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In the days leading to a mega-fight of this magnitude, every single living soul who has ever watched a boxing match is asked about his or her opinion about the protagonists, their chances and the possible outcome of the bout in question. And the impending Mayweather-Pacquiao fight has been the epitome of that situation.
Anyone from rappers and singers, actors and journalists, and yes, fighters and managers, have voiced their views about the fight in every media available. But there are only a very select group of people who have enough first-hand knowledge of the situation to give a truly qualified evaluation of the fight that the entire world will be watching this Saturday. And they are none other than the five fighters who have faced both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather at some point of their respective careers.
In a superb pre-fight documentary, HBO compiled the opinions of Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto to compose a unique mosaic of invaluable analysis on one of the most anticipated fights in history. They all sat down for exclusive interviews with the network’s top boxing analysts Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman for an enlightening question and answer session.
The Task At Hand
When the time came to analyze their own personal mindset heading into the fight, Oscar De La Hoya took the lead in providing his own detailed analysis of his views of Mayweather’s style ahead of his confrontation with them.
“I had to go beyond thinking ‘I am going to kick his ass,’ said Oscar about his fight against Mayweather, which took place at the MGM Grand on May 5th, 2007, in what turned out to be the beginning of Floyd’s controversial tradition of fighting on the closest possible date to that same revered Mexican holiday. “(I had to forget) all that trash-talking he did at the press conference, and start thinking smart. Like ‘OK, this guy is a strategist, this guy knows how to calculate his punches, this guy knows how to throw combinations enough to win the rounds, so what do I have to do?’ I actually felt, in the first half of the fight, what I was capable of doing. My natural talent, the hard work that I put in the gym. That first half was very easy.”
But back then, just as ever, Mayweather had a plan, and it showed as the fight progressed.
“Absolutely, that what makes Mayweather so great,” answered Oscar, when asked about the idea of Floyd actually allowing him to grow confident earlier on to then surge and dominate him later in the fight.
That same tactic, however, didn’t seem to work so well with another fighter on that short list of common opponents.
“I went into the fight confident, knowing that I could hit him and feeling like I could knock him out,” said Shane Mosley, who faced Mayweather on May 1st, 2010. “I thought that I could force (Mayweather to trade) more than Oscar, because of my foot speed.”
Mosley eventually succeeded in forcing Floyd to exchange. And the result was right on the “Money.”
“I think I really got him,” said Mosley, about the single right hand that shook Mayweather and buckled his knees midway through the second round, in what remains one of Floyd’s closest brushes with a stoppage defeat. “(But) I don’t think that one shot gets the job done. You got to build on it, you have to look for the other shot. Which I did, when I hit him a second time. He launched a hook and I hit him again with a right hand, And I thought it was all over. The bell rang and it saved him. I thought ‘Ugh, I almost had him!’.”
Oscar believes Mayweather never saw that punch coming because of his supreme confidence. But he quickly points out at Floyd’s ability to adjust as the reason behind his recovery.
“When I faced Mayweather, he was probably thinking ‘well, Oscar hits hard. He has that left hook, I have to be careful.’ With Shane, it was the same thing because Shane can hit. He’s got a very powerful punch, by maybe he was thinking “I can maybe take his punch.” And that allowed Mayweather to come in close. (But Mayweather) was in tremendous shape. To recover from a shot like that was just incredible.”
Being conscious of one’s strengths and weaknesses is essential in any fight, but against a virtuoso performer like Mayweather it is vital to focus exclusively on the most positive aspects of one’s boxing style.
“Going into the fight against Floyd Mayweather, I knew I wasn’t going to beat him on speed, I wasn’t going to beat him on boxing ability,” said Ricky Hatton, who fought Mayweather in 2007 as an undefeated champion and lost on a devastating 10th round stoppage. “What we would try to do is to stay on his chest and keep the punch rate high, keep the work rate very strong. But I think he likes it when people put the pressure on him. When they put pressure on him, it brings the best out of him.”
Another one of Floyd’s opponents expanded on his appreciation of Mayweather’s virtues.
“I think Floyd Mayweather is the best pound-for-pound fighter,” said Juan Manuel Marquez, who lost by decision in his fight against Floyd back in 2009. “Mayweather’s style is a great style, because his defense is great, and he uses the counterpunch very well. I think Manny needs to put pressure, needs to land many punches with his speed, but what he needs more is his intelligence, a little bit more intelligence in the ring. Mayweather needs to use his legs, his experience, and his defense is important in this fight because Manny has power.”
The remaining opinion came from the one fighter who perhaps gave both fighters one of the most aggressive performances in each of his two fights against them.
“Before my fight with Floyd, my main point during training camp was to try to take him out of his comfort zone,” said Miguel Cotto, who faced Mayweather in his customary early May date in 2012. “Being aggressive and trying to be on him the whole fight. As long as you can keep him out of his strategy you can beat him.”
Their Own Experience with Manny
As close as they all may have come to beat either of them, only one fighter in this bunch was actually able to achieve a victory against either fighter. In fact, that one fighter is the one responsible for the only victory in a heartbreaking collective W-L-D record of 1-7-1 against Mayweather and Pacquiao.
And analysis of this fight is simple and very clear.
