and timing his shots accordingly. This would be very disruptive to “Pac Man’s” rhythm, slowing his lateral movement, and make him more vulnerable. As for the hook, Floyd should look to judiciously follow up lead right hands that land with left hooks upstairs. Normally, against orthodox fighters, Mayweather likes to follow up (leaping) left hooks with straight right hands (especially when his opponent establishes a pattern of covering up more than trying to counter – see the fight with De La Hoya), but since Manny is a southpaw, that combination is less suitable for this situation. In close, Floyd also must throw the left hook, looking for an opening, either to the body or to the head, when Pacquiao decides to cover up. Further, in close against a southpaw, Mayweather’s left hook should be more effective (and tighter) than it would be against an orthodox fighter, as Floyd often keeps his left guard higher (at his temple), instead of at his waist (as in the Philly Shell), and therefore should not have the same time lag to throw (i.e. counter) left hooks in close.
3. Precision Punching
Mayweather obviously cannot and will not out-punch Pacquiao in terms of volume – that is not his game. What Floyd lacks in volume, he makes up in effectiveness per punch. Floyd has underrated power; and it’s not just about how hard you hit, but how accurate you are. There is a much better chance of hurting someone, if they are hit right on the button, rather than if a punch was even just a little off. This is nothing new for Mayweather as he is usually pin-point accurate with his punches (as Mosley at times began looking wobbly from lead right hand potshots). But in this fight, they must especially be so. Mayweather must potshot like he normally does – but also being careful to ensure that his shots count, and hurt, and disrupt – picking and choosing his spots wisely, with timing and accuracy. His shots must be flush, but also precise. To hurt Pacquiao, he must not only hit him flush, but hit him flush on the temple, the jaw, the chin, the liver, the belt line, with surgical exactitude. Otherwise, it won’t be enough to slow down “Pac Man” from gobbling him up. Further, Floyd must be on point, because though Pacquiao overwhelmed De La Hoya with punch volume, Manny still throws his shots with precision as well. Both Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto were hurt with big shots right on the money – right on the chin. I cannot conceive that this fight will be a walk in the park for Mayweather, but Floyd obviously has all the necessary tools to win – on fight night, he just must fight up to his abilities. If he can take his skills to the next level, he truly can show that he is the brightest star. But it’s not just about skills, it’s about execution. That’s why fights are fought in the ring, and not on paper. If Mayweather fights up to his precision punching abilities, there’s a good chance he will have his hand raised at the end of the night.
Known for his technical brilliance, especially in the realm of defensive wizardry, Floyd must frustrate Pacquiao with his defensive maneuvers and aptitude. He must remind the world of the reason for his previous moniker, “Pretty Boy” – because at the end of his fights, he face would remain largely unmarked. Accordingly, Floyd must not settle for just being reactive, but proactive, looking to confidently dominate Pacquiao with his defense – making him miss, rather than mostly just blocking, and/or straying out of range, and keeping it safe. Couple this with excessive holding and this would make it seem like Floyd is scared, and just trying to avoid getting hit, and eek out a decision. Instead, head and upper body movement must be fluid in execution – seemingly effortless and confident – all the while making Manny miss and reset in frustration, while sliding into position to make Pacquiao think twice about taking offensive chances. As the old adage goes, Mayweather must “make him miss, and then make him pay.” Floyd must make it seem like he can read Manny’s mind, anticipating his shots, and elevating the status of his defensive prowess to otherworldly. This is what will garner praise and admiration from the fans and critics alike. That being said, again Mayweather must not be content with playing it safe by mostly blocking, and staying too much out of range. That will not that satisfy the fans; they want to be “ooohed” and “aahhhed” with expert slipping, bobbing, and weaving. Neither will that safety-first defense slow down “Pac Man.” If Mayweather settles to turtle up, it will be long night for him (just ask Joshua Clottey). Mayweather must not only make Pacquiao frustrated with head and upper body movement, but also with judicious foot movement, skirting along the ropes at just the time when Pacquiao has him seemingly cornered and trapped. Otherwise, Pacquiao has a good chance of catching Floyd eventually – if Manny can freely dart in and out, and tee off with long combinations. Mayweather can dodge 100 punches, but only one needs to connect to have him staring up at the lights. For this fight, he must prove Freddie Roach wrong (who claims Mayweather no longer has his legs), and show the world that he is still untouchable on defensive, proving that “you can’t hit what you can’t see.”
Ironically, Floyd is naturally the bigger guy in this case; he can impose his size and strength. It is usually the other way around. He has been accused of elite welterweights since we came into the division. Moving up, he started as a rather smallish welterweight; though he has more recently he has filled out to be a full blown welterweight. Still, compared to the likes of Paul Williams, Antonio Margarito, or Kermit Cintron, he is still a smaller welterweight, especially in terms of height (though this is a subject for another article). Pacquiao probably has more mustard on his punches than Mayweather, but in physical size, obviously Mayweather has that advantage. Floyd has a couple inches in height and reach on Pacquiao. Floyd can hold if the infighting gets too fierce, and shove Manny off of him with comparative ease. So far, in all of his fights at welterweight, the size disadvantage has not been a factor for Manny Pacquiao (or for Floyd Mayweather, Jr. for that matter), but if Floyd can use his size advantage, and mentally make Pacquiao feel like he is really fighting a bigger man, it may well be a factor that will put him over the top to gain the victory.
