I rarely make fight predictions. I mean, I can analyze strengths and weaknesses, look at common opponents, and so on. I can make reasonable predictions based on these factors. But for a fight of this magnitude, where the two fighters weaknesses play perfectly into the other’s strengths… it’s a tossup for me. I just can’t decide with certainty. I think those who are deciding with certainty are badly underestimating what the other man brings to the fight.
With that said, I do have a few thoughts regarding how the fight might go. I may very well be way off base. One man may storm out and completely dominate the other. It’s possible. I’ve been wrong on predictions before. I will be again.
I can go through the various fights both Floyd and Manny have had against mutual opponents. I can watch fights against those with comparable styles. Those observations can definitely be revealing.
Sometimes though, one can find parallels in completely unrelated fights from the past. And the imminent Mayweather versus Pacquiao matchup reminds me quite a bit of Hopkins versus Calzaghe from 2008.
The reigning super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe moved up one division to take on Ring Magazine light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins. The basic setup – an aging, but still younger, awkward southpaw with quick hands and feet, herky-jerky style and high output attack versus a somewhat older, slightly larger, less explosive, counterpuncher/nullifier with excellent defense, rough (and sometimes dirty) inside game, and a mean streak. Volume versus accuracy. Southpaw versus orthodox. Quick in-and-out game versus analytical and cautious boxing.
Of course, there are some differences. Pacquiao is a bit more explosive than Calzaghe. Mayweather is more athletic than Hopkins. But Calzaghe’s game was to outwork and overwhelm his opponent with fast barrages thrown from odd angles. Hopkins liked to nullify an opponent, reducing their offense, and countering with sharp right hands. He liked to frustrate an opponent and sap their will, where he could then completely take over in the later rounds. So far, this fits Pacquiao and Mayweather.
Normally, Mayweather takes his time. He starts fights slowly, especially since he moved up to welterweight. Most good welterweights have been able to win 2 or 3 of the early rounds as Floyd warms up, scouts his opponent, and concentrates on evasion while gradually wearing his man out. He then begins to raise his output as his opponent slows down. Floyd rarely punches in combination, but he’s excellent at blocking and dodging incoming fire, and returning sharp right hands and occasional left hooks and uppercuts. Eventually, the opponent loses interest in all-out assaults, as the counters sting, and sap energy. Floyd begins to assert more control and often is the one moving forward in the later rounds. With a couple of exceptions, Hopkins of the light-heavyweight vintage fights much the same way, albeit somewhat slower, (befitting his age and size).
However, Hopkins-Calzaghe worked a bit differently. Perhaps hoping to nullify Calzaghe’s speed early, the Executioner started quicker, and taking advantage of a sloppy attack by the Welshman, landed a counter in the first that dropped Joe on his seat. The first few rounds were competitive, but generally went Hopkins’ way, as the older man was able to frustrate and limit Calzaghe’s normally-high volume attack. However, as the fight wore on, Calzaghe was able to slip combinations through Bernard’s guard, and Hopkins noticeably wore down. It was actually Calzaghe’s adjustments and conditioning that turned the fight, and toward the end, Hopkins began complaining more about phantom low blows than actually fighting. My score of 114-113 reflected what the judges saw, as Calzaghe arguably won 7 of the 12 rounds (mostly in the second half), but a point deducted for the 1st round knockdown made it a 1 point fight.
It is fair to note that plenty of people (though still a minority) viewed Hopkins as the winner. It was a fairly difficult-to-score fight, and there were several swing rounds that depend more on what one likes in a fight.
