It now looks like the much anticipated fantasy fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather will remain just that.
During the recent Mayweather/Cotto presser in NY, Floyd announced that the fight would remain unlikely as long as Pacquiao is promoted under Bob Arum. Mayweather went on, adding that he was not willing to split the purse with Pacquiao either.
But Floyd is considered the betting favourite. So why the apparent reluctance?
Nobody knows Floyd Mayweather better than, well, Floyd Mayweather. He knows his likes and dislikes. He knows what makes him happy or sad. More importantly, he knows his strengths and his weaknesses.
Mayweather versus Pacquiao was once thought of as an even fight. Not anymore. Back in November of last year, Manny Pacquiao was awarded a highly controversial decision win over Juan Manuel Marquez with the Mexican great once again proving to have the counterpunching style to neutralise the Filipino's overwhelming offense. Making things look even more ominous for Pacquiao, was back in 2009, after an 18 month lay off, Floyd Mayweather dominated the very same Marquez, winning just about every second of every round. It was as one sided a fight as you are likely to see.
As a result, most are now of the opinion, that if Manny Pacquiao could not handle Juan Manuel Marquez, who is a great counterpuncher, then surely Floyd Mayweather, who is an all time great counterpuncher, will be able to control Pacquiao with relative ease.
Many who felt Pacquiao may have had the style to cause Floyd problems before the last Marquez fight, now think otherwise.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There was nothing in the last Pacquiao/Marquez fight that has changed this writer's opinion that if they ever meet in the ring, Manny Pacquiao will be Floyd Mayweather's toughest challenge to date. To further my point, there were elements in the last Pacquiao/Marquez fight that have enhanced my opinion.
Juan Manuel Marquez operates very differently from Floyd Mayweather. Marquez is probably the best combination puncher in the sport. He owns a variety of punches that he mixes up, to body and head, throwing as many as five at a time. He is never afraid of letting his hands go, and he is able to mount offense without hesitation. One of the reasons Marquez enjoys great success over Pacquiao is his willingness to match him in the punch output department. In other words, Marquez is willing to risk his defensive responsibility which allows him to land his own shots. As a result, Pacquiao's own offense is reduced. Floyd Mayweather on the other hand, is the polar opposite. Floyd shies away from throwing combinations. Instead, Floyd's straight right hand is his primary offensive weapon, a punch which he only allows to be released, one shot at a time, once the offense of his opponent has been neutralised.
Mayweather and Marquez set about counterpunching in different ways too. Floyd likes to stand in front of his opponent, almost daring them to open up. Once they do, Floyd's god given anticipation takes over. He is able to make an opponent miss a jab by tilting his head back, which enables him to then immediately land his straight right hand over the top of his opponent's exposed jab. Floyd calls this the pull counter. Floyd also likes to counter using his shoulder roll. He is able to deflect his opponents offense off of his shoulders, thus creating an angle for him to counter straight back. Floyd uses upper body movement to defend himself. Marquez uses his legs.
The point is, when defending in this way, Mayweather's feet are planted. Marquez' feet are only planted when he is on offense. Marquez likes to defend by maintaining a distance between himself and his opponent, constantly circling clockwise around the ring. Take a look at his three fights with Pacquiao. You will be amazed at how much ground Marquez covers with his feet. Only when an opponent is off balance and Marquez has created an angle, does he counter. Defending in this way against Pacquiao does not allow Marquez to get caught by Manny's straight left hand. It also keeps his back off the ropes. Alarmingly, Mayweather's back probably touched the ropes more in four rounds with Victor Ortiz, than Marquez' back did in three fights with Manny Pacquiao.
Technically, Marquez and Mayweather are both counterpunchers, yes. But that's where the similarities begin and end. They are like night and day when it comes to how they behave in the ring.
Juan Manuel Marquez does not receive enough credit for his ability to neutralise Manny Pacquiao. It does him a major disservice to make the assumption that Pacquiao is on the slide or Mayweather could replicate what Marquez is able achieve against Manny.
Marquez has somewhat evolved into a specialist at fighting Manny Pacquiao.
Prior to their last fight, Marquez had 24 rounds experience with Pacquiao. He now has 36. If we a look at Marquez' fight's against Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis, you will see a far more aggressive Marquez, sometimes even pressing the attack, as opposed to sitting back and waiting to counter.
Yet for all the suggestions that Marquez has Manny's number, how many official wins does Marquez have over Pacquiao? Ask yourself this. In their last fight, did Marquez defeat Pacquiao? Or did he tame Pacquiao? One could argue Marquez did a good job of not allowing himself to take a beating like previous Pacquiao opponents Shane Mosley and Joshua Clottey did, whilst applying just a little bit more in the way of offense to avoid comparisons with them. Point being, Manny Pacquiao is very tough to defeat on the scorecards. Erik Morales managed it once, but that win was twice reversed in devastating fashion. Marquez may have come as close as anyone can to defeating the current version of Manny Pacquiao without leaving themselves vulnerable to Manny's offense. Marquez fought cautious and was backing up the whole time, allowing Pacquiao to come onto him. This is why the judges awarded Pacquiao the decision.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the mystique of Floyd's defensive wizardry and sheer dominance over his opposition. But, if we think logically, logic tells us that a Pacquiao/Mayweather fight would probably go to the scorecards. We know that Pacquiao, unlike Roy Jones during his prime years, can take a decent shot. Manny is not as elusive as Jones was. We have seen him hit often and hard by the likes of Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. Mayweather on the other hand, does not take risks inside the ring, he is not an aggressive fighter, he rarely looks for the knockout, instead preferring to outbox his opponent over the distance.
