Mayweather-Pacquiao form guide

Mark Butcher
02/05/2015 11:56am

The two most celebrated fighters in world boxing finally meet in Las Vegas tonight after a six-year ‘will they, won’t they’ saga. But when the crowd roars and the first bell rings at the MGM Grand Garden Arena will Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao emerge victorious? Mark Butcher analyses the boxing superstars’ last three fights, strengths and weaknesses in BM’s form guide of what promises to be – by a distance - the richest fight in the sport’s history.

Overview

Mayweather’s defensive tools are unparalleled in the modern game. The master counter-puncher and boxing chess master is a genius at using his guile to capitalise on his opponent’s attacks and making them appear premeditated and reckless. In eight-division champion Pacquiao, Mayweather meets a rare fighter with the handspeed to trouble him in exchanges and the type of gifted southpaw he has allegedly chosen to sidestep throughout his glittering professional career. The Filipino is a seasoned, elite level campaigner who throws eye-catching combinations and is able to take advantage when Mayweather takes breaks in the fight.

The gifted American is, understandably at 38, slowing down and some observers feel that the busy Pacquiao can outhustle him and steal pivotal moments in the contest. Mayweather will expect to the Filipino to utilize a high pressure gameplan yet a more prudent approach may be to stand off and coax the safety-first American out of his comfort zone and on to the front foot. Mayweather, slick as they come, will probably look to employ his movement early before settling into his smooth boxing rhythm and hit and not be hit style. But Mayweather’s legs have slowed enough to make the bout more interesting.

After the controversy surrounding Marcos Maidana’s choice of gloves in their first encounter, Mayweather and Pacquiao are contractually free to use their preferred 8oz brand – Grant for Mayweather (its foam padding favoured by boxer’s with a history of hand trouble) and Reyes for Pacquiao (the horsehair gloves chosen by punchers). Refreshingly this bout takes place at 147lbs (with Mayweather weighing 146lbs and Pacquiao 145lbs), rather than a catchweight chosen to benefit either fighter.

Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum, who guided Mayweather for 38 of his pro bouts before their acrimonious split, claims that ‘Money’ was reluctant to fight southpaws during their association (a nod to the dangerous Paul Williams while Zab Judah floored Floyd but that was not counted officially). While that favours portsider Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, like Floyd a prodigious counter-puncher, gave the Filipino fits in their four encounters and this points to a Mayweather victory. Yet intriguingly, Marquez’s respected coach Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Beristain has strongly backed his old adversary to win. “Pacquiao will definitely win,” Beristain told ringobserver.com. “Pacquiao is just too tough and too strong. Pressure and a lot of punches just beats Floyd up.”

His charge Marquez had more ominous words, highlighting Mayweather’s cash cow status in his adopted home of Las Vegas "Mayweather has the defensive resources, technique, speed and counter attacks to do a lot of damage to Pacquiao and I think he will impose them,” Marquez told Clarica. “I know how judges perform in Las Vegas, as we saw in the [first] fight where Jose Luis Castillo beat Mayweather [the judges unanimously disagreed]. However, they gave it to Mayweather and Pacquiao has no alternative but to knock Mayweather out to end his undefeated record."

Last three fights Mayweather/Pacquiao

Floyd Mayweather WMD12 Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez

14 September 2013 - MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

Scorecards: 117-111 and 116-112 (Mayweather), 114-114 (even).

Mayweather was at his masterful best in this 152lbs catchweight encounter. Mexico’s next big thing Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was supposed to have the natural size and strength to bully ‘Money’, but found himself swiping at shadows as Floyd dazzled him with speed and lateral movement. Mayweather effortlessly schooled the young Mexican who entered the ring with a hulking 15lb weight advantage, but seemed mentally and tactically ill-equipped for a bout of this stature. Ineffectual and exasperated, Alvarez ate jabs and right hands all night and had no answer to Mayweather’s dizzying attacks. The rare rounds the Mexican did win were because Mayweather chose to coast or take a rare breather from his dominance. That didn’t stop C.J. Ross submitting that infamous (and frankly baffling) 114-114 scorecard. In the storm that followed, Ross stepped down from her judging duties.

Manny Pacquiao WUD 12 Brandon Rios

24 November 2013 - Cotai Arena, Macau.

Scorecards: 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 (all for Pacquiao).

Shell-shocked by that horrific sixth round knockout against old nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez, just as he seemed in the ascendancy, Pacquiao’s career was at a crossroads. Some pondered whether the Filipino’s future at top level was over, but not Pacquiao himself who claimed God had showed him the ending the previous week. This, insisted Pacquiao, was a test of his faith. The eight-division champion took 12 months out of boxing before returning in the Asian gambling mecca of Macau. A third straight defeat against the streetwise Rios was unthinkable and would surely spell the end. Pacquiao could, therefore, be forgiven for adopting a more cautious approach against a noted pressure-fighter. What ensued was a one-sided boxing clinic via a combination of the Filipino’s sharper skills and speed and the limitations of face-first, scrapper Rios. Perhaps the vicious Pacquiao of old would have sought a chilling knockout but the Filipino legend seemed content to bamboozle from range with the durable Rios barely laying claim to a round.

Floyd Mayweather WMD12 Marcos Maidana

3 May 2014 - MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

Scorecards: 117-111 and 116-112 (Mayweather), 114-114 (even).

