Here we are on the eve of the biggest fight night in more than a decade and maybe since Mike Tyson’s ascent in the ’80s. And, for as fraught as the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight is with complaints that they’re over-the-hill, I’m ecstatic to see America embracing a showdown between welterweights.
In the post-Tyson landscape the general American sporting public seemed to take only a passing interest in boxing’s terrific non-heavyweight champs–Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones, Jr., Pacquiao, Mayweather, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto, Felix Trinidad, etc.–while the heavyweight division stagnated under the fists and plodding pace of the Klitschko brothers. While boxing fans have enjoyed the smaller divisions immensely, it’s like the mainstream sporting public forgot that middleweights likely produced the very best fight in the last 50 years (if you’ve never watched Hagler-Hearns in its entirety, find 8 minutes right now). The wait for some sort of heavyweight savior is probably going to take awhile (you’d have never heard of the Klitsckos if Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis were working the heavy bags) and the lighter divisions are where all the action is, so I’m glad to see them getting their due in the spotlight.
On the same token, it’s heartening to see most hardcore boxing fans not acting shitty about this promotion. The absence of a wider fan base made the die-hard’s heart grow fonder, apparently. For all the gripes about the fact that this fight is ringing the bell five years after it would have been a show-stopper, and the puke undercard, and the pissing match between HBO (Pacquiao) and Showtime (Mayweather) over control of the broadcast, you’re hearing a mostly positive narrative coming out of the boxing community. It’s good for the growth of the sport to see the saltiest insiders throwing the doors open to new potential fans.
Alright, AJ, enough of my Valentine to boxing. You think Michael Buffer is doing anything but drinking shakes, tanning in silence with John Boehner and speaking in sign language all week from a hermetically-sealed bubble? His are the most valuable set of pipes in America right now.
Before I get to any of my thoughts about the actual bout, and to be sure, I do have them (hint: I don’t think it goes near the distance and a lot of my wagering is going to be based on the fight’s three-rounds-or-fewer promise), I want to make an admission: Before I read this column (by you), I hadn’t thought of boxing since George Foreman’s name was synonymous with fighting in the jungle instead of cooking up frozen Costco chicken.
The Pacquaio/Bradley piece was prescient in a number of ways. Before anyone accuses you of jumping on the MayPac “five-years-too-late” bandwagon, you wrote Manny was robbed in his 2012 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s, in your words, “monumental screw-up” giving Bradley the decision. The rematch was validation of this notion but also too little too late…and yet, a possible preview of how Saturday night’s fight is going down.
It also started me on the boxing bandwagon. Which started me reading publications like The Ring which prose-for-prose is the best sport commentary going. Period.
The reason why? There is something untold and grainy and alluring about boxing. And I think the reason mainstream sporting society has turned its turned its back on it, is because the seedy underbelly is so so very close to the cream that rises to the top.
Mayweather is a dirty, nasty, lying and rich beyond-as-fuck son of a bitch. And he’s the best amongst his crew. Pacquaio, as you wrote in your fight primer, had to peck his way from the streets of General Santos City like an embattled rooster and yet belts out a mean rendition of Sometimes When We Touch.
Both may not be face you want on your kids’ posters, but at least they’re real. The sport is real. The gambling, the treachery, the blood and spit and grit, it’s there, flying off the faces and onto the mat. No faking that. The ring is surrounded by treachery and misdeeds and lies and swollen guts and even broader egos. Saturday night, Vegas will drip itself in $20k suits and $200k timepieces but underneath the showcase and the swagger lies the eternal question boxing brings: How thin is the line between unbridled success and abject poverty in this country? Is it really as frayed as a pair of laces tied and taped around the wrist?
There’s no knowing when a boxing match can get out of control. When it breaks free from the ring and spreads, then what? When it doesn’t matter what’s in your account or where your Bugatti’s parked, because, underneath the shimmering facade, we’re all just frail humans. Boxing, more than any sport, exposes that.
