Manny Pacquiao faces Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday night, and although he goes in as the underdog he will be convinced he can win.
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Unlike his rival, Pacquiao has tasted defeat as his record currently stands at 57-5-2, but after devastating back-to-back losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012, he has regrouped and come back strong.
After avenging his loss to Bradley last year, the Filipino utterly dominated his bout with Chris Algieri in November, and although he no longer has the power to knock his opponents out, he certainly proved that he is still lightning quick and hungry to succeed.
So, how can Pacquiao become the first man to defeat ‘Money’ Mayweather? It would come as a huge shock if Mayweather departed from his usual defensive approach, and so the onus will be on Pacquaio to come forward and make the fight.
The 36-year-old is the shorter man and gives up a significant reach advantage of five inches, but that shouldn’t faze him as he has had to deal with similar issues in the past and prevailed against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto.
However, the biggest key in this fight is how it starts, as Pacquiao needs to take command early while Mayweather figures him out and is vulnerable himself, just as he was against Shane Mosley in 2010.
Pacquiao will need to make the most of his superior footwork, get off multiple combinations and shake his rival up early to deny him from settling into a rhythm and feeling comfortable in the ring with him. To come forward recklessly could be his undoing, so expect to see something like the Pac-Man that beat De La Hoya rather than the one who lost to Marquez with that shuddering knockout blow.
If he is able to win the first few rounds and sustain his level of pressure and stamina by darting in and out and catching him with his awkward angles from his southpaw stance, then that will shift the pressure on to Mayweather to claw his way back into the bout.
Provided Pac-Man doesn’t tire, that could in turn leave the American more open than usual and that is where the Filipino must catch him and make the most of any holes in his defense as he will need to produce a high volume of punches and out-work him.
While that is certainly easier said than done, there is a belief that Pacquiao has all the necessary tools to become the first man to give Mayweather genuine problems. The Michigan native will not have faced anyone similar to him previously, and if the unbeaten star isn’t as mobile and hasn’t got the legs to use his superior defensive skills as he used to, then there could be a huge upset on the cards.
It will take a lot from Pacquiao to pull off the win, but Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach has had five years to work on a game-plan for Mayweather. Now comes the real test as to whether his fighter can execute it perfectly or not by avoiding the traps that his rival will set and landing his own shots to break him down and win over 12 rounds.
Neither man possesses the power to end this fight early in my opinion, and so it will come down to Pacquiao out-boxing Mayweather but being accurate rather than reckless with his sustained attacks.