Because of the nature of round scoring, it is not inconceivable to think that Mayweather could appear to be winning the fight, boxing and moving, making Pacquiao miss and still end up losing a decision. Just ask Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez probably won the battle, but lost the war because of an opinion from two men. Remember, many felt Jose Luis Castillo defeated Mayweather in their first fight. One judge also felt that De la Hoya defeated Mayweather, because of Oscar's constant forward momentum. Pacquiao's style translates to him receiving the benefit of the doubt in close fights that don't seem to go his way. Floyd is the opposite, judges sometimes think his fights are a lot closer than they really are. The curse of the counterpuncher against volume.
We can look at the Joshua Clottey fight as another example. If you were to choose the ten cleanest punches of the whole fight, every one of them would have belonged to Joshua Clottey. Pacquiao struggled to land anything clean on Clottey the whole fight, yet he won every single round because of his aggression and volume. Pacquiao's high volume and aggressive nature does not bode well for a defensive minded fighter. On average, Floyd probably throws around 400 punches a fight. Manny Pacquiao throws around the 800 mark. Thats a 2 to 1 ratio. Damning numbers in a fight that could be the subject of judgement in the end.
It is not just on the scorecards where Pacquiao's style does not translate well for Mayweather either. As mentioned earlier, Marquez and Mayweather go about their jobs very differently. Floyd's defense is one of the best in boxing history, but Marquez may have the more appropriate defense when it comes to defending Pacquiao attacks.
Manny Pacquiao, in the eyes of many, is the best offensive fighter in boxing. Pacquiao's best weapon is his ability to feint, then, using superb footwork, change the direction of his attack at the last second, then explode in with his combinations.
His "in and out" style of boxing is the reason Pacquiao opponents all share the same notion, that Pacquiao throws his punches from such strange angles.
The truth is, Pacquiao only ever throws straight punches, but it's because of the feints that freeze his opponents, and his footwork, that enables him to snake around his opponent's guard which allows him to land the combinations that they don't see coming.
Marquez' style combats this attack perfectly.
His heels seldom touch the canvas, he is always moving, circling around the ring, never allowing himself to be caught in the Pacquiao feint combination. In contrast, Floyd Mayweather often plants his feet when defending. Mayweather's defense is designed to meet offense head on, like waves crashing into rocks. This is the difference between the two defensive mechanics. Mayweather invites offense onto him, whereas Marquez maintains distance between himself and his opponent. It is no coincidence then, that James Toney and Chad Dawson, both defensive minded fighters with a similar style to Mayweather, lost to Roy Jones and Jean Pascal respectively. They were fighters who utilised footwork, combinations and an "in and out" style of boxing to bewilder their opponents.
What about Pacquiao's southpaw stance?
Floyd Mayweather has fought southpaws before, but Pacquiao is very different. Pacquiao is unconventional with his movement. Pacquiao likes to drift to his left which can be very confusing for an orthodox fighter, as the power left hand is now coming at a very central angle. If we look at Mayweather's defensive shell and imagine he is fighting an orthodox fighter, his right hand is protecting his chin and parrying his opponents' jab. Floyd's left shoulder is also protecting his chin and deflecting right hand power shots coming from the outside.
Pacquiao's southpaw stance and unconventional movement appears to trump Mayweather's defense. Moving inside Mayweather's guard, Pacquiao's left hand would now be traveling INSIDE of Floyd's left shoulder, instead of AROUND.
Take a look at the combination Mosley landed on Floyd that hurt him in round 2 of their fight. Now think of the way Floyd was defending himself. His feet were planted, using his parry and shoulders to defend himself. Marquez never defends in this way against Pacquiao.
One final worry for Floyd could be that he is a slow starter, as was evident against Chop Chop Corley, Zab Judah, Ricky Hatton and Shane Mosley. Manny Pacquiao, however, is a fast starter. He hurt and scored early knockdowns of Barerra, Morales, Marquez, Hatton, Cotto and Mosely.
Ask yourself this, if Pacquiao was in the ring with Mayweather, instead of Shane Mosley during their contest, would Mayweather have even made it to the next round, let alone go on to dominate every proceeding round after?
Don't get me wrong, Floyd Mayweather is a sensational fighter. His ability to adjust and adapt in the ring is extraordinary and the longer this fight takes to be made, the more Mayweather will benefit as a result. Mayweather's fundamentals and knowledge last with time. Pacquiao's physical gifts, like speed and explosiveness, do not.
Most people agree Floyd is the best fighter in the world ahead of Pacquiao. Floyd is probably more dominant over his opposition than Manny is over his. However, it's an entirely different story when you match Floyd's style with Manny's style. Because of his experience of going to the scorecards in big fights, I think Floyd may have been the only person who watched the last Pacquiao/Marquez fight and actually came away with negative thoughts regarding his own chances. The nature of round scoring favours Pacquiao, not Mayweather. Compubox favours Pacquiao, not Mayweather. Look at the fighters who Floyd has been thought to have avoided. Paul Williams and Antonio Margarito--Margarito was actually considered a threat at one time--and now Pacquiao.
The commonality between those fighters and Pacquiao? Volume.
Mayweather is more than capable of defeating Manny Pacquiao. But to suggest so based on how Juan Manuel Marquez looked against Pacquiao is a false assumption.
Nearly every great fighter throughout history had an opponent, who may not have been as talented or as skilled, yet proved to be more than their match because of a stylistic contrast. Muhammad Ali had Ken Norton, Manny Pacquiao has Juan Manuel Marquez.
No fighter is unbeatable. Even Ray Robinson lost fights. As of yet, there is no blueprint on how to beat Floyd Mayweather. Does the blueprint lie within Pacquiao's style?