The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to the Fight of the Century
Boxing is far from dead. Say what you want about Ronda Rousey and the meteoric rise of the MMA. Nothing the MMA has done to date compares to the buzz and mega-dollars generated from a major boxing match.
Every generation has its super fights. In the 20th Century we had Louis-Schmeling II, Ali-Frazier I, and possibly Leonard-Hagler. Fifteen years into the 21st Century a new super-fight has finally materialized. Mayweather-Pacquaio has been talked about, planned, avoided, dismantled, discussed and then suddenly agreed to about eight weeks ago. Long in the making, but hastily thrown together, this bout will prove to be the richest in the history of the sport, and the stakes have never been higher for these two great fighters. Floyd Mayweather is 47-0. He is a brilliant ring tactician. Fast, elusive, and an astute ring general, he is a once-in-a-generation fighter. His opponent, Manny Pacquaio, is a title-holder in eight weight classes, a fighter of the decade, and a whirlwind force of nature. He’s a southpaw that attacks ferociously from all angles with a blur of punches. He hits like a howitzer and has the speed in his hands and feet to move in and out of the pocket leaving devastating results.
The two pugilists have been circling one another for the past five years. Many thought they would never fight until the deal was finally consummated in late February. Some say Mayweather has been avoiding his Filipino rival because he did not want to risk a potential loss on his perfect record. Maybe so, but he did sign on and put his unbeaten streak is on the line. And, for a cool $99, you, too, can watch it in HD. Despite the exorbitant price, between 2.5 and 3 million households are expected to purchase the bout on cable.
My grandfather was a professional boxer so I grew up with an appreciation of this brutal sport. There is something beautiful and pure about boxing that many Guy’s Guys appreciate. It’s as real as it gets. There are just two combatants in the ring. No shoulder pads, facemasks, or numbered jerseys. And the ring is way smaller than it looks on television. The equipment consists of two fists wrapped in gauze and squeezed inside 8 oz. leather gloves. There is a referee and three ringside judges to keep score and determine the outcome of the fight if it goes the distance. That’s it, amigos. Boxing is about truth. So let’s take a closer look into Mayweather-Pacquaio, Guy’s Guy style.
Speed – There are two types of speed in boxing— hand speed and foot speed. Both men have blazing hand speed. Pac-Man, as Pacquiao is called, has the edge in foot speed. He is a southpaw who darts in and out from a variety of angles. He has been compared to an annoying fly that won’t stay away. Mayweather has incredibly quick hands and is a precise counterpuncher. Most folks think he can catch Pac-Man as he works his way inside. But Floyd has had trouble with lefties and has been vulnerable to the straight left and right hooks from southpaws he’s fought. It’s one of the reasons some say he delayed the taking this fight.
Can a whirling dervish moving forward in a serpentine fashion break a seemingly impenetrable defense and avoid crisp hard shots from a bigger man? Manny may be able to work his way into the pocket, but he could get popped along the way. Can he deflect those shots enough to score some of his own and soften up Floyd? Maybe. Edge: even.
Power – Although Mayweather is the larger man, he is not known for his power. That said, many pros say that Floyd’s power is underestimated. Pacquiao hits like a mule, but he’s smaller. Although they are both champions in multiple weight classes, neither fighter has scored a legitimate knockout during the past three years. Maybe it’s because Mayweather is 38 and Pac-Man is 36 now. Still, Manny has starched common opponents Miguel Cotto and Oscar De La Hoya. On the flip side, Floyd easily beat Juan Marquez while Pacquiao ran into his right hand and was knocked out cold a few years ago during their fourth fight. Some say that Marquez had 44 rounds, two losses and a disputed draw to sort out Manny’s tendencies. The question is: can Floyd figure Manny out in one night? It’s possible, but not a given, even for a mastermind at adjustments like Mayweather. Edge: Pacquiao
Ring Generalship – Both fighters usually set the pace and force their opponents to fight their fight. Can Mayweather bully the smaller Pacquiao around after making the necessary tweaks following what are expected to be a frenetic first few rounds? If Pac-Man tires and Mayweather starts picking him apart, it will be a long evening for the congressman. Pac-Man’s best chance is to set a fast tempo and win individual rounds versus going balls out for a knockout. Like Mike Tyson once said though, “even the best strategy goes out the window once you’ve been hit”. Edge: Mayweather
Character – Since this is the Guy’s Guy take, I wanted to include a deeper glimpse of the two main characters in the story. Floyd Mayweather is not a Guy’s Guy. He is a convicted women beater who once said about Pacquaio, “Once I stomp the midget, I’ll make the motherf—ker make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice.” How’s that for winning friends and influencing people? I’m somewhat surprised that the press has not made more of this tirade, but at least we have our villain. Floyd is also known for hitting off the break, sucker punching, and using his forearms and elbows when it suits him. He also has the deck stacked in his favor in the choice of venue, referee and judges. But, since he is considered the A-side of the bout’s marketing, he has earned those privileges.
Pacquaio, on the other hand, is a reformed sinner, and a born-again Christian, who wants to pray with Mayweather following their fight. He is likeable, a bad singer, and a congressman and icon in his native Philippines. This diametric opposition in personas makes for compelling television, kids. I think we know who gets the check mark here, but to be fair, both men have shown courage and fortitude in the ring. Between his sushi roll duty, Pacquiao assures us that, “God will deliver him to my hands”. Something to watch for which brings us to…
Prediction – Most boxing pundits are picking Mayweather by a 12 round decision. It’s hard to argue with a consistent result over the past decade of Mayweather fights. He’s bigger, he has a longer reach, he’s smart as hell, fast, and very hard to hit. He has made his opponents look foolish by deploying brilliant strategy and in-fight adjustments.
But, for some reason that only he knows, Mayweather has arguably avoided this long-overdue match up. Now that the fight is here, Pacquiao appears confident, focused, and driven. During the stare-down at yesterday’s press conference, he actually giggled as he looked into Floyd’s sneer. I like that. And I’ll always take the guy with fire in his belly that desperately wants to win over a guy who does not want to lose. No one is unbeatable, and with the brilliant Freddy Roach in his corner to keep him on track, I see a fearless Manny Pacquiao setting a fast pace, taking an early lead in rounds and withstanding an increasingly desperate Floyd Mayweather’s attempts to close the gap. I think Pacquiao will score an early knockdown and possibly even survive a late knockdown in what will be a brutal, close fight with a controversial 12-round decision going to the Pac-Man. This of course, sets up a rematch in November.
My Guy’s Guy of the Week is my grandfather, Thomas Oresti Neggia, who fought under the name, Tough Tommy. I was told that he was undefeated in the ring, until he met my grandmother who insisted that he retire from boxing if he wanted to win her hand. And he did.