I may be way off base, but I could see Mayweather-Pacquiao going the same way. Floyd tends to fight more aggressively against southpaws, eschewing the shoulder roll, and has indicated that he plans to get Manny’s respect early. Instead of his usual feeling-out phase, he may come out throwing more than normal, trying to force the smaller Pacquiao backward. Of course, like Calzaghe against Hopkins, Pacquiao is a far better boxer than his opponent believes, and that underestimation may cost Floyd. There will be a few awkward, hard to score rounds in the first half. Floyd will be alternating between walking forward behind a high guard, and moving laterally while attempting to counter. Manny will jump in and out, attempt to stay disciplined, use angles, and throw combinations, but no more than 3 or 4 punches at a time. Floyd will initiate some clinches. As the fight wears on, I can see Pacquiao getting more comfortable, and increasing the pace, something Floyd never sees in the second half of fights (12th round rushes nonwithstanding). Floyd will struggle to adjust to a fighter who can keep up with his speed and endurance, and continue to move and throw. Floyd’s 38-year-old legs aren’t what they used to be, and Floyd will lose mobility as the fight continues. He will land his share of right hands, and may even rock Pacquiao a time or two, but he simply won’t be able to encourage the unpredictable assault. Floyd will sense that the fight is falling out of reach, and may push harder in the 11th and 12th rounds, possibly edging one or both.
It’s hard to say what the judges will prefer. One of the upcoming judges, Burt Clements, inexplicably scored the first Mayweather versus Maidana fight 117-111, only giving Maidana 3 rounds in a fight many observers saw as a draw. It’s possible Pacquiao may get the same treatment.
Regardless of the final scores, my scenario sees Pacquiao winning enough late rounds, and staying competitive early in order to win 6 or 7 rounds, making the fight rightfully a draw or narrow decision for Manny, though Mayweather followers will likely dispute the result.
So, my official prediction is a bit of a cop out. I can see a draw, or a narrow decision either way, in a fight that Pacquiao probably (but not definitively) deserves to win. I see Pacquiao’s speed and output, as well as angles and footwork bothering Floyd. Mayweather has mostly fought plodders in recent years, while Manny has won two straight wide decisions over very quick men. Floyd has a boxing mind second to – well, maybe Bernard Hopkins, but otherwise, no one. Floyd can and has disrupted speed through timing and technique. He can certainly do that here. But my very tentative prediction says that Manny will have a combination of speed, angles, output, and power that Floyd has never seen. I keep going back to the Maidana fights, especially the first, where the slow, clumsy caveman managed to frequently penetrate Floyd’s guard. I know Maidana brought pressure and physical strength that Pacquiao won’t, but otherwise, he does nothing as well as the PacMan.
My prediction so far as been all about what Manny will do well against Floyd. I would be remiss if I fail to mention that Floyd provides a combination of speed, elusiveness, and near-perfect technique that Manny has never seen before. Floyd is more disciplined than Bradley, stronger and more powerful than Algieri, and vastly quicker than Rios. He already beat Manny’s most recent conqueror, Juan Manuel Marquez. To say that I lean toward Pacquiao doesn’t mean I think Mayweather has no chance. Indeed, I could also see Mayweather essentially replaying the outcome of his last few fights, giving away the first few rounds, while figuring Pacquiao out and gradually taking over. It’s possible. Most prognosticators are predicting pretty much that exact scenario. Many have predicted a Mayweather KO win. I don’t dispute the possibility.
Still, too many lingering doubts have crept into my mind regarding Mayweather’s supposed invincibility. Hell, as far as I’m concerned, he already has a clear loss and a likely draw on his record (first Castillo and first Maidana fights). I don’t consider Floyd to be truly undefeated, or even the best of this generation (Hopkins has both Floyd and Manny beat there). As great as he has been, I just see Manny being good enough to give Floyd a legit 50-50 fight. And possibly enough to deserve a close win.
So, after all this rambling, my official prediction is … well, I still don’t know for certain.
But… I lean toward a split decision favoring Floyd Mayweather, with Manny Pacquiao taking the win on the majority of pundit and fan scorecards. I don’t see a knockdown as being very likely, but I wouldn’t be shocked if either man hit the canvas at some point.
The “winner” will receive quite a bit of undeserved scorn and mockery, while the “loser” will still have another loss on his record, no matter how fair it may be. And the hardcore fans of both will continue to be insufferable.