Amongst boxing insiders, fighters and fans, the majority of people are counting Manny Pacquiao out of his fight against Floyd Mayweather this weekend. Most people think that Mayweather is too intelligent, too fast, and too slick for Pacquiao, who some believe is a one trick pony.
On my break down of the fight yesterday, one of our commenters wrote:
I know everyone likes Pacquiao and wants him to win, but really, he doesn't have a chance. Size, this is Mayweather's weight. Pacquiao is still a bloated lightweight and constantly suffers from leg cramps. Mayweather is also taller, heavier, has a longer reach, controls the distance masterfully with a nasty jab, and has probably the best straight right in boxing - which, of course, is a southpaw's worst enemy. And Pacquiao is terribly predictable. Watch in slow mo Marquez setting Pacquiao up for that sledgehammer right.
This sentiment was echoed by boxer Paulie Malignaggi, who like many other fighters who feel Pacquiao is too limited to get the win. He told iFLTV recently:
Ultimately I think Mayweather’s got too much in the tank, too much variation, too much of an arsenal and Manny’s just not creative enough. He’s got a great arsenal for what he does but he’s not creative enough to beat Floyd Mayweather.
This view, at least to me, is a part of a longstanding myth that Pacquiao is one dimensional and cannot make adjustments throughout a a fight. The reality however, is that the total opposite is true. Manny Pacquiao used to be a one dimensional fighter who relied on an immensely powerful left hand and phenomenal foot speed. That ceased being true after Pacquiao lost to Erik Morales back in 2005. After the decision loss, trainer Freddie Roach completely revamped Pacquiao's training, forcing him to work relentlessly on developing a powerful right hand. Roach and Pacquiao spent countless hours in the gym on setting opponents up for a vicious right, perfecting the balance, timing and technique to the point where his right became as deadly as his left. By the time Pacquiao rematched Morales in 2006, he was a totally different fighter with a far more nuanced game. And it showed as Pacquaio took Morales out of the fight. As you can see from the video below, while Pacquiao's defense was still very leaky, he hurt Morales numerous times with his right hand - a weapon Morales clearly had not prepared for:
Fast forward 9 years and Pacquiao's skill set has developed beyond recognition. The video below (please excuse the quality) is of Pacquiao's blow out of slick boxer Chris Algieri late last year. Pacquiao's footwork, timing and punch placement was nothing short of sublime as he beat Algieri to the punch over and over again, landed powerful lefts and rights almost at will, and used a pretty sophisticated defense to parry punches and pivot out of the way:
There is no doubt that Pacquiao is not as slick as Floyd Mayweather. His reflexes are good, but Floyd's are excellent so Mayweather will almost certainly be able to counter off Pacquiao's attacks. But to think that Pacquiao won't be able to time Mayweather, hit him cleanly, or box with him competitively is just ridiculous. Take a look at Pacquaio's bout with Joshua Clottey - a teak tough boxer who attempted to walk Pacquiao down and counter him (a tactic Mayweather loves to use against southpaws and had intimated he will use against Pacquiao):
As you can see, Pacquiao's work rate, foot work and speed were too much for Clottey who could not get his counters off in time and spent much of the fight with his hands up not throwing punches.
The truth is that Pacquiao has not been outboxed since losing to Morales in 2005. He has lost rounds, but has never, ever been outclassed or outthought for more than a few minutes at a time. You can see his progression most clearly from his four incredibly close fights with Juan Manuel Marquez. In their first bout, Pacquiao knocked Marquez down four times in the first round, then went on to lose virtually every round after that. In each subsequent fight, Pacquiao's boxing got better and better and the matches - from a technical point of view - got closer and closer. Pacquiao was of course knocked out in their 4th bout, but he was outboxing Marquez up until the time of the stoppage, and was on the verge of finishing him. It is also worth remembering that it took Marquez, a master boxer, 42 rounds to figure out how to land that punch, proving that Pacquiao is far from a one dimensional fighter.
I am picking Pacquiao to score the upset on Saturday because of these factors. I see a very close fight with both men having their moments and I would not be surprised in the least if Mayweather wins a decision given his extraordinary boxing ability. But I feel Pacquiao is being counted out of a fight he genuinely has every chance of winning due to a reputation he very clearly does not deserve.