IN professional boxing, the tale of the tape is considered the repository of the basic details about the boxers and is usually used by fight fans to assess the boxers’ strengths and weaknesses in a snap of a finger. Of course, if you are a hardcore follower of the fight game, you know very well that there are several aspects of the fight that are not readily discernible from the tale of the tape.
The tale of the tape for the upcoming mega showdown between American Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao is no different. A cursory glance appears to show details that appear to directly favor one pugilist. A more judicious look, however, posits the contrary.
Here are factors that a tale of the tape won't show you:
Let’s start with the wear and tear. At 38, Mayweather Jr is two years older than Pacquiao. On the surface, it appears that Pacquiao has the younger legs, but it is the Pacman who has fallen like a log on three occasions, getting knocked out by Rustico Torrecampo, Medgoen Singsurat and Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao may be younger, but his gung-ho approach has made him the recipient of some of the nastiest punches in boxing.
Mayweather Jr. is older, but he has not taken a lot of punishment because of his safety-first, defensive approach. If Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr. are two car models, Mayweather Jr. is the older model who nonetheless has less mileage in his odometer. Pacquiao may be younger, but he has actually logged more fights (64) than Mayweather Jr. (47). Truth be told, wobbling or bruising Mayweather Jr. for a second or two is the closest thing opponents have to claiming ‘victory’ over the American.
With a 72-inch reach, Mayweather Jr. has a five-inch reach advantage over Pacquiao (67-inch). With a longer reach, Mayweather Jr. is in a position to keep Pacquiao at bay with a stiff left jab and an even meaner counter right straight. Pacquiao is a sucker for counter right straight and Mayweather’s longer arms gives his right straight a full extension and a devastating impact. Mayweather Jr.’s reach advantage is very evident when he keeps the fight at the center of the ring and maintains some space between him and his adversary. To negate the disparity, Pacquiao will have to crowd Mayweather Jr. and take some risks inside. At close quarters, Mayweather Jr. cannot get a full extension on his arms and this favors Pacquiao. The handspeed of Pacquiao will also be a factor: Mayweather Jr. may have the longer arms, but Pacman’s speed will allow him to occasionally beat the American to the punch.
Pacquiao’s southpaw stance is also expected to annoy or trouble Mayweather Jr. who is a traditional right-hander. By his own admission, Mayweather Jr. has faced a total of eight left-handed boxers, but only two (Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz) since 2006. In 2006, Mayweather Jr. ate a lot of left straights from American Zab Judah in the first five rounds of their fight. According to Shane Mosley, Mayweather Jr. appears to have problems dealing with southpaw fighters who come in leaning with right hands. Pacquiao is that kind of fighter: he loves to throw a lot of right straights/hooks coming in to conceal his vaunted left straight. Moreover, add up all the southpaw pugs Mayweather Jr. had faced and they are nowhere close to offering the unique southpaw style of Pacquiao.
Pacquiao-Mayweather Jr. will be fought at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds and weight is the most deceiving aspect in the tale of the tape. Pacquiao first won the WBO welterweight title in 2009 with a win over Puerto Rican Miguel Angel Cotto. But in his nine fights at welterweight since the Cotto fight, it was only against Timothy Bradley and Marquez in 2012 that Pacquiao maxed out at 147 pounds. In his last fight against Chris Algieri, Pacquiao actually weighed only 143 pounds, just three pounds removed from the 140-pound, jr. welterweight division. In his other fights in the division, Pacquiao either came in too light or fought at a catch weight which was way below the welterweight limit.
Mayweather Jr. is a legit welterweight, having weighed between 146 and 147 pounds in 10 fights since debuting in the division in 2005 with a sixth-round knockout of Sharmba Mitchell. In his super welterweight fights against Saul Alvarez (2013) and Cotto (2012), Mayweather Jr. even tipped the scales at almost 151 pounds.
At 5’8,” Mayweather is two inches taller than Pacquiao, which means that the former has a body frame that can readily accommodate the extra pounds. Mayweather Jr. figures to come in heavy because he intends to use his elbows and arms to push Pacquiao away the moment the Filipino gets too close for comfort. A heavier Mayweather Jr. also means a stronger left jab and right straight. Pacquiao may come in light as he figures to put premium on his hand and footspeed.
Of course, there are the intangibles that cannot be seen from the tale of the tape but may end up deciding the fight. There will be a lot of emotions in this fight, with Pacquiao looking to get back at Mayweather Jr. for all the insults he has received from the American. There is also the question on whether the pressure to keep his record unblemished will have a profound effect on Mayweather Jr. Remember, not a few believe that the big fight took this long to happen because Mayweather Jr. was scared stiff of Pacquiao.