They say that in life the best things come to those who wait and that wine becomes finer with age. Sadly however things can also spoil with age, the waiting process can go on too long and things can over-cook and end up burned. Around 5 years ago we were all wanting to see Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38) battle against unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather Jr (47-0, 26). It was, essentially, the one bout that could capture the attention of every boxing fan. It was, at the time, the two top fighters in the sport facing each other whilst both were still in their primes. At the time Mayweather was 33 and had just schooled the great Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao on the other hand was 31 and had just decimated Miguel Cotto.
Since then both men have slipped. Pacquiao, now 36, has gone 7-2 (0), he's been iced by Marquez and his much vaunted power has seemingly vanished along with his killer instinct. What we have now is a Pacquiao who seems to have lost a lot of what made him so special and the stoppages over Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton are now looking like history. As for Mayweather, now 38, he's gone 7-0 (1) and has looked distinctly human in his last 2 bouts, both decision wins against Marcos Rene Maidana.
Despite the fact that neither man is what they used to be, the bout is now made and on May 2nd we finally see the two men sharing the ring together. The bout, the biggest in the history of the sport, will see the WBA, WBC and WBO Welterweight title all being unified. It will set all sorts of records, it will get the attention of the sporting world, and of course it will be the bout of the generation It will, essentially, decide the fighter of the generation and, regardless of the winner, it will leave many fans distraught at their man losing and many others jubilant that their man won. It will however feel, to some neutrals, like a bout that lost some shine due to the fact it took so long to get it done.
Anyway now that's out of the way lets look at what makes this bout so special. Firstly you have the two most popular fighters of their era and two men who have, essentially, been viewed as each others nemesis. Their achievements are both through the roof with world titles across a wide range of divisions. They are the two biggest draws in the sport, and among the very biggest draws across all of sport. Culturally they are different, they appeal to different sections of boxing fans yet they have both made themselves cross over stars. To many this bout is boxing's equivalent to the ultimate “good guy” Vs “bad guy” battle. Most importantly however they are seen not as contrasting men outside of the ring but also as contrasting men inside the ring. One has been a slippery counter puncher, a man who is so elusive in the ring that many describe him as the greatest defensive fighter ever whilst the other is an offensive buzzsaw who sliced through many of the sports premier names in destructive fashion.
Is that's last point that makes this bout what is it is. The best defensive fighter against one of the best offensive fighters. On paper we will find what is ultimately better, a sensational offence or a near unbreakable defense.
In the eyes of many Mayweather is the “bad guy” of boxing. He has spent time in jail and been involved in various out of the ring activities. He has happily told us he's “The Best Ever” and although incredibly talented he has made many fans tune in to see him lose. On the other hand he's an example of what boxing is truly about, he's a master in the sweet science and one of the best at hitting and not being hit. We won't pretend he's the most exciting fighter on the planet but it is magical to see him at his best, slipping shots and landing laser like counters, rolling the shoulder to just avoid a blow and making an opponent pay for having the gall to try and hit him.
Whilst Mayweather isn't evil he has happily painted himself into the corner of being the man many pay to hate. He is, to use a wrestling term, a “heel” and it's a role that he seems to be happy with having. It's a role that's allowed him to make so much money that he now goes by the moniker of “Money”.
To those same fans Pacquiao is the “good guy”, he's the family man, a man of the people and a national icon who has set his intentions on making a difference via the politics of his homeland. He has used his money to help his countrymen and has come across as a humble person, happy to be able to use his talent to further the lives of those less fortunate. Not only has he been a positive person outside of the ring but inside of it he is known for giving fans what they want with destructive performances of aggression. In terms of excitement there are few who can match the excitement Pacquiao has generated over he course of his career with his combinations, knockouts and brutal beat downs.
Again to use a wrestling analogy Pacquiao is the “baby face” though that's a role that he's formed more organically that Mayweather's “heel” persona. Pacquiao has become a by simply being a personable person as opposed to telling the world that he's a nice person.
The contrasts however go on and on. For example Mayweather is happy to tell the world he's his own boss, Pacquiao on the other hand has been open about being a fighter with Bob Arum as his boss. In many ways the only things they have in common is their chosen profession and their claim to being an all-time great.
When it comes to the actual fight we expect the action to start slowly. Whilst the men are massively different they are both respectful of their opponent. Neither man wants to make a mistake early. For the first few rounds it will be a frustrating affair to watch with neither man really letting their offense go. For Mayweather that's perfect in many ways with the fight being fought more at his pace, it will however limit his eye catching counters with Pacquiao giving fewer opportunities that than the American would have hoped for. Whilst Pacquiao will be able to frustrate Mayweather by being restrained he won't be imposing himself or his style, at least not from the off.
We expect the pace to heat up from round 4. That's typically the point where Mayweather begins to find his groove but also the point in the fight where Pacquiao will have to come alive. From then on we're expecting to see the great bursts of Pacquiao's offense against Mayweather's great defense. The bursts of 4 or 5 shots will keep Mayweather in his defensive shell, though openings will begin to appear in Pacquiao's defense. From then on things will become very interesting with both men unsure how the judges will score things. Will they be scoring for Pacquiao, who will be the aggressor, or for Mayweather who will be landing the better shots? That is anyone's guess and it's what will make the latter part of the fight so interesting.
Mayweather's biggest problem in recent fights has been his habit of cruising through rounds, especially late on. At 38 his energy isn't going to be what it once was and although he has great stamina he has been able to fight at his own pace against fighters with slow foot movement. Against Pacquiao he'll be rushed, he won't have the time to take a breather and he'll be fighting someone with similar footspeed. If he tries to take rounds off here it will bite him. Instead we expect Mayweather will have to fight for at least 2 minutes of every round and that will show later on as both men bite down on their gum shields and try to force the judges hands. We'll see Mayweather fighting more than he has done in years and we'll Pacquiao showing some of the fire many thought was gone.
We suspect that, come the final bell, it'll be anyone's guess as to who has done enough. Fans will back “their man” and feel like their guy has just done enough. Of course however it'll lay on the judges and we'd not be shocked to see any type of scorecards. That's partly because boxing throws up some weird scorecards and also partly the fact that we can see how both men win.
As a prediction we will edge with the younger man, Pacquiao to take a razor thin and highly controversial decision. The bout, whilst good, will fail to live up to expectation in the ring and although records will be shattered we won't be able to help but think it was this generation's Hagler Vs Leonard as opposed to the real mega fighter it could have been. Strangely we see the post-fight outcome also mirroring the Hagler Vs Leonard bout with Mayweather retiring after the contest, something we'd also expect him to do if he won.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.