Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mayweather-Pacquiao Preview: Five Outcomes

The most significant boxing event of this generation unfolds on Saturday as undefeated pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) takes on rival and offensive dynamo Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs). For over five years, boxing fans have waited for this matchup; however, the event transcends the sport's traditional audience. This fight will not be contested for mere supremacy in the welterweight division or for top placement on mythical pound-for-pound lists. No, Mayweather-Pacquiao will function as an advertisement for boxing itself, reminding or, in many cases, introducing viewers to what the sport can offer.

For the uninitiated, Mayweather has been boxing's premier defensive fighter. Using athleticism, intelligence and accuracy, he outthinks opponents and exploits their weaknesses as fights progress. Pacquiao isn't the knockout machine that he once was but he still has the rare combination of speed and power that can penetrate even the tightest of defenses. 

Over the last few years, both fighters have shown signs of slippage. Pacquiao's knockout power seems to have deserted him; he hasn't stopped an opponent since 2009. In addition, he was brutally knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. He has recovered from that defeat with three victories but his killer instinct in the ring isn't what it used to be. Mayweather's last two fights against Marcos Maidana were difficult bouts. He got hit cleanly and often. His ability to evade punches from close distance (especially off the ropes) has deteriorated and he has made some surprising strategic errors.

The decline of both boxers (and make no mistake, they are still among the sport's absolute best, just a little bit removed from their respective peaks) has made me reevaluate this fight. When the matchup was first discussed in 2009, I was confident that Mayweather would be victorious, believing that his intelligence and counterpunching would be too much for Pacquiao. I would have predicted Mayweather winning a comfortable decision. However, as both fighters enter the ring in Las Vegas on Saturday, I'm less certain as to the outcome of the match. If Mayweather can't evade shots like he used to then he could be a sitting duck for Pacquiao; if Pacquiao could be knocked out by Marquez, then Mayweather, with his expert timing and punch placement, could certainly have a chance to stop him.

In short, I believe that all options are on the table. It wouldn't surprise me if either fighter wins by a decision or a knockout. Additionally, I wouldn't rule out a draw. Some judges are more impressed by aggression; others like ring generalship, defense and clean punching. There could be disagreement among the judges as to which fighter prevails in close rounds, creating draw (all three judges have it even), majority draw (two see it even) and split draw (one has it even, one for Pacquiao, one for Mayweather) possibilities.

Instead of going over the keys to the fight, my preview will focus on five potential outcomes, with an emphasis on how each one could occur and what the fighters do or don't do in the ring for the given scenario to transpire. By setting up my preview in this manner, I believe that you will get a more complete picture of the strengths and weaknesses for each combatant. Finally, my prediction will be at the end of the article.

1. Mayweather by decision

This outcome represents the conventional wisdom for the fight. One of Mayweather's specialties is pulling away from his opponents in the second half of the fight. Often giving up early rounds, he studies his foes and gradually starts to exploit their weaknesses by the middle of the fight. As bouts progress and he finds more cracks in his opponents' defenses, he unloads more of his arsenal. Mayweather's patience and pinpoint accuracy usually wear down fighters in the latter rounds. In addition, superb conditioning allows for him to turn on the accelerators as other fighters start to fatigue, both physically and mentally. 

It's not hard to imagine Pacquiao winning the first few rounds just on punch volume alone. However, slowly but surely, Mayweather will find things that work – the lead right hand, the counter right, the left hook to the body or the right uppercut, to name a few possibilities. As he lands more and more hard shots, Pacquiao will become flummoxed and his punch volume will start to decrease. In addition, Mayweather's ability to control the action in the ring will reduce the frequency of exchanges, putting more of a premium on accuracy, rather than activity; he will continue to get sharper as Pacquiao tires. If Mayweather is successful with this approach, he will dominate the final rounds to secure a victory.

2. Pacquiao by decision

In this scenario, Pacquiao builds up an early lead and holds on to win it on the cards. Often, Mayweather won't really open up offensively until the third or fourth round. It's certainly possible that Pacquiao could sweep the first third of the fight and then win three of the next eight rounds. That's all he needs for a win. 

Now, this might be easier said than done but Pacquiao has a few distinct advantages over other Mayweather opponents. At his best, Pacquiao featured a very high punch output. If Pacquiao can keep his punch volume up against Mayweather – let’s say 55-60 punches a round – he will provide enough moments to win rounds. Remember, many judges favor aggression, whether it is effective or not. Pacquiao certainly has the offensive profile to steal close rounds based on activity.

