Floyd Mayweather has won each of his last five fights by decision. Manny Pacquiao was unable to put down his last three overmatched opponents. The boxing odds say this one will go the distance, too.
The first Fight of the Century ended by knockout. So did the second and third ones. But it doesn’t look like that’ll be the case when Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao touch gloves on May 2 and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The boxing odds at press time have OVER 11.5 rounds priced between –300 and –350, depending on which of our featured online sportsbooks you shop at.
Seems reasonable. Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) is one of the greatest defensive boxers of all-time, and isn’t known for his punching power. Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) can throw the leather, but hasn’t scored a stoppage since his 2009 victory over Miguel Cotto – that was 10 fights ago. Will things be any different this time around? More importantly, is the chance of a stoppage worth paying the price for?
Ahead by a Century
First, let’s clarify those other Fights of the Century. No. 1 was Jack Johnson vs. James Jeffries in 1910, followed by the 1938 rematch between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. Only then do we get to Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier in 1975. And while all three fights ended via stoppage, the Louis-Schmeling fight, which Louis won via first-round TKO, was the only one of the three that didn’t go more than 12 rounds.
Of course, those were all heavyweight fights as well, back when that used to be the glamor division in boxing. Now the two biggest names on this side of the pond are the 5-foot-8 Mayweather, who started his pro career as a super featherweight, and the 5-foot-6 1/2 Pacquiao, who was still 4-foot-11 when he made his debut at age 16 in the light flyweight division. Finesse is naturally going to take precedence over power with smaller fighters.
Mayweather is the gold standard for finesse. His defense is second to none in the Sport of Kings; take a moment to watch some of his fights on the YouTubes, and you’ll see how the northpaw likes to keep both his hands high, with his left elbow inside. This allows Mayweather to stick to his opponent, then swing his elbow out to block incoming right hands. It also sets up his counterpunches, including a quick high-angle jab that doesn’t have much distance to travel before landing.
In addition to his guard and his mobility, Mayweather uses other defensive tactics to minimize the amount of damage he receives. When he swings and misses, instead of immediately pulling his punch back, Mayweather will continue the motion and bring his arm forward to block his opponent from counterpunching. He’ll often end up landing a forearm shiver in the process. Mayweather will also push you around the ring and lean on you to tire you out, blocking punches with his shoulder along the way. It’s brilliant, really.
The Pacquiaoan Theorem
It’s important to keep this in mind before we assume that Pacquiao’s going to focus on getting inside Mayweather’s guard in order to land his power punches, like he tried to do against Chris Algeiri to some success – but without scoring a knockout. At the same time, let’s not forget about Pacquiao’s unusual triangle guard, which allows him to use his elbows as well as his forearms to deflect punches.
Once May 2 rolls around, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pacquiao try to do his damage more from the outside, which nearly worked for the taller Oscar De La Hoya (5-foot-10 1/2) back in 2007. Freddie Roach was De La Hoya’s trainer, and he’ll be in Pacquiao’s corner at the MGM Grand. Mayweather beat De La Hoya by split decision in that fight. The boxing odds at Bovada have Mayweather pegged at –130 to win another decision over Pacquiao, which seems like a much better value for our boxing picks than their –300 odds for the fight going the full 12 rounds in either direction.