Boxing pundits are calling Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather the “Fight of the Century” and some have already predicted it will be remembered as one of the greatest bouts in boxing history. We won’t know whether that’s true until late Saturday night, but we do have a sense of how this fight will play out in the ring.
“One thing about Pacquiao, he ain’t going to go into survival mode like a lot of other guys do when they face Floyd Mayweather,” Mayweather said. “He’s not going to go in survival mode — that’s what we do know.”
Mayweather was referring to Pacquiao’s control-the-pace, attack-till-you-drop offensive approach. Although this is precisely what did in Saul Alvarez, who fought Mayweather in September 2013, Pacquiao’s blinding hand speed adds an element to the fight that the undefeated champ has yet to face.
Pacquiao enters having boxed 44 more rounds than Mayweather (407 compared with 363), with 12 more knockouts (38 compared to 26). However, Mayweather has never been knocked out (Pacquiao has been felled in such a way three times) nor lost and is considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
Like any fight, this one will be as much a chess match as it is a showcase of pugilism: Moves, counter-moves, strategy and adjustments. Mayweather has had a tougher time connecting on punches against southpaws, landing less than 41 percent of his total punches, power punches and jabs in his last three fights against them.
Mayweather is referred to as a defensive specialist and often will throw far fewer punches than his opponents. In the four fights since his 2012 fight with Miguel Cotto — in which he threw 687 punches — Mayweather has thrown an average of just 433 punches. Over that same stretch, Pacquiao has averaged nearly 700 punches per fight. For further context, over the last six fights Mayweather has thrown 2,345 punches; Pacquiao threw 2,300 over a two–fight stretch in 2010.
As is the case with most successful fighters, both land a ridiculously high percentage of their punches: Mayweather has connected on 50.2 percent of his total punches, 39.9 percent of his jabs and 58.6 percent of his power punches over the last six fights; Pacquiao has landed 34.7 percent of his total punches, 19 percent of his jabs and 44.3 percent of his power punches over his last three fights.
Although Pacquiao has 12 more knockouts than Mayweather, and went on a ravenous streak where he knocked out eight straight opponents over a 13-month stretch in the late ’90s, this isn’t the same Pacman. Nine of his last 10 fights went to the 12th round, and the 36-year-old hasn’t knocked out an opponent in more than five years. Similarly, the 38-year-old Mayweather has only won two fights by way of knockout in the last nine years.
The clear advantage in the fight is found on the defensive end, and Mayweather has it handedly. Mayweather, who has boxed 363 professional rounds, has officially been knocked down once in his career. He is the closest analogy boxing has to fighting an apparition. His athleticism and agility allow him the ability to evade any situation, get off of the ropes and instantaneously spin the momentum of the fight. When that proficiency is coupled with a tough chin and the quickest counter-punch in the sport, it’s borderline unfair to expect anyone to keep up with him in the ring.
There are certainly some issues that Mayweather could run into, like Pacquiao’s hammer of a straight left, and the Filipino’s feints and angles. Pacman has no problem letting his hands go in a fight, but Mayweather’s career record is littered with examples of fighters exhausting themselves in the opening rounds and succumbing to copious jab-hook combinations in the final minutes. If not for Mayweather’s pinpoint accuracy, the number of punches he throws in his fights would be worrisome, but he could weave a hook through a rain droplet.
Pacquiao will need his full punching repertoire and throw in high volume, but if he doesn’t, Mayweather will put on yet another exhibition and win his 48th professional fight and the crowning jewel of his illustrious career.
All stats via CompuBox
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the Pacific Standard and VICE, among other publications. He has been heard on CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. Planos is currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer.