You may have heard, but there’s a pretty big fight going down in Las Vegas this weekend.
The Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao hype machine has been in full swing long before there was a fight, but since the deal was announced in February, the boxing world has been ablaze. And that’s not just the fans, either—fighters themselves will be a big part of the big-ticket crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.
Premier Boxing Champions pugilists are no exception. Keith Thurman, Deontay Wilder and Shawn Porter all expect to be in the building. And even if fighters aren’t going to be there, they all have an opinion.
Robert Guerrero stepped in the ring with Mayweather, squaring up with the reigning pound-for-pound king in May 2013. Like the other 46 guys that tested themselves against Mayweather, Guerrero fell short. He expects Pacquiao to be No. 48.
“I'm going with Floyd Mayweather to win a unanimous decision,” Guerrero said. “His reach and length are very deceptive. I think Manny has more wear and tear on his body then Mayweather, so the questions should be ‘Has Manny slowed down?’ He was knocked out cold not long ago.”
Shawn Porter was a sparring partner of Pacquiao’s during his training camps for Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey. He’s more sanguine about Pacquiao’s chances.
“Obviously having the relationship I had with Manny and my history, I’m leaning that way,” Porter said. “But I do like both fighters. It’s very hard to call. I kind of feel like Manny’s going to come out and dictate the pace of the fight, or at least try to. He’s going to make Floyd work.
“I see it being a very interesting match. I don’t think Floyd’s going to come in with any speed that Manny hasn’t seen. I think one thing we do know is Manny came up from a very light weight, and that’s when those guys are punching with nothing but speed. So if anything, he’s seen Floyd’s speed before, Floyd’s quick counter. This fight could play out so many ways. If Manny does everything it takes to win this fight, then he should win.”
What most PBC fighters agree on is that Pacquaio has a chance to bank a couple of early rounds while Mayweather probes at Pac Man. Paulie Malignaggi, who says the smart bet is a Mayweather decision with a decent chance at a late stoppage, expects Mayweather to take his time figuring out Pacquaio, but that he’ll get there soon enough.
“I think Floyd will take a few rounds to feel him out. It’s important for Manny to set a tone and get Floyd’s attention, make him very uncomfortable. Make him uncomfortable with the pace, make him uncomfortable with the power, something to keep Floyd overthinking as opposed to just being relaxed and just start to hone in and set the radar on him,” Malignaggi said. “I don’t know if Manny can do that, but if he can do that it makes the fight interesting. If he can’t, it will get to the point where Floyd can start to walk him down.
“I don’t believe Manny has very many natural defensive tendencies. If he has to go backward, he’s in a lot of trouble. I don’t think he can fight going backward. I don’t even know if he knows how to defend himself going backward.”
Because of those first few rounds where Mayweather is expected to be feeling out his opponent, that’s when Pacquaio might have his best shot. Keith Thurman, who’s calling for a Mayweather decision, thinks that if Pacquiao is going to get that knockout shot in, he has to do it quickly.
“Pacquiao can definitely sneak one in there,” Thurman said. “I remember sitting ringside for the [Mayweather-Canelo] Alvarez fight. He was inches away from a beautiful right uppercut. You’ve got to hit him on the button. You’ve got to make it count. I won’t be surprised if there’s a knockdown. I don’t know if Pacquiao has the ability to put him out. He knocked [Chris] Algieri down six times. He’s produced other knockdowns. It’s one thing to knock somebody down, though, but it takes more power to knock someone out.
“I think Floyd is the most vulnerable in those first three rounds. Most fighters don’t take advantage of that. I hope Manny brings it to him right from the start. I hope Floyd brings it right from the start.”
Speaking of that Alvarez fight, that’s how Andre Dirrell expects Saturday night’s tilt to go down.
“[Mayweather is] simply too smart. He'll display his beautiful talent for 12 rounds throughout,” Dirrell said. “Pacquiao will land cleanly from time to time, but overall it will be another Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez fight.”
Everyone knows about Mayweather’s speed and defense, but two lesser-heralded attributes that are going to factor into the fight are two critical components on opposite ends of the boxing spectrum: Mayweather’s tactical mind, and his chin.
“Mayweather, his speed is in his mind. That’s not going to leave. He’s a strategist,” said former 154-pound world champion Sergio Mora, joining the chorus of fighters predicting a Mayweather decision. “Pacquiao, his speed is with his feet and his hands, it’s physical. He definitely has slowed down. Mayweather has slowed down as far as his legs, but as far as what he sees, his countering, his strategy, he’s only gotten sharper and better. He’s been more stationary, that’s for sure. That comes with age and that comes with comfort, being comfortable with your abilities and knowing you can counter. That’s the only thing you could say about him slowing down. The hand speed is still there. His mind is as sharp as possible if not sharper.
“Mayweather’s never been down, and that’s not just because of his defense. He has a hell of a chin. He’s been cracked. He’s been wobbled and stunned. He was stunned by [Marcos] Maidana this last fight [in September]. Like he says, you have to have brains, a chin and heart—and he has all three.”
John Molina Jr.—say it with us now: who’s predicting Mayweather by decision—emphasized the importance of Mayweather’s ability to take a punch.
“[Shane] Mosely hit him with that right hand and busted him. Maidana caught him and busted him. I believe those two men right there are harder punchers than Pacquiao. I think even if Manny lands a flush shot, I think Floyd will be able to withstand that. Even for Manny to land on Mayweather, I don’t see that happening.
“Shane Mosley is arguably one of the best right hands at 147 ever. Shane Mosley’s right hand is very underrated, and he landed flush on Floyd Mayweather’s chin in the second round. Mayweather did buckle, but he did regroup and pitched a shutout for the rest of the fight.”
Still, even though heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder is expecting a Mayweather win, he thinks, counterintuitively, that there’s hope for Pacquiao to win the fight even without putting Mayweather to sleep.
“If I had to pick, I would go with Floyd. But I feel like if the fight comes close, I think Manny will win,” Wilder said. “Many times we’ll get great fights and we think we know who won, and in the end the judges go elsewhere. But if Floyd does what he has to do, I think he’ll win.”
Of course, if you want to get really specific, Andre Berto all but predicted what the judges’ cards will look like. Still Mayweather, still a decision. But if you’re in Las Vegas for fight weekend and looking for a prop to play, Berto has you covered.
“It's hard to go against Floyd in this sport, so I'm going to have to give him the edge on this one,” Berto said. “I'm taking Floyd by split decision.”