Pacquiao vs Mayweather: Tactical Warfare!

By P.H. Burbridge - What if Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr emerge from their next fights victorious? How would a fight between these two great fighters play out? Who would be able to do what to the other? Those are the questions I’ll attempt to answer in this edition of “Tactical Warfare”. This data will obviously be based on both fighters in their current state. After they emerge from their next fight I’ll likely write an amended “Tactical Warfare” based on their performances. But, who knows either one could lose and there may be no reason to write another edition. I personally hope this fight comes off and the title at stake is for P4P supremacy!

The set up: Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao are landmark talents who are on completely different ends of the fistic spectrum in and out of the ring. They both have legitimate claims to the P4P title and the only way to settle the argument for everyone concerned should they both emerge victorious in their fights against Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto is to fight each other. In preparing for “Tactical Warfare” I reviewed as much fight footage as I could get my hands on for each guy and studied their evolution into world champions.. I really wanted to take some time and gain a greater understanding of each guy’s technical ability without all the rhetoric that we usually end up hearing and reading.

But, first let’s put some that rhetoric into context.

The knock on Floyd:

There are those who think that Floyd’s out of the ring antics are a diversionary tactic to mask his less than aesthetically pleasing performances in the ring. Inside the ring he sometimes reminds us of another slick shut out style fighter, Pernell Whitaker. Not in their fighting style but more so in terms of technical mastery along with a shared accomplishment as P4P king. There’s also a perception that both lacked punching power. Both are given much respect for their in ring virtuosity but their fights have lacked real drama in the eyes of many. Fans crave knockouts. We can appreciate great technique but there is no greater currency in this sport than the knockout. That’s what we want. If you’re not going to deliver that then you better be able to draw people to you in some other way. In my opinion that’s why Floyd has incorporated the ‘trash talk” approach and it’s really the key difference between he and Pernell. Whitaker wasn’t nearly as insulting or as entertaining at the podium as Mayweather. There was far less swagger in “Sweet Pea” than there is in “Pretty Boy” Floyd and the results or consequences are quite significant. Being the P4P king didn’t translate into the kind of compensation for Whitaker that “Money” Mayweather has grown accustomed to. Not by a long shot! Suffice it to say that there’s a method to Floyd’s madness and no one can argue with his results. But, in the minds of many he’ll never be acknowledgement in a manner you’d think his talent would guarantee because he has failed to make matches with the fighters generally considered to be the best in the division at the time. No Cotto fight, no Margarito fight, no Williams fight, etc……

Financially, it hasn’t hurt him because he was able to secure much more lucrative matches with higher stature less threatening foes. It has hurt him from a credibility stand point. Some accuse Floyd of creating a template for future fighters to use that shows how to make the most cash for the least amount of risk. You can argue it both ways but Mayweather is not the first to be accused of this. At times, Ray Leonard suffered the same criticism as did Oscar De La Hoya but at the end of the day the value in taking such an approach is all too obvious. Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya are both RICH! Very rich and that’s the real name of the game in Floyd’s mind. Floyd has never lost sight of this and don’t expect him too anytime soon.

But, even if you don’t agree with Mayweather’s method you shouldn’t ignore this reality.

Floyd Mayweather Jr IS a brilliant and I do mean BRILLIANT fighter! Anyone with eyes and a boxing brain can see that.

He has more natural talent than perhaps anyone since Roy Jones Jr. I’ve always been more of a “fighter” type of guy as opposed to “boxer” type of guy. But, at the end of the day it’s impossible for a Julio Cesar Chavez disciple like my self not to recognize that this guy is truly gifted. So, far he’s been unbeatable and with the exception of a close and controversial decision win against Jose Luis Castillo in their first fight Floyd has shown an incredible ability to acclimate to just about any style. People have called him a “virtuoso in the ring” but I think that’s even an understatement. From a technical perspective this guy is Niccolò Paganini in boxing trunks and NO amount of distaste for his demeanor can change that. Floyd is one of the smartest fighters we’ve ever seen and his ring generalship puts him in a class all by himself.

He’s a complete fighter!