For the last couple generations we’ve tried to hide this elemental fact with marketing and lionization of our athletes. Athletes-as-heroes. They’re not. They’re human beings who can throw, bat, swing or hit harder, faster, more accurately than the rest of us clock-watchers. We’ve grown into a society that believes sport is an accurate reflection of its own bullshit.
Well, it is all bullshit.
All of it.
The appetite for boxing has ebbed in time to the appetite for hearing bad news, taking criticism, accountability and knowing that somewhere, deep down, nobody is safe. But the thirst for MayPac as the sporting if not cultural event of the last half-decade shows something else too…
But more on that in a minute. Back to you Kyle.
You hit the nail on the head. I heard Jim Lampley say in this fantastic interview with Ring that boxing isn’t a white tablecloth sport. But after years of Ray Rices, steroids and Lance Armstrong, what is? Boxing is at least honest about its garbage.
Anyway, onto Saturday. I’ve been vacillating on how to pick the outcome. Floyd is the better boxer, though not by miles and miles. Manny’s open secret amongst boxing fans is that he’s not the huge power puncher he used to be and has been as much of a tactical boxer as anyone in the game for the last three years. Trainer Freddie Roach will have a polished game plan for Manny going into Saturday. I guess I’m saying Floyd’s tactical advantage won’t be huge. It’s going to come down to energy levels. If nobody’s getting knocked out, who lands more punches? That’s the key—the only—question regarding Saturday, in my opinion.
Floyd’s strengths flow from his defense. Opponents come at him, try to throw, miss, and Floyd’s right hand comes over his lead left shoulder lightning quick to land on their nose. From this defensive posture Floyd is deadly, that lead left shoulder not only presents a meager target for opponents hoping to cause some damage, but it allows Floyd to unleash a left jab while covering his body and provides a protective stance from which to launch returning right hands.
Throwing anything beside jabs and crosses is an idiot’s game. Floyd will step back and catch your big overhands like the quicker kid in a pillow fight and use his elbow to deflect uppercuts and, honestly, most jabs, to the air harmlessly on either side of his torso. His neatest trick is using the ropes to his advantage. You can see it in round 5 of his 2012 fight with Miguel Cotto and in six of the 12 rounds of his 2013 showdown with Canelo Alvarez. Floyd presses his back against the ropes and uses their natural give and corresponding bounce to counteract his opponent’s attempts to work inside of him. Leaning slightly forward, he awaits each combination and as the punches come pushes his body back into the ropes and away from the damage, taking glancing blows on his gloves and elbows. After weathering an attack, he bounces his body off the ropes and counters straight to his opponent’s lowered head and face, ending their hopes the same way General Pickett’s boys met their end at Gettsyburg–with an attack from higher ground. Watch Cotto in this fight. Almost every time he gets Floyd on the ropes, he thinks he’s fighting in close quarters. The champ uses his quickness and the ropes to create feet in which to fight where there were once mere inches. It’s deadly effective; the man is Sun Tzu in the ring.
Where Floyd deals in deception, Manny deals in the ideology of Steve Spurrier: Here’s what I’m running, try to stop it. An opponent is met at the center of the ring, greeted with some crazy-assed overhand or looping hook, herded into a corner by Pacquiao’s excellent footwork and then pummeled with a flurry of right hooks and wild left crosses with four feet of clearance in which to pick up steam. It is how an insane person ends your night in a bar fight. There is little thought to defense at this particular point. Fast forward to the 43 minute mark of his fight with poor Cotto and watch how the Puerto Rican’s night ends. Manny waits for Cotto to walk into his trap in one corner, closes on him, begins his assault and essentially chases the man into the other corner with an exposed face and chest while raining down absolute bombs that always seem to find a home on cheeks and chest. In the open ring, Manny is a complete fighter. He joins in the give-and-take of a match, shows a pretty small target and delivers his blows in lightning fast order before pulling back and resuming a defensive stance. He’ll take some shots when he’s on the ropes but delivers a pretty a solid counter-punching game there to extricate himself from danger. It’s when his opponent’s back is to the ropes that Manny loses his mind and can get caught opening himself up to danger. It’s how Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him out in 2012. When the Filipino Flash doesn’t deliver the blow as quickly as he once could, when those hooks loop a hair too long, opponents can find landing spots for salvos of their own.
