It’s here. Mayweather vs Pacquiao is upon us, and there’s nothing more to say other than . . . well, actually there’s a lot to say. Read on to get my final pick, as well as my best plays for Kountermove’s weekend boxing action.
Mayweather-Pacquiao may not be the best or most important fight of all time, but it’s probably one of the toughest to figure out. There never should have been any doubt that Lennox Lewis would trounce Mike Tyson. Jack Johnson was always going to beat an aged Jim Jeffries. It’s very rare that we have a fight with this much cultural relevance that is also damnably difficult to predict. Mayweather-Pacquiao is, in more ways than one, the Fitzsimmons-Corbett of our era, and that fight was so long ago I expect a healthy portion of readers to have to Google it. Which just kind of drives home the point of how very rare fights of this caliber are.
The Fight has also been clouded by more jargon than any other, which only renders an already compelling stylistic matchup even more undecipherable. I mean, look at those odds . . . Put it like this: the only thing better than Manny Pacquiao as an underdog . . . is Floyd Mayweather at such a slight favorite. This is a pick’em fight, through and through, and anyone telling you otherwise is selling something (probably a spiffy TMT hat–or a Bible, in the case of Pacquiao’s fans). So let’s cut through some of the rhetoric and try to get a handle on this thing.
First, let’s talk about speed. More than anything else, “speed” seems to have defined the great careers of these two great fighters. I put speed in quotes, because in reality Mayweather and Pacquiao are so much more than simply fast. Rhythm and timing have truly been their most potent allies, but speed has been the buzzword, and speed is a central point of contention as we approach this fight. Some will tell you that Floyd Mayweather is slower than he used to be; others will tell you the same about Manny. The truth is that both sides are right–these are slower fighters than the ones who could’ve fought in 2009. That shouldn’t come as a surprise–as prizefighters go, both of these men are quite old. Mayweather’s nearly 40, and Pacquiao is a well-worn 36. So in a sense, with both men visibly diminished, we may be in for a fight every bit as competitive as it would have been five years ago.
Both men are also regularly underestimated. Mayweather, detractors will happily tell you, is a “runner,” not a fighter. While Pacquiao is a swarmer, not a boxer. Fans of either fighter would have you believe that the other is badly outmatched in one of these realms. Which inexplicably ignored the many performances in which Mayweather has been called upon to fight, and answered. Simply watch Mayweather’s fight with Emanuel Augustus, or his epic battle with DeMarcus Corley, and you’ll see what his opponents don’t want you to: this man is tough, and capable of not only surviving, but winning a brawl. Meanwhile, one look at Pacquiao’s win against Miguel Cotto–probably the best performance of his career–should tell you how devilishly clever this hard-nosed choir boy really is. In Cotto, Pacquiao found an opponent more than capable of evading his best shots and landing heavy blows of his own, and systematically took him apart. Unthinking brutes can pile up damage, but Pacquiao builds his victories, and that takes thought.
To beat Mayweather, Pacquiao will need to turn in a positively vintage performance. Fortunately for him, those showings tended to come when he was either an underdog, or else expected to struggle. It’s been the Timothy Bradley’s and Shane Mosley’s of the world who have compelled Pacquiao to do the bare minimum to win. But De La Hoya, Cotto, Marquez, Morales, Barrera–even back to Pacquiao’s very first world title win over the excellent Chatchai Sasakul, the Filipino fighter’s best efforts have come when he was battling not only his opponent, but the odds and expectations as well.
For Mayweather, the pressure has never been higher. An undefeated record is impressive, but there’s no doubt that it also becomes a sort of albatross by the end of a fighter’s career, a weight that only grows heavier. Would Pacquiao have been the fighter he is had he not learned to lose early in his career? Would Joe Louis have accrued such a legendary heavyweight reign without first losing to Max Schmeling? Floyd has stated that a loss is a weakness–like a scar that reminds the imperfect fighter of his failings. Mayweather expects Pacquiao’s knockout loss to Marquez to be sitting in the back of his mind during the entire fight. But I say different. After all, the darkness isn’t frightening by nature–it’s the fact that we don’t know what lurks beyond our sight that frightens us. And how much scarier is the night if you’ve never gone outside after dark? Every man can lose–but Floyd Mayweather doesn’t know how. He might call that a strength, but this writer isn’t so sure.
We’re almost there. In just a few dozen hours, these two 147-pound giants will finally meet. Below you’ll find my Best Plays, and I’ll tell you right now that neither Mayweather nor Pacquiao is among them. The fight is truly too close to call. To see Pacquiao upset Mayweather would be every bit as surprising as watching Floyd outbox Manny. But we like answers in boxing, and so . . .
The pick is Manny Pacquiao by Split Decision.
I’ve written a lot of words about this weekend of fights over the last few weeks. You may have already come to your own conclusions with the help of my analysis, but this is the Kountermove roster that I would put together.
Konstantin Ponomarev – $4800
Ponomarev is not only a volume puncher, but a slick and frustrating boxer. He’s likely to beat the dangerous but limited Mikael Zewski, but he’s sure to rack up some solid points even in a loss.
Mahonri Montes – $4300
The best underdog of the weekend by far, Montes is a tough fighter whose only losses have come to smart and capable boxers. Ashley Theophane is no walkover, but he seems to have accepted his role as journeyman at this point.
Vasyl Lomachenko – $6000
Don’t expect Lomachenko to simply outclass Gamalier Rodriguez, who is a more than capable boxer-puncher in his own right. But of this weekend’s potential picks, you won’t find a safer favorite than the Uikrainian.
Chris Pearson – $4900
Pearson is fast, constantly improving, and powerful. His opponent, Said El Harrak, is tough and capable, but he’s been stopped before and he doesn’t have the defense to deal with Pearson’s lightning southpaw hook.
Raymundo Beltran – $4900
Beltran is always a tough fighter to pick. He’s woefully inconsistent, but usually against fighters who really push the pace and force him into their type of fight. Ao is solid, but like many Japanese boxers, he tends to fight his opponent’s fight. Beltran should take a comfortable decision.