In the case of Manny Pacquiao you have Floyd’s lunar opposite in almost every regard. He’s exactly the type of ambassador we need in our sport. He’s more the type of fighter that I generally tend to root for because he’s a puncher and his intention is stop guys not outbox them. I generally tend to root for guys like Manny because he appears to be a genuinely nice person outside of the ring. You don’t hear any foul language or any attempt to intimidate or down play his opponents talent leading in to a fight. It’s not his nature. In the ring, he’s never in a dull fight and he takes chances. He’s hittable which creates just the right amount of doubt and appear beatable. In an odd way that in itself adds to his appeal especially amongst those who might tend to root against him. Pacquiao has emerged as a truly special fighter who’s style doesn’t fit easily into any box. He can be quite unorthodox and because of it he gives guys who are highly technically skilled like Juan Manuel Marquez fits. He lands punches you’re not supposed to land but more importantly he throws punches you’re not supposed to throw. He’s a wild card and being a technical wizard may not be enough to beat him because of it. Technical fighters HATE unpredictability. He also has arguably the best trainer in the world today, Freddie Roach. Manny’s credibility with fans is at an all time high and there’s no telling how important a figure he’ll become if he continues to win.

Is it to soon to compare him to Ray Robinson? Yes! Right now I don’t think it’s fair to compare Manny or Floyd with any of those great fighters of the past because you can’t truly assess a fighter’s career until after its ended. Doing it before then is a waste of time. So, forget the “all time great” stuff for a while.

I think we can all agree that BOTH fighters have credentials of the highest order and a win by either over the other would re-invigorate the GOAT debate.

One of the truly difficult things to do when breaking down a fight is removing all the sentiment from the process. What most boxing analyst are guilty of is allowing their like or dislike of a fighter enter into their analytical conclusions. In some cases, if you really admire one fighter and despise the other you subconsciously build a case for the fighter you favor. In preparing for this article I made a conscious effort to remove all sentiment from the equation. I reviewed as much footage as I could acquire on for both fighters and spent the most time studying their recent performances. In Manny’s case I studied 25 fights and for Floyd I studied 37 fights. I’ve seen each one of their most important fights. But, I also did my best to review both fighters’ entire careers so I could track their progression from fight to fight to gain a better understanding of how their styles have evolved. I wanted to know what factors contributed to their ascension to the status they currently enjoy. I turned down the volume and processed the information with my eyes not with my ears.

What you’re about to read is not a prediction it’s a breakdown of possible tactical scenarios that any good camp would take into consideration in preparing their fighter for the task at hand. That’s it. There are a million reasons why fighters win and lose. Sometimes they don’t execute the tactical plan on fight night because they are not physically prepared and / or the tactical plan is just plain bad to begin with or they just get caught. Sometimes it’s that simple. In boxing, one punch can render all the best tactical advice and preparation useless no matter how brilliant or deficient it is.

That’s the bottom line!

So, here it is……..

Pacquiao vs Mayweather: Tactical Warfare!

First off, Manny is the busier fighter of the two. He throws a lot of punches and does so by darting in and out of range. Manny routinely throws somewhere in the area of 50-60 punches per round to Floyd’s 30-40 punches per round. Floyd is a precision puncher and when he lands he usually lands clean whereas Manny overwhelms his opponents with activity while mixing in hard shots from a variety of angles. Manny will have to avoid falling into the trap that pretty much all of Mayweather’s previous opponents have fallen into and that’s fighting at Floyd’s pace. Floyd has the ability to make normally very busy fighters hold their punches. Certainly his defensive skills are the cause but Roach will have to work very hard to make sure Manny maintains his normal work rate. Even if he’s not landing he’ll have to throw because it’s an integral part of his rhythm base. Manny cannot afford to get into a precision punching contest with Floyd. Bet on Roach spending a lot of time making sure Manny’s stays on his usual pace. If Manny throws at his normal rate and can avoid being hurt then I think he’ll be on solid ground in this fight. He clearly has the higher punch output and SHOULD land more punches. I think Floyd will throw fewer but land at a higher connect percentage. If Manny finds himself trying to match Floyd’s accuracy and it lowers his punch out put he’ll be making a big mistake. And it’s one that could lead to a KO for Floyd. Much is made of Floyd’s lack of power but I disagree with that and even though it’s a cliché “his speed is his power”. But aside from his fast hands NO one is going to walk through Floyd. He has enough power to make you think twice and remind you to tighten up your defense. You can bet that Freddie Roach isn’t one who thinks Floyd’s punching power is a non issue. Roach will want to limit Manny’s exposure as much as possible and will plan on a measured but steady attack. Fast pace, in and out!

If Manny can make Floyd fight at a faster pace then he will be successful in getting Floyd out of his comfort zone and it may even sap his energy. I’m positive that Roach will send Manny out to test that theory. After all Floyd’s the older less active fighter at this stage and he also recently showed some vulnerability in training for the JMM fight with his rib injury. Manny has maintained a very busy fight schedule and has been relatively injury free so you can expect him to be ready to go red line through all twelve rounds if need be. This will have to be a fast paced fight for Manny to emerge with a “W”. He’ll have to engage and re-engage over and over. That’s the key. He can’t allow himself to follow Floyd around the ring. Manny must cut off the ring and keep his hands moving without loading up on too many punches. His volume will be more important than his power in this fight.