Alright AJ, before I get to my pick, let’s kick it back to you.
Since I can’t front on your boxing knowledge, I’m going to go ahead and continue (end?) my little rant from above with quick comment on violence in America.
I think the medias gets it wrong with the party line that we’re a more violent people or that we thirst for more bloody action today than ever. Not true. Man is violent by nature. Why do you think he made up religion?
But we are inured to violence at an increasingly earlier age and with increased frequency. And by violence, I mean all types of violence. Porn counts, big-time. Interactive violence, like video games. And pop-culture violence from television and film to the 24-hour stalking stream of tabloid vultures; our celebrity-obsessed selves is probably the biggest growth sector of violence thus far this century.
As a result, we’ve painted ourselves into this kind of solipsistic corner, burying our heads in our devices and waiting to be outraged by the next school shooting as we simultaneously contribute to the problem watching and sharing acts against humanity over and over and over…and fucking over.
This visceral sort of out-of-body mindset carries over SO MUCH that when it comes to seeing an ACTUAL violent act, we ignore it. Paul Walker drove his car off bridges, through buildings, over train tracks with a moving locomotive about to cross in the multi-billion-dollar Fast and Furious franchise, yet his corpse was burned beyond recognition as he and a buddy took a turn too fast on the actual streets of LA in a souped-up Porsche. And there is no public outcry (at least not with our wallets) or association between fiction and fact or the dangers of consequence in the living world.
Sport is one of the only remaining sanctioned getaways from the cartoon violence projected on our black-screen feeds. But even that is evolving ever slicker and more mechanical, less human—much of the reason why NFL players are looking more and more like the Fox football robots each year.
But we still have boxing. Two men, toe to toe, knocking one another to a bloody pulp for prize money. There’s no faking that. There’s no pretense in that. No CGI in that. There’s nobody pulling out semi-automatic weapons in slo-mo from behind a billowing suit jacket. It’s as real a reflection of how far we haven’t come in the last two millennia that I can think of.
And yet, people decry the nature of this event of the century behemoth because they don’t condone…the violence.
Well, I say, the rhythm, the technique, the mastery and the majesty of this fight is actually a salve, a temporary respite from the one-upsmanship dreck and debauchery we’ve come to be entertained by. It’s a little bit old school—feeling a surge stealing a peek at the Victoria’s Secret catalog instead of going straight to the bookmarked bondage site—and, to me, a bit of a reminder that actual bone-crushing, jaw-breaking, eye-swelling violence…is horrific.
Sadly, we don’t have enough such reminders.
OK KM kick my soapbox out from under me and take us back ringside. I’ll hit you with my pick on the other side.
WOOOOOO we’re in it now. Meditations on dissociative violence and poverty and pornography and the fact that two men beating the hell out of each other is the most honest form of entertainment we have. Since I can’t possibly go deeper, let’s ring the bell.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. -130 by a decision or technical decision in 12 rounds
That’s a chalky, chalky bet. It’s the guy who purports to be a Yankees, Duke, Cowboys, USC and Lakers fan of bets. It’s also probably what’s going to happen. Manny has a special speed/power combination, but Floyd waited him out long enough to make that combination manageable as opposed to fatal. Manny gets drawn into playing a short game early–trying to be busy and rack up rounds while Floyd is in his traditional feeling-out phase. Floyd, on the other hand, is going to box for 12 rounds from the jump. It’ll be exciting early to see how Floyd handles the furious volleys and learns how to sidestep a freight train, maybe the best Floyd fight in about a decade. Once the tide turns and Manny tires from punching air, Floyd’s counter-punches will start registering on Manny’s body and the judge’s scorecards. From rounds 10-12 Mayweather will be countering PacMan’s attempts at homerun shots, which, by their very definition, will come fewer and farther between. It’ll be like watching a constrictor work. This fight goes to the cards and comes back as a unanimous decision for Floyd. Then we await the rematch.
