Manny Pacquiao is beginning to show clear signs of age

by Geoffrey Ciani - One thing that has been lost in the midst of all the controversy surrounding Timothy Bradley’s split decision victory over Manny Pacquiao is the fact that Pac-Man is starting to show his age. In particular, his once superhuman stamina is now in decline reducing Pacquiao to the punch output of a mere mortal. This is to be expected of a boxer Pacquiao’s age, especially one that utilizes such a dynamic style. The story of the fight, however, has almost exclusively revolved around the decision itself. Since most observers had Pacquiao winning comfortably (I myself had it 118-110 in his favor), the fact that Pacquiao is now beginning to noticeably slow down has been something that has escaped largely unnoticed from the public eye.

When discussing a hypothetical matchup between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Junior, which is something every die-hard and casual boxing fan has done to the point of exhaustion these past few years, Pacquiao possessed two key attributes that led many to believe he can become the first to defeat Mayweather. One of those keys was the sheer explosiveness of his fight game, which includes tremendous power combined with blazing speed. But the other and equally important key was Pacquiao’s magnificent work rate! Not only is Pacquiao widely viewed as the kind of guy who had the potential to overwhelm Floyd with combination assaults, but his impeccable stamina meant that he would have opportunities to hurt Floyd in every second of every round, for twelve full rounds! It now appears that one of Pacquiao’s biggest advantages in a potential showdown with Floyd is already no longer the great edge onlookers once believed. Let us examine further.

Since scoring his shocking upset win against Oscar De La Hoya, Pacquiao has had five bouts which have gone the full twelve rounds, those being his last five contests. Now most boxing fans will agree that CompuBox punch stats are a good resource to get a certain sense about certain things, but they by no means tell the whole story of a boxing match. That said they can be useful, and I believe this is one such instance. In the chart below you will see that Pacquiao’s punch out per round in his last five fights:

Some interesting things jump out when you examine the numbers. Pacquiao threw more than 100 punches in seven different rounds against Clottey, and in three different rounds with Margarito. He has not passed that total in any round since. What is especially interesting in the Margarito and Clottey fights is that Pacquiao really turned things up in rounds ten through twelve. Now of course styles play a role in all of this. Clottey likes using his turtle shell guard, and Margarito is come-forward and easy to hit, where Pacquiao’s last three opponents have an overall slicker demeanor that could make things trickier. That in itself can be a sign of tactical deficiencies, too. Mosley had success turning Pacquiao and frustrating him, Marquez gave him all kinds of fits when it came to textbook defense and counterpunching, and Bradley did his best in the final three rounds when he was boxing well and actually outworking Pacquiao. In fact, Bradley threw 10 more punches than Manny did in the tenth, 10 more in the eleventh, and 20 more in the twelfth and final round.

Not only did Bradley outwork Pacquiao over the final three frames, Pacquiao also noticeably slowed down. In addition to this, even looking at some of the earlier rounds, Pacquiao was not the Pacquiao of old. He was often coasting through the first two minutes or more of a round without doing anything of note, only to turn up the heat quite literally during the final minute where his power combinations would rock Bradley, and shift otherwise dull rounds clearly into Pacquiao’s favor. This is not the same Manny Pacquiao who had a seemingly limitless supply of energy in previous contests. He is simply not the non-stop punching machine he once was, and the evidence of this can especially be seen in his most recent fight with Bradley, even if Pac-Man actually did manage to throw more punches this time than he did against his old Mexican nemesis. Marquez, however, simply represents a stylistic nightmare for Pacquiao, so his punch output in that one comes with some explanation. Although it is worth noting that Pacquiao did not throw much in the championship rounds of that fight, either.

In the end Pacquiao is exhibiting normal signs of aging and this is to be expected. Ironically, Floyd Mayweather is also showing subtle signs of decline. While he is still a phenomenal athletic specimen with an extraordinarily high ring IQ, Mayweather’s legs are not what they once were. Something similar happened when Roy Jones Junior first started showing signs of decline. With supremely athletic boxers who rely on speed and reflexes, the legs are only going to be able to maintain for so long, and this is one of the first signs of decline in such fighters. To be sure, both fighters are still among the very best of the sport. It is not as if either one has suddenly grown old overnight. But at the same time, they are not the same fighters they were two and three years ago—when the fight should have happened! With the Bradley rematch now looming in November for Pacquiao, and Floyd having a difficult time in prison where his skill set could conceivably be eroding further, if we ever do get to see this damned fight it will lose the charm these two had when they were both at their absolute peak, and the fight was at its greatest demand.


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Article posted on 14.06.2012

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