Pacquiao is adept at slipping an orthodox jab and sliding underneath it to his right and firing his most effective punch, the straight left hand. In his recent fight with Hatton, Manny showed a much improved right hook which is a newly developed weapon that future opponents should be weary of. Freddie Roach has been talking about Manny’s right hand becoming a bigger factor all the way back to the first Erik Morales fight (“Manila Ice” is what they called it!) but it only really became evident in the Hatton fight. The pre-Hatton version of Manny used his right hand a couple of different ways. First, he has a pretty stiff jab that he routinely uses to slap down or deflect his opponent’s jab. It’s has great defensive value. That said from an opponent’s perspective the tactic of slapping down an opponents jab may also create an opportunity. But, it’s an opportunity only a fighter as fast as Manny himself could take advantage of. If Manny allows himself to be duped by a left shoulder feint while extending his right jab in anticipation of blocking his opponents jab then he could leave himself open to a counter left hook which is one of Floyd’s best punches. Floyd can also turn his jab into a hook in a blink of an eye. In fact, in reviewing Floyd dating all the way back to his days as the best 130 pounder in the world he throws that punch whenever he wants to do damage. He used it to stunning affect against Diego Corrales all the way up to backing up Oscar De La Hoya off of him in their fight. The hook he landed against Hatton was more a case of Floyd allowing Ricky to knock himself out by lunging in. Hatton was caught with the check hook and by jumping in added to the power of that shot. I’m talking about the hook Floyd throws when he plants himself and steps into the punch. It’s one of if not the hardest shot he throws and it’s EXTREMELY fast. Floyd is adept at feinting with his left shoulder and then firing that hook instead of his jab. He’s also capable of turning that hook upward so it almost comes at you like an uppercut at times. For opponent’s it’s a dangerous variation that only a supremely fast fighter would even attempt. It tells you something about his confidence level. If you’re not a supremely fast handed fighter then you’re opponent hits you with a counter right hook from either the orthodox or southpaw stance for throwing that. So, far no one has made Floyd pay for that but maybe with the advent of time his reflexes have slowed just enough for Manny to capitalize if Floyd shoots one his way.

My advice to Pacquiao; “Watch out for that left hook!”

However, as with any punch there’s a counter punch and there are times when Floyd fires his left hook and leaves the canvas in an attempt to use his full body weight in its delivery. When Floyd does that he opens himself up to Manny best punch, his straight left hand. If Manny can get Floyd to commit himself to that left hook and then time him while slipping to his left he can create enough room to deliver that punch. Zab Judah was able to get that punch in early in his fight with Floyd and so did Demarcus Corley. PBF quickly adjusted once he figured out what was triggering both guys. So, if Manny does have any success with that counter strategy then he’ll have to make those shots count because chances are Floyd will close down that avenue once he knows what’s triggering Pacquiao. Floyd’s adaptability is maybe the best in the game. His boxing mind works very fast and if one thing is not working he can just as easily find another means to avoid shots. He solved the puzzles of Judah and Corley and was able to take away their opportunities. For Manny, in order to minimize Floyd’s left hook he’ll have to use his legs and keep Floyd spinning so he can’t plant and fire. This will take the zip out of Floyd’s hook.

But, back to Manny’s right hook. Roach has him sitting down on that punch more now than I think we’ve ever seen before and I think it adds a new dynamic to Manny’s arsenal one that Mayweather shouldn’t ignore. Manny showed great power in that punch against Hatton and brought it over the top of Ricky’s lazy jab to knock him down in the 1st round. It appears that he can deliver it as a standard hook or over the top in variation so Mayweather will be making a big mistake if he assumes that once he’s blocked Manny’s jab that the only follow up punch from his left side will be another jab. It could be that right hook. I don’t think before the Hatton fight that punch could really have qualified as a MAJOR concern. But, now it is. It’s a legitimate improvement in Pacquiao and a credit to Roach. Now, in relation to Manny’s hardest punch, his straight left hand. This is a great punch when it lands because Manny delivers it with the full weight of his body behind it. That’s why it’s so devastating. He taps out a couple of range finding jabs and then he explodes into that punch. If it lands it’s bad news for the guy standing in the way. You don’t want to get hit with that punch so you better hope you’re leaning back with your hands up or slightly out of range because if you’re not you saw what Pacquiao did to Hatton. Now, do I think he can put Floyd to sleep with that punch like he did Ricky? No! But, I do think he can make Floyd think twice about getting hit with it and it WILL do damage. The only punch that I can honestly say truly visibly hurt Mayweather was delivered by another southpaw, Demarcus Corley and it was hard left hook over Floyd’s right hand.

