There used to be a time when star fighters had no qualms about giving their true thoughts as to who they felt would win in an upcoming super fight. Before the super fight by which all are measured, “Frazier vs. Ali,” back in 1971, Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena were the two most recent opponents of both “Smokin” Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, and neither hesitated as to who they were picking to win the much ballyhooed clash?
Quarry, who lost to Frazier in seven rounds in 1969 and Ali in three rounds in 1970, was adamant that Joe was too tough and rugged for Ali and would most likely stop him inside of 10 rounds.
Bonavena, who went the distance twice with Frazier in 1966 and 1968, and was stopped by Ali in the 15th round in 1970 saw it differently. Oscar said Ali was the true champion and the better fighter and picked him to beat Frazier without any reservation. Since Joe beat Muhammad the first time out, chalk one up for Quarry for picking the correct winner.
Today both Oscar and Jerry would hedge their pick for reasons that didn't exist for big time fighters during the sixties, seventies, eighties and even the nineties. In 2015 they'd phrase their pick something like this, “if it ends inside of eight rounds, Frazier will be the winner – but if it goes the distance, than Ali will be the victor.” And the reason for that is, a lot of ex-star fighters make a lot of their post-fight money doing commentary, personal appearances and all sorts of different media work for what to them has to be considered easy money. So there are business reasons for them to circumspect. That's why it's so hard to gauge their true feelings about how a particular big fight might go between two of their colleagues. They're not likely to let their real opinion get in the way of friendships and business dealings that go on indefinitely. Celebrity fighters all know each other and swim in the same waters year after year. They're professionals.
The ‘hedge your pick’ practice is not limited to just fighters, it also applies to commentators and analyst too. I remember when Mr. “Tell It Like It Is” Teddy Atlas was asked who was going to win between heavyweight contenders David Tua and Michael Moore back in 2002, he essentially said he didn't know, and that it could go either way (Tua knocked Moorer out 30 seconds into the first round in what was a very easy fight to handicap before the fact). After the fight, Atlas said he knew all along that Tua was going to destroy Moorer, but that, because Moorer was his friend, he lied to his entire listening audience so that he wouldn't upset Michael.
Of course, for “Mr Ethics” “I Never Pull My Punches” Atlas, what he did was inexcusable. But for guys whose bread and butter are maintaining good diplomatic relationships, their caution isn't surprising. And if the press is too stupid not to catch on, that's their problem.
When it comes to asking fighters who will win a certain fight between two superstars, don't ask other superstar fighters or fighters who fought both guys. Because most of the time they have an agenda and something to protect, they'll seldom if ever convey their true feelings.
The below fighters are all former title holders and in Cotto's case a current title holder. They're well known and have fought both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in high profile PPV bouts. Here are some of the things they've said when asked for a prediction on the upcoming fight.
Ricky Hatton: …..”Either side could win as well as lose in the bout deemed as the “Fight of the Century.” That's certainly not a pick. Hatton was stopped by both Pacquiao and Mayweather. If you're Hatton, it makes you look better if Mayweather wins because you can say you were in the fight with him, and justify that you just got caught by Pacquiao. If Mayweather retires undefeated Hatton looks better.
Miguel Cotto: …..Says having Freddie Roach in his corner is a big plus and will ultimately result in a Pacquiao win. Cotto was stopped by Pacquiao and lost a decision to Mayweather, and is trained by Roach. If you're Cotto, it makes you look better if Pacquiao wins because he beat you worse than Mayweather did. And there's no way Cotto is going against his trainer's fighter.
Shane Mosley: …..Has been all over the place picking the winner. Depending on the day, you'll get a different answer. Mosley lost a decision to both Mayweather and Pacquiao. However, Shane is in a tough spot. He probably hurt Mayweather more than any other fighter ever did to date, but he basically mailed it in when he fought Pacquiao. Shane can finagle whoever wins into somehow making himself look better. If Mayweather retires undefeated, it will always be remembered that Mosley landed the best punch any fighter ever did on Floyd.
Oscar De La Hoya: …..Has picked Pacquiao, but when it comes to Mayweather, Oscar is about as objective as ESPN's Skip Bayless. In other words objectivity is a foreign word to both of them regarding Floyd. De La Hoya lost a decision to Mayweather and was stopped by Pacquiao. Oscar really gave Floyd a close fight, but was taken apart by Pacquiao. However, he can claim he was drained from dropping too much weight when he fought Pacquiao, which is somewhat plausible. However, Oscar is less of a rival to Pacquiao than he is Mayweather, so there's less bad blood between them. I don't think De La Hoya, inside, has any love for either, but I doubt he wants to see Floyd retire undefeated.
