The long-awaited fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather is tomorrow night. Will it live up to expectations? I doubt it: look for Mayweather to win easily.
It seems odd to say that the undefeated Mayweather, whose opponents are a who’s who of the welterweight division, is underrated. Nevertheless, it is true. Mayweather is one of the all-time greats. Eventually, he will lose to Father Time. But when that happens, Floyd will be beaten by someone who is bigger than he is, not smaller like Pacquiao. No one is going to out-box Floyd, a defensive genius possibly unexcelled in the annals of boxing.
Pacquiao has other problems, too. When I first started watching him seven or eight years ago, he was a hurricane, throwing a torrent of punches from every angle. But Pacquiao, more than Mayweather, is past his prime, even though at 36 he is two years younger. Some say the problem is drug testing, and that a PED-free Pacquiao is not the Pacquiao of old. I don’t know whether that is correct, but it is a fact that Manny hasn’t knocked out an opponent in over five years, not since he scored a TKO against Miguel Cotto in November 2009.
I watched Pacquiao fight Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012 on a big screen at a boxing gym, with a group of fighters and trainers. Marquez floored Manny in round three and then knocked him cold in round six. (To be fair, Marquez hit the canvas in the fifth.) I’m not sure I have ever seen a fighter go down harder than Manny did in the sixth. The question was not, will he get up by the count of ten; the question was, will he get up, ever? I thought Pacquiao would retire after that fight, his second consecutive loss. He rehabilitated his career with three decisions in 2013 and 2014, but anyone who thinks the Manny Pacquiao who will enter the ring tomorrow night is the Pacquiao who destroyed Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Sugar Shane Mosley is kidding himself.
So the fight will probably go the distance, but I see Floyd winning easily.
However, my son, who knows a lot more about boxing than I do, says: Not so fast! There are two reasons why Pacquiao might score an upset. First, even though Mayweather is an all-time great, judges do not necessarily love him. His defensive style fails to impress some. Thus, he scored majority decisions in two recent fights (Maidana and Alvarez) that he appeared to win easily. Second, money talks. If Pacquiao upsets Floyd tomorrow night–he is a two to one underdog–there will be an inevitable rematch, which means another nine-figure payday, and not just for the fighters. If Floyd wins that one there will be a rubber match at some point down the road–another big payday. So a cynical observer might wonder whether tomorrow night’s judges will score the fight for Manny if they possibly can.
Fair enough. But I don’t think the lure of a rematch will be enough to sway the judges if Pacquiao is thoroughly outclassed, as I expect he will be.