Mayweather was wobbled by that shot but he also recovered in a blink of an eye.

But, my advice to Mayweather is “Don’t get hit with that SHOT!

But, here’s more intrigue. Manny’s straight left hand does offer an opportunity for his opponents. At times when Manny fires it he puts himself out of position and squares himself up. This is not a carefully guarded secret. The fact that he’s been doing it for so many years tells you that Roach either has not been able to correct it or a part of him knows that he shouldn’t correct it. At least not completely. Because of Manny’s excellent speed 98% of the guys he fights won’t be able to do anything about it anyway. Roach has been playing the averages on that shot and up until now he’s been right to do so. When Manny came to Roach he was a one handed fighter. That one punch is the one being discussed. It’s Manny most feared weapon but its also his Achilles heel. I’m sure Roger Mayweather salivates when he see’s Manny throwing and missing that shot because he knows his nephew has the SPEED to make him pay for it. Chances are Floyd will show an opening for that shot forcing Manny to commit to it and counter with his own straight right hand which if it lands will have twice the impact because as previously stated Pacquiao puts all his body weight behind that shot. There could be catastrophic consequences for Manny if that happens. PBF is a master of getting guys to run into shots and if Manny bites this could be a recipe for disaster. Freddie Roach I’m sure will work very hard to find a way of identifying that look so Manny avoids that trigger. It will ultimately come down to a timing issue and the answer for Pacquiao might be to fire his left hand when Floyd is in a straight up stance or has his back to the ropes. In the center of the ring it’s 50/50 and against Mayweather I don’t like those odds.

The challenge for Freddie Roach in devising a tactical plan is that Floyd is so damn adaptable and has a complete array of looks and technical triggers to confuse his opponents.

He makes in ring adjustments better than anyone else and as a fighter his ring intelligence is second to none. His defense is so tight that he forces his opponents to attempt a million variations of their own game plan in an attempt to just land ONE solid blow. He forces them to change up their approach round after round. While opponents are trying to find one thing that works Floyd is busy adjusting to his opponents speed, range and punching power. That allows him to start gauging the risk factor for his own offensive moves. The Zab Judah fight was a perfect example of Floyd studying a fighter who had speed comparable to his own. He allowed Zab in the first 4 rounds to show him everything he had speed and power-wise and then he made the adjustments in both areas to over take Judah. Zab Judah was a VERY GOOD and naturally gifted fighter back in his day and was very dangerous but Floyd’s ring generalship made the difference. Floyd has a spellbinding ability to make fighters fight his fight and at his pace. That’s very dangerous for Manny. Pacquiao CANNOT allow himself to get into a chess match with Floyd while only throwing 30-40 punches per round. If he does he’ll be playing right into Mayweather’s hands. That’s the kind of fight that Floyd wants. Floyd wants to control the pace and he wants to win the exchanges one at a time. He just doesn’t want to engage in that many exchanges. The fewer the better for Floyd. He’s the flashier fighter and he’ll be content to steal rounds.

For Manny, he must remain true to his style and not get drawn into any of Floyd’s mind games in our out of the ring. Manny’s feet and punch out put should allow him to score more often and IF he can avoid the many traps that Floyd will be setting he should be able to win more rounds. The pace will be everything to Manny. Remember Pacquiao doesn’t need to win this fight by knockout.

He has the higher punch out put and if his legs will allow him he can win this fight by out hustling Floyd.

The question is can Manny ignore his natural instinct to fight and maintain a disciplined game plan? Chances are he’s going to miss a lot in this fight which for a lot of fighters impacts their psyche and shuts down their reasoning skills. They some times just keep repeating themselves and end up running out of rounds.

For Floyd, what happens if Manny get’s on pace to throw 75 punches a round? Will Mayweather be able to up his own punch out put to keep pace AND can he maintain that over 12 rounds? Or will Floyd make the most unlikely adjustment of them all and attempt to hunt Pacquiao down? That’s a real possibility that not many are willing to consider but it’s one that wouldn’t surprise me if he finds he’s landing clean head shots against Pacquiao. Sometimes it’s not about the brute strength of a punch but rather the precision in which it is delivered that makes the difference.

Whatever method these two apply in attempting to Solve the Rubik's cube of each other you can bet that the event will be create a new standard for super fights and remind people that professional boxing is still the premier fighting sport in the world!

(Please feel free to contact P.H. Burbridge via email at with any comments or feedback.)

Article posted on 15.09.2009

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