This Saturday marks the most anticipated fight in the history of televised boxing. This Saturday, we’ll see the undefeated and 47-0 Floyd Mayweather Jr. take on arguably the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time in Manny Pacquiao. This Saturday, we’ll have an answer to the question we’ve been asking for five weeks: Who is the greatest boxer of the past decade?
And those are just the boxing headlines. Consider the fact that the fight could generate over $400 million in revenue and just crossed the $14 million mark in sponsorships. Pretty remarkable when you consider that the previous “fight of all fights” in 2007 between Oscar De La Hoya and Mayweather only generated $130 million in revenue by comparison.
Leading up to this match, casual boxing fans like myself have started to pay closer attention to the sport. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao have hit the media circuit to promote the fight and to shed light on their own personal backgrounds and motivations for boxing. As the anticipation for the fight builds up, here are my thoughts on what we have to look forward to.
Oddsmakers have Mayweather as a significant favorite going into the fight, and I think that’s for good reason. After all, Mayweather has the “home-field advantage” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas — so much so, in fact, that Pacquiao isn’t even staying at the hotel before the fight (you have to wonder, too, if the fight goes to a decision, how much home-field advantage might influence the judges.)
Moreover, Mayweather has never lost a fight, whereas Pacquiao has struggled with his confidence inside the ring in the past few years. For instance, he dropped two fights in 2012, and although the loss to Timothy Bradley was highly controversial and later avenged, the knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez must still be fresh in his mind. Even more, with the exception of the rematch with Bradley in April 2014, Pacquiao’s last few fights have not been against opponents anywhere close to Mayweather’s caliber.
However, despite all of this, I’m picking Pacquiao. Here’s why.
Firstly, Mayweather has had a long history of struggling with left-handed fighters, and we all know that Pacquiao is one of the best left-handed boxers ever.
As Shane Mosely — who has fought both Mayweather and Pacquiao in the last five years — told ESPN, “Floyd has a problem with southpaws before. Mayweather likes to lean over to his right side, and Pacquiao likes to throw the left hand down the pipe, and maybe that happens. He has a great straight left hand.”
Anyone who has watched Mayweather knows that he is an all-time great counterpuncher with exceptionally quick hand and foot speed. However, Mayweather’s shiftiness in the ring and his leans away from Pacquiao punches could expose him to a left-handed Pacquiao cross.
I think Pacquiao has the ability to knock Mayweather down early in the fight and make things interesting.
Mayweather has always shown a tremendous ability to evade hits and rarely is even scratched during matches. Pacquiao applying pressure with left-handed crosses could put Mayweather in unfamiliar territory, which would immediately give Pacquiao the advantage.
Secondly, Pacquiao fights with an aggressive control that few other boxers have. In my opinion, beating Floyd Mayweather is about balancing aggression and the ability to simply hang with him during the fight.
Some fighters in the past have come out swinging for the KO immediately, which is not a very effective strategy against Mayweather (see the Miguel Cotto vs. Mayweather fight). Mayweather is in incredibly good shape and is very skilled at anticipating punches, which is why this type of strategy just wears out the aggressive boxer and results in Mayweather winning by decision.
On the other hand, some fighters attempt to counterpunch with Mayweather, which I think is equally as unwise (see the Jose Luis Castillo vs. Mayweather fight or the Juan Manuel Marquez fight against Mayweather). While some might argue that Castillo should have won his fight against Mayweather, Mayweather has only improved his counterpunching and showed his dominance at the style more recently against Marquez.
Rather, I think Pacquiao and world-renowned trainer Freddie Roach will come up with a game plan that plays to Pacquiao’s strengths. Pacquiao has great footwork inside the ring and is a very fit boxer. Also, he punches much harder than Mayweather. I look for Pacquiao to attempt to set the tone early but also to be wise about when he tries to be aggressive.
Pacquiao has already had experience paying the price of leaving himself exposed to crosses (see the 2012 Marquez vs. Pacquiao KO), and I think that Pacquiao will use that experience to avoid repeating the same mistakes against Floyd and remain “on his toes.” While I think the fight lasting 12 rounds gives a huge advantage to Mayweather, Pacquiao’s best play is to wear Mayweather down and go for the KO in rounds 10-12.
Lastly, I think Oscar De La Hoya captured my feelings well when he told ESPN, “My head goes with Mayweather, my heart is with Pacquiao.” Pacquiao gave up a lot to make this fight happen, as he is making significantly less money than Mayweather and agreed to Mayweather’s preferred location.
I don’t think that Pacquiao would have agreed to the fight if he were not extremely motivated to give everything he had, and I think this fight means more to Pacquiao than it does to Mayweather, especially given his recent struggles in the ring. For Pacquiao, this is a chance to cement his legacy as the greatest of the era, despite having five losses in his career.
I think that with Mayweather’s undefeated record, people have forgotten that the greatest boxers of all time had multiple losses over the courses of their careers. Mayweather’s spotless record certainly does not mean he is the greatest boxer ever, in my opinion, but rather, it reflects the shift how opponents are selected and the frequency of fights — but that’s a conversation for another time.
In short, I’ve always enjoyed rooting for the underdogs in sports, and Pacquiao certainly seems like much more of an underdog now than he would have if this fight had happened five years ago. Pacquiao seems incredibly motivated for the fight, and he even recorded his own song to play as his walk-out music. While some may say that I merely want Pacquiao to win, rather than actually believe he could win, I think his boxing style poses unfamiliar challenges to Mayweather that could result in Mayweather’s first loss.
Despite his thorough knowledge of statistical analytics, Shawn Tuteja knows the best way to pick a boxing match is based on which way a fighter leans. Contact Shawn at sstuteja ‘at’ stanford.edu.