6. Mental Game
Floyd must get inside Manny’s head, and under his skin, though Manny Pacquiao seems to have the peace of heaven in his heart, as his name might imply – Emmanuel (“God with us”). Indeed, Manny never seems flustered by his opponent’s bluster, generally respectful in response, though at times not wholly gracious (as with Juan Manuel Marquez, with whom he has quite a bitter rivalry – though mostly on the Marquez’s side). But with Floyd Mayweather, he is in another league with mind games, insults, taunts, mocking and other unsportsmanlike behavior, not only by the fighter himself, but from his family, team, and friends (mostly via the media) along with baseless accusations of PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) usage that look to defame not only the accomplishments of Manny Pacquiao, but his character as well. These base insinuations seek not only to undermine Pacquiao as a fighter, but as a person, attempting to vilify the image of an otherwise chaste and humble, well-respected man, who in turn gives others their due respect. Not only that, but the issue of drug testing, especially if implemented for the fight, can have quite a debilitating effect on Pacquiao’s mental state during training, and possibly during the fight.
As of this point, Floyd is definitely ahead in the mental game, at least to a certain extent, as all this has definitely affected the Filipino fistic warrior. Although Manny is normally very serene and gracious towards his opponent, in this case, it is evident to see that perhaps Mayweather’s antics are starting to get to him. In an interview, I read that Freddie Roach mentioned Manny as upset by Mayweather, saying “I will crush him.” Assuming this is true, this can be fairly significant, as Pacquiao does not usually succumb to such feelings against a fighter. Already there are mind games being played, and the fight is not even signed. If the fight is signed, I would expect the intensity of the mind games to escalate even further. Assuming HBO’s 24/7 build up to be in the picture, Floyd (and team) will again have the greater platform continue the verbal assault. The question that undoubtedly arises is “Will this throw Pacquiao off of his game?” In other words, will emotions get the better of Pacquiao come fight time? Or on the flip side, will this be extra motivation that will give Manny that extra edge for the fight? But rest assured, Floyd is no novice at this game – he knows exactly what he’s doing. However, while Floyd normally maintains his composure, Floyd was definitely mentally rattled when rocked and embarrassed by Mosley. So he has shown the propensity to let emotions get the best of him in the ring – this time working well to his advantage. That being said, the ball is definitely in Floyd’s court if he gets under Manny’s skin – as he will be comfortably within the confines of his playground, while Manny will be out of his element. If he succeeds in doing this, Mayweather wins is a distinct early victory in the mind on his way to winning the battle in the ring.
7. Ring Generalship
Lastly, Mayweather is a master of focus in the ring, knowing at all times what he is doing, and what he wants to do in the fight. Like a dog herding the flock, Mayweather, with footwork, movement, and his punches, looks to carefully manipulate the location of his opponent in the ring, keeping the fight exactly where he wants it – in the center of the ring. This limits the opportunities for his opponent to cut off the ring, and trap him against the ropes. Rarely does Mayweather look uncomfortable or out of place in a fight (except of course, when he was rocked those few times in his career), neither does he take a round off, either mentally or physically. And never does he lack the proper preparation. All this is essential to make sure his will is imposed on Pacquiao, and not the other way around. If Mayweather can keep the fight in the center of the ring, keep off the ropes and from being trapped in the corners, with enough foot movement to keep Pacquiao from regularly planting his feet and throwing off combinations, he will go a long way towards ensure his victory.
To win, Floyd Mayweather must paint another pugilistic masterpiece with sterling defense and surgical offense, making Manny the clear #2 pound for pound fighter, and yet looking like a rank amateur. If he can use his superior split-second decision making in the ring (based on years of training and experience), his timing, reflexes and reactions from firmly entrenched muscle memory, he will again show the boxing world his pugilistic artistry and genius. Mayweather is a master of recognizing and understanding offensive and defensive boxing patterns and strategies, adapting to them in the ring. Floyd analyzes the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, adjusting the game plan to exploit his advantages and minimizing his exposure to risk, while focusing on his own strengths, attributes and objectives that will win the fight. In short, Floyd must fight the fight he wants to win – dictate range by keeping the fight in the center of the ring, controlling the fight defensively by making Manny follow him around and miss, causing Pacquiao to become increasingly frustrated and desperate. At the same time, if Floyd can consistently land the right hand leads and counters, Pacquiao’s demise will be inevitable. As the fight goes on, this will perhaps lead to Pacquiao throwing bigger, more looping, singleton shots; simultaneously becoming less and less defensively responsible, and more and fatigued. Then Mayweather will dominate to close the show – breaking down Pacquiao for the unanimous decision or perhaps even late stoppage.
Will Floyd Mayweather dominate in victory to put all questions about his claim to greatness to rest, once and for all? Or will Floyd Mayweather finally be exposed as a hyped-up overachiever? Will Pacquiao finally be the first to get through Mayweather’s defense, and for once be overwhelmed and lose, and perhaps be knocked out? Will his critics come out claiming he was overrated, cherry-picking his opponents since coming to welterweight, afraid to fight the best? Or will these two fighters cement their status as all-time greats by engaging in a fight for the ages which will have the boxing world abuzz for years to come?
Let this not just end in conjecture. Let not the excitement and anticipation build to end in unsatisfying anticlimax. Let these questions be answered not just in the imagination, but in the ring on May 2nd.
The world awaits.
Ken Hissner responds to all his emails at: firstname.lastname@example.org