While we tend to see eye-to-eye on most stuff (like not being sure whether Tara Reid is actually still alive), our wagering styles have always been distinctly dissimilar.
#MayPac is no different.
I laud your analysis of this tilt and can’t offer much in the ways of augmenting your technical expertise. In fact, I’ve been shadowboxing with the topic at hand (the actual fight) to this point. Though you’re the tactician on some counts and I bet based on history and what I had for lunch that day, suspiciously, regardless of how we throw down at the book, we often end up with matching results.
So, while you’re taking the one-shot easy money, I’m going to go ahead and try to parlay and prop bet myself into significance.
The Disclaimer: Parlays and props are sucker bets. They’re the swampland in South Florida version of the gambling world…but boxing is the Florida of sports…which is why I’m going all-in here on the funny money.
Also remember, Pacquaio doesn’t get knocked out (Marquez landed a literal one-in-a-million shot and it won’t happen again). And Mayweather has never been hit—which is why my prop picks are so Manny-friendly.
Will the fight go the distance?
- No (Fight does not go the distance): +230 (23/10)
I like the +2 and change too much here. I don’t think there’s a way a pair fighters who are both closer to blowing out 40 candles than 30 both go the distance unless they’re pulling punches in anticipation of a sequel alluded to above. Let’s face it though, once in the cockpit, the flight plan on this one gets tossed into the prop.
Fight Outcome Props:
- Manny Pacquiao by KO, TKO or Disqualification — 4/1
- Manny Pacquiao by Knockout — 14/1
- Manny Pacquiao by Majority Decision — 28/1
I’m taking all three of these, because, again, the odds are just too good. Where in the fucking world did Manny by Majority Decision come out at 28/1? I’m betting all the pizza guy’s tip on that fo sho.
Higher Punches Landed %:
- Manny Pacquiao Punches Landed %: +180 (9/5)
Not great odds here, but as close to a sure thing on the prop list.
Will the Fight End in a Draw?
- Yes: +1400 (14/1)
Sure, why not? 14/1 is astronomically good odds for an outcome that could well happen. If Manny fights just slightly better than Floyd and it’s a slow start/even in the early rounds like everyone’s predicting, this sets up a lag in the middle rounds and the eventuality of Part II very, very nicely. Mayweather-friendly judges won’t have a hard time blemishing Money’s record with a 1 notched in the third column.
- Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. to win in round 5 — 50/1
- Manny Pacquiao to win in round 3 — 50/1
- Manny Pacquiao to win in round 5 — 40/1
- Manny Pacquiao to win in round 8 — 33/1
I could make some shit up here, but if it doesn’t go the distance, I’m feeling an end to this tilt in rounds 3, 5 or 8. Mostly because that’s when most boxing matches that end in KO end and those are also the best tracks off any album, look it up. I love the 50/1 odds on Pac Man in Round 3 or Floyd in Round 5.
Round Group Betting:
- Floyd Mayweather Jr. to win in rounds 1 – 3 — 18/1
- Manny Pacquiao to win in rounds 1 – 3 —18/1
- Either Fighter wins in Round 7-8 — 10/1
The classic hedge: If I’m spending $30-$50 for my share of pay-per-view I definitely want to trim my losses should one of these old men go to the mat early. A $5 prop on a round 1-3 knockout more than covers my PPV losses AND gives me the right to be ‘that guy’ to stand up at the party and be like, ‘I called it’ while everyone else is still trying to figure out where the bottle opener is and Jay and Bey haven’t even found their seats at the MGM Garden Arena.