The challenge for Pacquiao will be to keep his punch volume at this threshold. Mayweather doesn't make it easy to get off many shots in a round. He uses his legs constantly to reset the action. He's an expert at tying up and, depending on the fight, he can be selective about remaining in the pocket. Pacquiao is going to have to cut off the ring to make Mayweather stay in exchanges. Lateral movement will be a necessity and blocking escape routes, especially to his right side, will be critical for his success. If Pacquiao can do these things and keep throwing punches, then he can pick up enough points to get a decision on the cards. 

3. Pacquiao by knockout

Although Mayweather's chin has been absolutely fantastic throughout his career, it's impossible to ignore how many hard shots he got hit with during his last two fights against Maidana. Mayweather seemed to get crushed whenever he stayed along the ropes and he also showed specific vulnerability from punches at short range. In the past, he would use his head movement, arms and elbows to avoid or deflect many of these blows; now, he seems half a step slower and gets hit more often. 

Pacquiao has a huge left hand. Whether he throws it after a jab feint, as a lead punch or following a jab or double-jab, he may not need many opportunities to land cleanly. If Mayweather can get rocked by Maidana, who lacks Pacquiao’s blazing hand speed, he can certainly get hurt by Manny. Pacquiao's footwork creates additional avenues for landing his best punch. Using in-and-out and lateral movement, he creates unique angles to throw shots. Mayweather has never fought a boxer with similar movement as Pacquiao's and it will take him a few rounds to figure out where and when Pacquiao will let his hands go. 

Mayweather has been hit with big punches in a number of fights, most recently against Shane Mosley and Maidana. The key to hurting Mayweather is the follow-up shot. I have no doubt that Pacquiao can land one big punch against Mayweather but that might not be enough to send him down. He's going to have to land additional power shots to achieve this goal. If Pacquiao hurts Mayweather badly, he needs to go for the kill. However, he can't run in recklessly, like he did against Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth fight. Should Pacquiao hurt Mayweather, he must follow up responsibly, not giving up his distance or letting his technique get sloppy. If he can put three or four hard punches together after a big blow, that very well could be enough to end the fight. Despite his recent inability to score knockouts, I believe that Pacquiao still has enough offensive skill and firepower to stop any welterweight, even the great Floyd Mayweather.

4. Mayweather by knockout

On the surface, this eventuality seems unlikely. In his last 12 fights, Mayweather has had only two knockouts. In addition, he emphasizes punch placement and accuracy more than he does power. This means that he will often throw shorter, stinging punches instead of knockout-type blows. To use a baseball analogy, he's a singles and doubles hitter. Furthermore, Pacquiao has demonstrated a good chin throughout his career. Although Pacquiao's knockout loss to Marquez is still fresh in the minds of boxing fans, he has been hit by some big punchers throughout his career (such as Erik Morales, Marquez in fights I-III, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito) and survived just fine. 

But Manny makes mistakes. He jumps in and loses control of distance. His footwork can get sloppy exiting the pocket. He will throw lazy jabs that can be easily countered. He also can ignore proper defensive positioning during exchanges. When he throws a jab-left hand combo, he leaves the right side of his body open for the left hook. 

If Mayweather sees the right opportunity, especially later in the fight as Pacquiao starts to fatigue, a knockout is certainly possible. He has enough power to do damage. He can time Pacquiao's rhythm with a counter right, overhand right or a left hook. What about a liver shot? If Pacquiao gets too close, his body could be wide open for a Mayweather left hook. And as boxing fans have found out repeatedly over the years, the punch to the liver doesn't necessarily need to be hard; it just has to be in the right spot. The combination of Pacquiao's mistakes and Mayweather's accuracy provides a realistic opportunity for this outcome unfolding.

5. A draw

In this scenario, the fight becomes a tale of two halves, with Pacquiao jumping out to the early lead and Mayweather winning most of the later rounds to force a tie on the scorecards. I'll tell you right now that if the fight goes the distance, I'd favor Pacquiao to win three of the first four rounds and Mayweather to take three of the final four. It's the middle four rounds that most likely will determine where this fight is won on the cards. 

How long will it take Mayweather to start up his offense? When will Pacquiao's activity level drop? How fatigued will Pacquiao get in the fight? In close rounds, will the judges favor Mayweather's accuracy or Pacquiao's aggression and punch volume? Looking at all of these variables, it's certainly conceivable that a draw could take place on Saturday. 


I'll go with Mayweather by a competitive decision, something like eight rounds to four or even seven rounds to five. However, as you can gather from this article, no outcome will surprise me. Both fighters have declined enough from their respective peaks that it's now particularly challenging to predict how Saturday will play out. From my perspective, this uncertainly makes the fight far more intriguing than it would have been had it happened in 2010. Hopefully, we get a memorable fight and a great night for boxing. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook

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