Argentine brawler Maidana earned an unlikely shot at the pound-for-pound king due to his shock win over Mayweather wannabe Adrien Broner. Few expected a competitive contest. Yet the uncompromising Argentine, an 8-1 underdog, pushed Mayweather relatively close through his sheer brawn and roughhouse tactics. Floyd chose to scrap with the free-swinging Maidana early and came off second best. ‘Money’ appeared off-balance, off-key and shaken by a cut above his right eye sustained in the fourth. The Mayweather camp felt referee Tony Weeks allowed no-nonsense Maidana free-reign to bend the rules though this liberal officiating made for an exciting contest – a rarity in Mayweather fights. The sub-par showing may have been influenced by outside distractions. A messy split from long-time partner Shantel Jackson descended into an unsavoury fall-out on social media during fight week while a dispute over Maidana’s custom-made gloves placed the contest in jeopardy until the Argentine conceded to Mayweather’s demands and wore foam-padded Everlast ones.

Manny Pacquiao WUD12 Tim Bradley

12 April 2014, MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

Scorecards: 116-112 (twice) and 118-110 (all for Pacquiao).

After their first encounter in 2012, where the unbeaten Bradley won a wildly unpopular split decision that caused outrage in the boxing world (another C.J. Ross scorecard!), Pacquiao left no debate in the rematch. Keen to prove his machismo, a pumped-up Bradley out-psyched himself by discarding the smooth boxing skills that saw him out-fox old Pacquiao foe Marquez for an uncharacteristically aggressive approach. The cerebral Californian set a feverish pace and his high pressure tactic initially surprised Pacquiao, but Bradley slowly faded after sustaining a calf injury in the second round. Bradley’s work-rate dropped off alarmingly with his movement encumbered and he had little option but to back up as the seasoned Filipino turned up the pressure and dominated the remainder of the contest to cement an official ‘W’ against his former conqueror.

Floyd Mayweather WUD12 Marcos Maidana

13 September 2014 - MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

Scorecards: 116-111 (twice) and 115-112 (all Mayweather).

Mayweather opted to give Maidana another opportunity even though few outside the challenger’s inner circle gave him a shot of winning. In their rematch, a revitalized Mayweather appeared more prepared for Maidana’s x-rated approach and made the appropriate adjustments. Referee Kenny Bayless (once again the third man for this fight) also allowed Mayweather to hold, spoil and smother the challenger’s work giving him a priceless advantage. The gritty Argentine tried to replicate his threshing machine tactics from the first encounter but was unable to narrow the distance and Mayweather pulled away on the scorecards with his trademark fluid boxing. A rare moment of drama came in the eighth round where Maidana appeared to bite Mayweather’s left glove and the champion withdrew screaming in agony. The challenger argued that Mayweather had been rubbing the glove on his face in a clinch yet appeared to take a hopeful chomp, but neither man was deducted a point. The result was an anti-climatic and foregone conclusion.

Manny Pacquiao WUD12 Chris Algieri

23 November 2014 - Cotai Arena, Macau.

Scorecards: 119-103 (twice) and 120-02 (all for Pacquiao).

There was a renewed venom about Pacquiao in his pre-fight workouts with Freddie Roach in the run-up to his tryst in Macau with WBO 140lbs champion Algieri. After shocking Pacquiao’s game but limited gym-mate Ruslan Provodnikov, Algieri’s college education and intriguing back story elevated him to major fight status, but, in reality, this 144lbs catchweight bout was a total mismatch. The American was mowed down by wave after wave of ferocious attacks from the lightning quick Filipino and suffered six official knockdowns as he escaped into survival mode. Pacquiao, without a stoppage win since November 2009, failed to halt an opponent who appeared there for the taking. Yet he was perhaps a punch away in the ninth with the American lolling defencelessly on the ropes and referee Gino Rodriguez could easily have intervened. It was a crash course in speed and power for Algieri who was dominated in every single department except guts.

The Verdict

Floyd Mayweather’s last three fights have added credence to the theory that the self-proclaimed TBE’s skills are dulling with age. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach has vehemently insisted that Mayweather’s legs are gone and the American maestro’s relatively ponderous performances against a roughhouse, but uncomplicated Marcos Maidana have illustrated a demonstrable decline after that virtuoso display against bemused superstar-in-waiting Canelo Alvarez. It’s hardly surprising that a 38-year-old renowned for his superlative speed and reflexes has found his natural skills waning with time, but there was an uncharacteristic petulance and shakiness in his two-fight series with Maidana. Their first fight showed that Mayweather can be displaced from his comfort zone when a referee does not tolerate his spoiling tactics while his over-reaction to a bite on his glove in the rematch was a departure from his habitual ice-cool ring demeanour.  A more composed Mayweather did show his ability to make adjustments in the return and won handily though tonight’s referee Kenny Bayless gave the Las Vegas favourite a free reign, again illustrating the importance of officials in this match between the two elite fighters in the sport.

Pacquiao, meanwhile, appears on a steady, upward trajectory since that crushing KO loss to old rival Juan Manuel Marquez.  The Filipino was somewhat circumspect against the one-dimensional Brandon Rios and took no risks, but was able to adapt mid-fight against a genuine pound-for-pounder in former conqueror Tim Bradley. The compromising compassion, which has littered his recent fights and not seen the Filipino register a stoppage since a 12th round win over current gym-mate Miguel Cotto in 2009, was absent in his one-sided bludgeoning of Chris Algieri. Pacquiao bulldozed the over-matched American with a spite and aggression absent from recent contests. Mayweather is, of course, a level or two above the likes of Algieri, but Pacquiao’s blistering speed, southpaw skills and whirlwind activity will provide a conundrum absent from ‘Money’s’ contests to date, especially given his declining skillset. This is a superfight for a reason.