Bernard Hopkins believes the foot movement of Manny Pacquiao will be key in his fight with the flat-footed Errol Spence Jr on August 21st.
If Pacquiao can bounce around the ring, attacking from different angles to offset Spence’s size and powerful jab, he’s got a great shot at defeating him.
Hopkins says it’s key for Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) to get respect from IBF/WBC welterweight champion Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) right off the bat in the early rounds.
The first couple of rounds will be vitally important because that could set the tempo for how the fight will transpire.
Spence, 31, is accustomed to having things his own way in the early rounds, so he’s not going to be ready for Pacquiao coming out early to take the first portion of the bout.
The last time Spence had trouble early in a fight was back when he fought Kell Brook in 2017 when he trailed in the first six rounds.
It wasn’t until Brook suffered an eye injury halfway through the contest that Spence was able to turn the fight around. If Pacquiao came out quickly the way Brook did, he’s an excellent chance of winning.
Pacquiao must get Spence’s respect early
“I think what Pacquiao has to do early in the fight to get respect from Errol Spence. What Pacquiao has is incredible positioning with his legs and his feet,” said Benard Hopkins to K.O. Artists Sports.
“If you look at Pacquiao from recent fights in three years ago, Pacquiao beat a lot of fighters with his movement.
“He has a rhythm when he attacks. He’s not flat-footed; he stays on his toes. He has a bounce to him if you were a Bruce Lee fanatic like myself.
“He had a cat-like walk. Pacquiao has that bounce. I think it’s going to be a shockingly upset victory if he wins because I don’t think he has enough to keep Spence honest, to keep Spence guessing, to keep Spence waiting,” Hopkins said about Pacquiao.
Manny’s movement will be essential for this fight because he’s got to be able to attack Spence right off the bat to get him to be cautious.
If Spence thinks he can walk Pacquiao down, he’ll do that the entire fight in the same way he did against Shawn Porter and Chris Algieri.
If Spence is fighting like that, Pacquiao will need to be on his toes because he won’t last long if he stands and trades. Spence will likely have a considerable weight advantage over Manny by the time he rehydrates fully on the night of the fight.
Spence can control with the jab
“I think when Pacquiao, who has always been an energized fighter, who energized you to death, who out-speeds you with his feet, his hands, and his IQ,” said Hopkins.
“He beats you into submission, and it’s over. But this is a whole different era of athletes and fighters,” Hopkins said of Pacquiao.
“I just think when you take these young great future Hall of Famers, and that’s a long way down to the career they have now.
“There’s a whole different breed of generational fighters that are not only athletic but are also skillful. I figure Errol Spence; I figure Blair Cobb, Ryan Garcia, [Jaime] Munguia.
“I can go on and on, and they don’t have to be from my camp. I see a whole different style and a whole different mindset in this next generation.
“If Spence can control the jab, Pacquiao can do this. His feet are moving, but what the jab does, it disturbs you. It offsets you. So that jab upsets the rhythm to where the fighter can go.
“Pacquiao is great at that. He beats you with his legs first into submission, and then he gets you.
“It’s better for them to do what they’ve been successful with and stay at it. Don’t change anything.
“This ain’t a bum-rush. This ain’t a mob movie where the young guy is coming to knock off the old guy, and they get out of the way and get in the car. This is a whole different thing.” said Hopkins.
It’s a no-brainer that Spence can control the fight with his jab if he’s got Manny standing directly in front of him the entire 12-round fight. Pacquiao isn’t likely to do that, though, because he knows he’s fighting a tall guy that knows how to use his jab.
Antonio Margarito, 5’10”, had more size than Spence, but he did a terrible job using his jab against Pacquiao.
Margarito gave up his height to Pacquiao and spent most of the fight winging hooks. It was easy work for Pacquiao to take advantage of Margarito’s slow punches to give him a sustained beating for 12 rounds.
Manny has the mental advantage
“The advantage mentally goes to Pacquiao, we all know, as far as the experience of it,” said Hopkins.
“That, as well as the burst of youthful energy where we saw in history with guys that we knew, was dangerous, but we didn’t know they were going to show up that good.
“This is that type of feeling when I hear about this fight. This isn’t, ‘He’s coming to change the guard; it’s over.’
“Nah, Pacquiao has got pride, and he’s with a coach [Freddie Roach] that said about Manny, ‘I’m glad he’s back home,'” said Hopkins.
With all the experience that Pacquiao has, he’ll have the mental advantage over Spence. Moreover, the crowd will be pro-Manny for this fight, which will give him a big boost.
As long as Pacquiao doesn’t present himself as a stationary target as Mikey Garcia did against Spence, he’s got a chance to win.
Pacquiao has a fighting style that Spence has never seen before inside the ring, and that’s going to make it awfully tough for him.
Although Spence will obviously get sparring partners to mimic Pacquiao’s fighting style, he’s not going to find anyone like him. If guys out there could fight like Pacquiao, they wouldn’t be working as sparring partners.