Floyd Mayweather will have a considerable height and reach advantage over Manny Pacquiao when they meet this May at the MGM Grand. How much should that affect our boxing picks for the Fight of the Century?
Manny Pacquiao used to be the WBC World flyweight champion. It’s easy to forget that “Pac-Man” is just 5-foot-6 and change; you don’t hear people talk too much about Pacquiao’s size these days, but there was a time when that was all they talked about. Then Pacquiao beat Marco Antonio Barrera by TKO for the lineal Featherweight championship in 2003. People started taking about his punching power instead.
Floyd Mayweather isn’t exactly a giant either at 5-foot-8. But he’ll be the taller of the two fighters when he and Pacquiao meet on May 2 for the Fight of the Century, with the WBA Super, WBC and WBO Welterweight titles on the line. Mayweather will also have a considerable reach advantage at 72 inches to Pacquiao’s 67. Is this enough of a size difference to make us back Mayweather with our Boxing Picks at –200?
The Color of Money
As they always say, size isn’t everything – but size does matter. Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) has beaten all fighters great and small since turning pro in 1996; against shorter opponents, Mayweather’s defensive style becomes even more difficult to penetrate, as everyone from Angel Manfredy to Miguel Cotto has discovered.
But Cotto did get some shots in when they fought three years ago. Especially in the middle rounds, Cotto (5-foot-7, 67-inch reach) was able to cut the ring off and keep Mayweather on the ropes, giving him a bloody nose in the process. Marcos Rene Maidana (5-foot-7, 69-inch reach) also managed to get through to Mayweather in their first fight last year, landing 221 punches – a record against Mayweather, according to CompuBox.
Enter the Pac-Man
Pacquiao, meanwhile, has proved time and time again that he can get the job done against larger opponents like Chris Algieri (5-foot-10, 72-inch reach). We saw that in spades when he fought him last November. Algieri’s no Mayweather, but he is a slippery, defensive-minded fighter. Pacquiao lit Algieri up 229 times and scored six knockdowns, four of them legitimate, while only getting hit 108 times in return.
The other thing they say about size is that it’s what you do with it. As we mentioned in our very early look at Pacquiao’s advantages in this fight, his southpaw stance and his ability to strike from all angles are difficult to defend against. Pacquiao is much like another smaller fighter in that regard: Bruce Lee (5-foot-7). It’s no coincidence that Pacquiao is a huge Bruce Lee fan, having grown up watching and studying his movies in the Philippines. Lee’s particular approach to kung fu, which he called Jeet Kune Do, was designed to be “non-classical.” He called it “the art of fighting without fighting” in the 1973 classic Enter the Dragon, which Pacquiao still watches to this day.
Age Against the Machine
Although Mayweather has the height and reach advantage in this fight, there’s one other important aspect of the Tale of the Tape for Boxing odds makers to consider: age. Mayweather turned 38 last month, and while he’s always been in excellent condition, it was clear during the first Maidana bout that The Champ is not as fast as he used to be. Technically sound, definitely. Adaptable, no question, as we saw in the rematch against Maidana. But not as fast.
Pacquiao is getting a little long in the tooth himself at age 36, and his best years are almost certainly behind him, as well. But he’s still younger than Mayweather, and he’s also in tremendous condition. On top of that, you probably won’t find Pacquiao spending too much time at the craps tables in Vegas, or heading out to a “late-night movie” after 1:00 a.m., as Mayweather did recently. It hasn’t cost him in the ring yet, but nothing good happens after midnight when you’re 38.