Juan Manuel Marquez: …..Like his trainer Nacho Beristain, he is all over the place too, and depending on the day you get a different answer. Marquez is 1-2-1 against Pacquiao and lost a lopsided decision to Mayweather. If you're Marquez, you want Pacquiao to win because of the four fights you've had against him. And it also makes you look better if your career rival, who you knocked dead the last time you fought, wins the biggest fight in the last 25 years. That, and you can justify losing the decision to Mayweather since he beat you at the weigh-in by coming in over the contracted weight.
The above illustrates just how common opponents, at least during this era, cannot be objective when it comes to them saying what they really think will happen between Mayweather and Pacquiao on May 2nd.
Then there are the star fighters who seem to hedge almost as much.
Sugar Ray Leonard: …..Said he gives the edge to Mayweather because he's undefeated. I'm guessing that's a hedge pick in favor of Mayweather. Some insight from arguably the best p4p fighter since 1980: I'm certain Leonard appreciates Mayweather's style more than he does Pacquiao's. But there are some dynamics in play between Leonard and the Mayweather's, being that Ray knocked out Floyd's father in 1978 when Jr. was a year old, and Leonard is often asked how he'd do against Floyd Jr.
Thomas Hearns:…..Said people are crazy if they believe Mayweather or Pacquiao could've competed with Ray, Marvin and myself during our era. Well, he didn't make a pick on the fight, but you can't dispute what he said. Is there any doubt that when Hearns watches Mayweather and Pacquiao fight, he believes that he would've beaten them both on the same night one after the other.
Marvin Hagler:…..Said Mayweather-Pacquiao is the biggest fight in boxing history. Again, no pick, but from a money generating standpoint, he's right. Also, Hagler probably sees a lot of Sugar Ray Leonard in Mayweather and some of himself in Pacquiao. I believe deep down inside Marvin is rooting for Pacquiao to win.
Mike Tyson:….Thinks Manny's aggression will test Floyd's toughness like it's never been tested before. And recently has said Manny’s perpetual motion will be too much for Mayweather. Sounds like a hedge towards Pacquiao? You know deep down inside Tyson likes Pacquiao's style and approach to fighting more than he does Mayweather's. I don't think Tyson really cares who wins because he likes and respects all fighters.
Evander Holyfield:….Thinks Pacquiao will win because boxing doesn't want Mayweather to retire undefeated. Well, at least he made a pick; I have to give him that. His reasoning is a little twisted, but I'll take it. I guess boxing didn't want him to lose the first time he fought Lennox Lewis. Just ask Eugenia Williams.
Bernard Hopkins:…..Mr. Inconsistent said Pacquiao's KO at the hands of Marquez in 2012 has residual effects for the next 10 fights. A week later he said burn the tape it means nothing, Manny had a momentary lapse and got caught. No big deal. Oh, he also said if Mayweather survives the first three rounds, he'll dominate Pacquiao the last six rounds. Not sure who Bernard picked, but I believe he sees more of himself in Mayweather than he does Pacquiao. I believe if pushed I think he'd pick Mayweather.
Roy Jones:…..Has said Floyd is smarter and better now in his advanced age because of all his experience. Is that a pick for Mayweather? Like Hopkins, I believe Roy sees more of himself in Mayweather than he does Pacquiao, but maybe like some others, Roy would like to see Mayweather lose once and not retire undefeated. If push comes to shove I believe Jones favors Mayweather to win.
As far as I'm concerned, you can keep all of their picks and shove 'em where the sun doesn't shine, because not one of them is worth a damn. They weren't the least bit forth-coming. And the reason for that is because they all have skin in the game for various reasons already mentioned.
If you want to hear from fighters who know what they're talking about and who will give you an informed and honest opinion as to who will win the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, I suggest you go into any good boxing gym, and ask veteran fighters with no horse in the race, and you'll get solid predictions. Forget the stars above; I want to hear who Paulie Malinaggi thinks is going to win. Actually, I believe he's on record picking Mayweather without hedging a bit, which isn't the least bit surprising. I bet ex-fighters/title holders like Joe Calzaghe and Charles Brewer could provide well thought-out and honest opinions as to whom and why they favor a particular side in the upcoming Mayweather-Pacquiao bout.
I say why bother asking star fighters, past opponents or celebrities from the acting and music industries for their pick as to who will on May 2nd. The star fighters are judicious in their words because of friendships and business relationships, so they won't be honest. The ex-opponents have a rooting interest so they won't be forth coming, and the celebrities will pick their friends. I mean really, does Justin Bieber picking Mayweather or Tim Tebow picking Pacquiao really matter to you? It sure doesn't to me!
Perhaps by the time this runs the above may have made a more authentic pick, but you can believe they're not really giving you their true thoughts, for the reasons stated above and some that I didn't even touch on.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com