“I think Pacquiao is a great fighter,” said Juan Manuel Marquez, who famously stopped Pacquiao cold in the fourth installment of their thrilling series against each other, in which the current Filipino congressman won two, with the first one ending in a draw. “He has speed, he has power, but I used my intelligence and I employed my speed, I employed my defense, and my counterpunches (to win).”
When the time came to evaluate the possibility of a stoppage victory for either, Marquez did not hesitate.
“I think if Manny can land a punch with power, maybe Mayweather will be going down.”
Miguel Cotto seems to agree with the advantage in the punching power department.
“Manny’s explosiveness is his great advantage,” said Cotto, who was stopped by Pacquiao in the 12th and final round of their 2009 encounter, “but styles make fights. Floyd Mayweather thinks one or two steps ahead. Manny Pacquiao is faster than anybody and he is going to use his quickness. He has in his hands the possibility to make a great fight. Everything depends on what kind of mind they have on May 2nd.”
Ricky Hatton, who was brutally stopped by Pacquiao in 2009, has no problem agreeing with this view.
“Against Manny Pacquiao, it was just apparent how heavy-handed he was,” said Hatton. “He tried to hit me hard as I was marching in, and he had more explosive punching than Floyd Mayweather. He hurt me with every punch. Even the arm punches were solid.”
De La Hoya, on his turn, praised Pacquiao’s elusiveness.
“Did you ever have a fly that you swath and you can’t catch? Manny Pacquiao was like that for eight rounds,” said Oscar, about his frustrating losing effort against Pacquiao in what became Manny’s breakthrough fight back in 2008. “He would throw punches in bunches, and he would land everything. And I just couldn’t throw back. He was not faster than Shane Mosley, but the fact is that he was so relentless. At one point I had him in the center of the ring, he was wide open, and I could see the shot but I couldn’t pull the trigger.“
Shane Mosley nods in approval in both accounts: power and elusiveness.
“I threw a right hand to see how he would react,” reminisces ‘Sugar Shane,’ who was widely outpointed by Pacquiao in their encounter back in 2011. “I set it up, line him up, and I see him do his little bounce and ‘bo-boom’, he throws a one-two. I fall down and I think ‘wow, that didn’t feel that hard! Why did I go down?’ I get back up, and I am still dizzy! I thought ‘Alright, maybe he hit me right on the button, because I don’t go down.’ I move around, I got grazed by a right hook and I felt it a little bit, and I said ‘wow, I still have ten more rounds to go’! I didn’t have any firepower. t’s not really the angles, it’s his height. How did he get here so fast?, he shouldn’t be able to cover so much ground so fast. He is fast on his feet. Manny is going to move, he is going to dart in and out, and he is going to force Mayweather to fight him that way.”
De La Hoya agrees wholeheartedly.
“His footwork is extraordinary. He has those thick calves, those thick legs that allows him to jump in there right away. And that’s what may give Mayweather trouble,” said Oscar. “Because if he waits for Maywather to react, then Mayweather can take him apart. Hot-shot him, here and there, put rounds in the bag and win possibly a dull fight. So Pacquiao knows that he has to press the action, but how does he press the action? For me, when I fought Mayweather the jab was the key. Mayweather does not know how to block a jab. If Pacquiao throws that relentless right hand straight down the pipe, it’s bound to land.”
Mosley also concurs with this view.
“(Pacquiao’s) left hand is going to be the key for Pacquiao to get in when Mayweather steps to the side. But his right hook is going to probably be his best choice.”
In the final segment of the video, all five fighters gave their predictions for the May 2nd mega-showdown, and this is what they had to say:
Shane Mosley: Mayweather did have a little bit of punching power. And you never know when he’s going to turn the power up or when he’s not. And we know that Marquez hit Pacquiao with that overhand right, and Mayweather is a master of landing those right hands. He does it very well. I think Mayweather has the speed, the ability and the movement to win. This is the type of fight that could go either way, but my pick is definitely Mayweather.
Ricky Hatton: I think what he got to do in order to beat Floyd is use his hand speed. I don’t believe for one minute that Freddie is sitting him on the Wild Card Gym and saying ‘just jump all over him,’ because we all tried that and we all failed. I think they’re working on something different and it could be his fast feet, to get in and out, in and out, with fast punches and trying to outwork him. If Manny goes out and goes for it like a lot of people think he would do, I think it would be a fantastic fight. I give Floyd the edge because Floyd can jab and adjust to every style he faces and I think he is going to adapt to Manny’s.
Juan Manuel Marquez: I think Mayweather wins this fight because he has experience, a great defense, he uses counterpunching very well, and he is more intelligent than Pacquiao. I think Mayweather wins this fight.
Miguel Cotto: I am not going to pick a winner because this is a tough fight, but the guy who comes with no fear of anything on May 2nd is going to be the winner.
Oscar De La Hoya: Something we probably haven’t thought about is that Pacquiao has been in tougher fights. He’s been in wars against Shane Mosley, he’s been in wars against Juan Manuel Marquez several times, as well as Miguel Cotto. Mayweather on the other hand, has been cruising through his fights. It’s going to be interesting to see which Mayweather shows up and which Pacquiao shows up. I expect an explosive, high-paced, exciting fight. My head is with Mayweather but my corazón is with Pacquiao.