Pacquiao vs. Mayweather: Preliminary Thoughts and Analysis

Ahh, the BIG ONE.  The bout that everyone has been talking about— boxing fans and casual observers alike.  The fight for mythical pound-for-pound supremacy.

I can’t remember the last time that there was so much at stake.  Whoever wins effectively shuts up all naysayers.  You could even argue that the loser’s career was all for naught.  Everything these two guys have ever done will be riding on this one moment.  Hell, even the newspapers with no real boxing beat writers have their eyes on this one.  Is it inevitable?  I don’t know.  But here are some preliminary thoughts…

I believe a near toss-up bout such as this deserves to start off with a probability weighting of what I consider the most likely scenarios:

30% Mayweather by close, unanimous decision (think 7 rounds to 5)

30% Pacquiao by early knockout

20% Mayweather by (near) shut-out

20% Pacquiao by close, unanimous decision (think 7 rounds to 5)

Before getting into granular detail about the top two most-likely scenarios, I want to touch upon the other two likely outcomes.  I would like to point out that neither Manny nor Floyd has ever fought a fighter quite like the other.  In Manny, you have an unpredictable southpaw whose main strength is his swarming offense.  In Floyd, you have a brilliant, adaptable “thinking man’s” fighter whose strength is his defensive aptitude.  As a direct consequence of these two fighters never facing anyone like the other, there is a distinct possibility that one of them will match up so poorly with the other, that said fighter gets shut out just by virtue of the age-old “styles make fights” adage.  In that scenario, I think that Mayweather would be the one to benefit from the shut-out possibility.  Freddie Roach may have inadvertently hinted at this when he said, regarding Pacquiao’s opponents, “If we can hit them, we can knock them out.”  However, if this is the key to victory, what happens when they encounter a fighter whose universally recognized trait is that he can’t be hit?

I believe it was the immortal Willie Pep who said something along the lines of: “Just like anyone else, if my opponents hit me I can get hurt, but they aren’t hitting me.”

On the flipside, Floyd has also never fought such an unpredictable fighter, whose unpredictability is compounded by his southpaw stance.  I can’t even count the number of times that HBO’s Emmanuel Steward refers to Manny’s “non-standard” punches and “weird” angles.  There is also a chance, therefore, that Pacquiao could catch Floyd with a big shot.  Twelve rounds is a long way to go with an unpredictable, explosive southpaw.

Last point before I give a high level overview of how I think the fight will shake out:

Sustained workrate.  Definitely a factor to keep in mind.  This is what I believe could be the wild card determinant in favor of Pacquiao winning the bout by close decision.  I would suggest that readers take a close look at the Mayweather vs. Castillo I and Mayweather vs. De la Hoya bouts.  On output alone, De la Hoya was able to win the bout on the scorecard of one of the judges.  (Remember that was a split decision bout.)  Upon careful review of the tape, it was evident that most of De la Hoya’s aggression and output was not effective.  However, without the benefit of repetitive review, we see that one of the judges interpreted the sustained workrate as indicative of De la Hoya controlling and thus deserving to win the bout.  This last point is key.  Listen, I agree that Mayweather displayed that he was the better fighter.  But it doesn’t matter what you or I think.  If the bout is called by the judges, these are things to keep in mind.  One last example to drive this point home.  Take a look at Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Calzaghe.  I agreed with the first judge with 114-113 for Hopkins.  Apparently, the other two judges were impressed by Calzaghe’s pitty-pat volume.  Anyone in boxing will admit to you that sometimes workrate can fool judges.

I think that the early rounds are key determinants of the fight outcome for Pacquiao.  Floyd normally starts pretty slow (typical of most counterpunchers) as he attempts to study the angles most frequently employed by his opponent.  This is the stage of the fight where Pacquiao must do something dramatic in order to pull out the victory.  He either needs to get Floyd out of there before Floyd can figure him out, or put a couple of knockdowns in the bank to pile up points for the decision.  It seems that Floyd normally takes about 2-3 rounds to figure out most opponents, after which those opponents can no longer find him (because Floyd has adapted to their angles).  Based on the Zab Judah fight, I think that it takes Floyd an additional 1-2 rounds to adapt to lefties.  Being that Pacquiao is unconventional even by southpaw standards, I’ll give him still another round before Floyd figures him out.  All together, I’d say Pacquiao has 4 rounds, MAYBE 5, to get Floyd out of there or score some knockdowns.  After 5 rounds, I get the sense that Floyd will figure Manny out, just as he has with all his previous opponents.

Bottom line:  If it ends early or there are early knockdowns, Pacquiao is the victor.  No knockdowns and it goes to a decision, I like Floyd.

How to play it:

Mind pick: Take Floyd by decision or make this a straddle play with Floyd by decision and Pacquiao by KO in 1-4

Heart pick: Pacquiao by decision

As always, the statements above are subject to the following disclaimer:

I just want to remind everyone that when I predict who is going to win a bout, I am not trying to win anyone over to my opinion or make friends.  I am also not trying pass judgment against a fighter or offend anyone who may be a hardcore fan of that fighter.  I am simply trying to give you an edge over the other players in the gambling field and perhaps even help you win some nice pocket change over the long-term.  For this reason, I am not afraid to take underdogs or frankly express contrarian views.  Please see the site legal disclaimer for further details.

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