With the biggest bout that boxing has possibly ever seen finally confirmed for May, Pete Wolstencroft looks ahead….
Floyd Mayweather Junior and Manny Pacquiao have finally signed for the fight that boxing fans all over the world have been looking forward to.
Both boxers are legends. Both are multi-weight champions. Both are rich beyond the dreams of avarice, but only one of them will carry an unbeaten record into the ring, when they do clash. That man is Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Mayweather is the naturally bigger man at five feet eight inches tall and with a 72 inch reach. Pacquiao is couple of inches shorter and has a noticeably shorter reach at just 67 inches. Size is unlikely to have much bearing upon the outcome. It’s not the dog in the fight: it’s the fight in the dog!
Mayweather is slightly the older man and will have seen his 38th birthday come and go by the time the first bell rings. Again, age is not a factor. But what is a factor, is the punishment both men have taken during their long and illustrious careers.
A little over two years ago, Pacquiao was brutally knocked out by perennial rival, Juan Manuel Márquez: himself a multi-weight champion and legend. Pacquiao looked to be winning this fight handily. Márquez appeared to have suffered a broken nose and was looking pretty shopworn, when he landed with a devastating overhand right that left the Filipino out for the count. Anybody who saw Pacquiao crash face first into the canvas knew that the referee’s count was going to be a formality. When they go down face first, they have a very strong tendency to stay down.
In the fight preceding the loss to Márquez, Pacquiao lost a 12 round, split decision to Timothy Bradley, which he has since avenged. Pacquiao has a further three losses on his record. The first of these came when he was fighting at bantamweight, when unheralded Rustico Torrecampo hit him with a body punch from which he could not recover. (This led a number of boxers to suspect that Pacquiao was more than usually vulnerable to body shots. However, those who have seen his impressive abs workout routine on Youtube know that this perceived weakness was immediately addressed and corrected.)
Pacquiao has a total of five losses on his record, whereas Mayweather has still to be beaten as a professional. The man they call “Money” has an incredible degree of self-belief and it is this quality that may be crucial to the outcome. His confidence has its roots in two things. He was born into a boxing family and has known no other life. His uncle was Roger Mayweather, a former three weight world champion, who enjoyed a phenomenally successful career for eighteen years. His father and sometime trainer Floyd Mayweather Senior may be known these days for his outlandish proclamations and erratic behaviour, but in his day he was a well respected boxer. He never made it to world champion, but when they needed somebody to subject the unbeaten and up and coming Sugar Ray Leonard to a searching examination, it was Mayweather Senior who was chosen to give the Olympian his baptism of fire. The second factor in his professional longevity is his defensive ability.
Aided by phenomenal reflexes, Mayweather avoids most of the heavy punches that are thrown at him. It is defensive skill that determines the length of a boxer’s career and very often the state of his health at the end of it. The man from Grand Rapids, Michigan is virtually unmarked after the best part of two decades as a pro. Even when he is trapped in a corner, he ducks and rolls, always protecting his chin with his characteristically hunched shoulders. And on the odd occasion when he has had to take a solid shot, his chin appears to be made of granite.
He carries a concussive punch in both hands and whilst most of his recent victories have gone to the judges’ scorecards, he is still a dangerous puncher. And if he sometimes seems cynical in his interpretation of the rules, as in his one-punch knockout of Victor Ortiz, it is only fair to point out that he had just been the victim of a vicious head butt. Mayweather broke no rules that night, whereas Ortiz broke rule one: protect yourself at all times.
I yield to no-one in my admiration for Pacquiao: a man who looks like he has never been given anything in his whole life. But his reach disadvantage, combined with the cumulative effect of numerous ring wars conspire against him. When the likeable Filipino goes to the well this time, he may well find it dry.
I expect Mayweather to win quite handily and to preserve that all important zero in his losses column.