First things first
Crime rate in Philippines will be 0 per cent tonight. All focus will be on the most popular Filipino ever, Manny Pacquiao, as the icon takes on Floyd Mayweather, Jr in a welterweight unification fight.
Come 4am tomorrow at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, the most lucrative punching in history rolls off.
Let’s digest some of the key points that could determine the bout.
Kenny Bayless, arguably the finest boxing referee today, has been the third man in the ring seven times in Pacman fights and five times for Mayweather. But Bayless is not that referee you want in the ring when you are chasing points or a knockout. He is known to let fighters clinch for as much as their sinew muscles will hold.
Remember Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield II? Mitch Halpern was the third man in the ring and his reluctance to break clinching probably forced Tyson to chomp off a chunk of Holyfield’s earlobe in frustration. At the MGM Grand tomorrow, Pacquiao will maintain his free-flowing, open fight; Mayweather does not mind being in the centre of the ring, or on the ropes, clinching. For a fighter who is aware that going all the way would favour him on the judges’ scorecard, Mayweather would easily employ relentless clinch all the way to the final bell.
That is why Freddie Roach, Pacman’s trainer, prayed for a ref who would ensure a fair fight. He got Bayless when he probably preferred Tony Weeks or Robert Byrd.
Thank God CJ Ross has retired. The controversial judge has drawn the ire of many on the ringside with her scorecards one too many a time that she opted to quit after the last blunder. The veteran boxing judge ignited a firestorm with her 114-114 scorecard in the Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez super welterweight fight in 2013. Even a walking cane would have scored that bout to Mayweather. Ross was one of the judges who scored the June 9, 2012, bout between Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley for Bradley.
Ross is gone, now we have Burt Clement, Dave Moretti and Glenn Feldman. However, Clement cost Pacman a split-decision win over Juan Manuel Marquez in the first of their four fights. Pacquiao knocked down Marquez three times in the first round, and should have earned a 10-6 score. Ross gave it 10-7. That extra point resulted in his 113-113 scorecard that forced a draw.
All eyes will be on the judges.
Pacman, 36, stands at 5’6” with a reach of 76. He is a vicious southpaw who rides on boxer-brawler (swarmer) to punch his way in and out of opponents. On the other hand, Pretty Boy, 38, stands at 5’8” with a reach of 72. But the man with 47-0 record is orthodox stance.
To have a southpaw stance means to stand with your right foot in the front and left foot in the back. This means having your strongest hand in the back, giving it more room and distance to throw a harder punch (ask Ricky Hatton) whereas the front hand is for throwing fast jabs to setup your bigger punches.
Since he first ducked the Pacman bout five years ago, the consensus was that Pretty Boy has flaws with southpaw opponents. He has fought and won against eight southpaws, including Zab Judah, who hang him to dry in the first two rounds before he adapted to the stance.
Mayweather pins his chin against his left shoulder and often stands with his front turned to his right. Against a fellow orthodox, this is perfect as the power punches come from his right toward his left shoulder, which guards his chin. The problem is a southpaw. Despite mastering the art of rolling to his right and then countering, age could wear him down.
Sure, Mayweather, 38, can adapt by adjusting his stance, but it is hard to reverse habits that have been ingrained into your style for your entire boxing career, especially when you have been dragged into a brawl by a younger fighter.
*Mayweather edges it
For southpaw fighters facing orthodox opponents, the cross is the most important punch of the fight. While Pacquiao’s straight left is a lot more powerful, Mayweather’s is more accurate, quicker and versatile in its release. Besides, Mayweather’s jab is difficult to time; he releases them in staccato to find their targets unawares. This means Pacman must use feints to time where Mayweather’s head will be, a move that he has demonstrated with great effect in the past.
Boxing feints are maneuvres to distract or mislead your opponent by making them think that a certain action will take place when another action or no action occurs. Feints are crucial when facing a defensive specialists such as Mayweather. Half-way punch, forward step, distraction jab, bending knews and stepping sideways are all vital feints to employ to open up a defensive fighter.
Pacman is particularly deadly with the bended knees (that allows him unleash powerful punches) and the forward step where he slightly jerks his upper body forward at the same time he steps to compel your opponent to step back to avoid an incoming punch, so then you can step again into range to fire off the cross.
Mayweather’s ‘pull counter’ – pulling back his head from a jab and quickly throw the straight right, has been his hallmark in the ring. It illicits cheers from the fans and he does this best in the closing stages of fights or when being cornered. However, it is not easy to pull off this stunt against a southpaw.
Pacquiao is relentless in the ring. He is content with throwing 10 punches to land just two. Arturo Gatti was one such fighter, but Mayweather gave Gatti (RIP) a beating that was as scientific as it was punishing. Mayweather is known for his passive stick and move style.
Pacman has fought Timothy Bradley twice, a man who fights like Mayweather in every style, or at least tries to. Bradley lost both times – forget the CJ Ross mess that gave the American victory – which gives Pacman the edge.
*Pacman edges it
To win, Mayweather simply needs to bide his time, defend with the sleekness he is renowned for and jab effectively. For Manny, he has to draw Mayweather into a battle, a toe-to-toe, a thing that suits his battle-hardened style.
Pacman will definitely take the first two rounds, forcing Mayweather to come out more in the third. To bait him, Pacman has to relax in this round and let his opponent use more energy. An even round will make Mayweather hungry for action in the fourth round and that is when he will begin to loosen up his chin and defences.
If Pacman takes round four, it will become easier to punish Mayweather in the subsequent rounds as he will be the one chasing – he is not used to doing so unless to finish off opponents he has already battered.
VERDICT: Pacman wins or draw