Why Manny Pacquiao is a legitimate threat to defeat Floyd Mayweather

Kevin Iole

Freddie Roach sits on a table near the ring in his Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, fiddling with a roll of tape. He's talking about how things have gone better than he could ever have hoped as Manny Pacquiao prepared to face Floyd Mayweather.

Roach drops the tape and points to an area in the center of his chest, just below the collarbone.

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"Oh [expletive]!" Roach said, wincing at the thought before breaking into a giggle. "The other day, Manny hit me so [expletive] hard here I thought I'd been shot."

There are easier ways to make a living than letting one of the game's fittest, fastest and finest fighters batter your body for several hours a day.

Pacquiao fights Mayweather on Saturday at the MGM Grand in a fight that is going to do massive financial numbers.

Trainer Freddie Roach, right, says Manny Pacquiao has been outstanding in camp. (AP)
Trainer Freddie Roach, right, says Manny Pacquiao has been outstanding in camp. (AP)

Expectations for the pay-per-view sales, already outlandishly high, were rocketing skyward Thursday.

One person working on the promotion who requested anonymity because no one is authorized to talk publicly about such matters suggested it's now looking like the fight may surpass four million pay-per-views sold.

The record is just under 2.5 million, and there have been fewer than 25 fights that have exceeded one million.

It's going to be a big fight, because of the money, because of the hype, and because it pits the two best fighters in the world against each other.

Yet, there is this sense among the media that Pacquiao doesn't stand much of a chance. Veteran journalists are scoffing at the notion that he could somehow become the first man to defeat Mayweather in a 19-year career that includes 47 fights.

The fight's PR team declined to release a poll it conducted with journalists because it was so one-sided in Mayweather's favor.

[More Mayweather-Pacquiao coverage: How the fight was saved]

It's three days before the fight, and Roach is nibbling at the remnants of his breakfast in the Delano. He's sitting with a couple of his assistants and a friend. They're talking about the fight.

"You know, it's a tough fight for Manny, a real tough fight," Roach said. "This isn't going to be easy. We know that. But anyone who says Manny doesn't have a chance is full of it. He's had a great camp. A great camp."

He has to be nearly perfect. Roach knows that. Top Rank's Hall of Fame matchmaker, Bruce Trampler, knows that.

But Trampler, who has one of the sharpest eyes in the game and was a frequent visitor to camp, said it would be a mistake to sell Pacquiao short.

"I think he has a better chance than a lot of people think," Trampler said.

Pacquiao's publicist, Fred Sternburg, remarks about how loose and relaxed Pacquiao has been. Nothing has bothered him. He's laughed and joked. He's not much of a talker with the media, but at Wednesday's news conference, he spoke from his heart, both from the dais and later in private interviews.

He was once a gambler himself. The longtime feud between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions, which finally ended last year, began when the companies were fighting over Pacquiao.

Not long after Top Rank said it had signed him to a new promotional contract in 2006, Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya greeted Pacquiao's plane when it landed at Los Angeles International Airport after a flight from the Philippines.

De La Hoya brought a suitcase filled with $250,000 in small bills and gave it to Pacquiao as an inducement to sign with Golden Boy. Pacquiao took the money, went to a local casino and gambled it all away.

It set off lawsuits and an eight-year feud that only ended after De La Hoya and then-Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer suddenly found themselves at odds.

Pacquiao understands the odds, and he grins when it's mentioned that he's the underdog. It's been more than six years, since he defeated De La Hoya in 2008, that he's been in this position.

"No one thought I could beat Oscar, and I was the underdog then," he said. "Maybe it's good for me."

In his two fights prior to facing Pacquiao, De La Hoya gave Mayweather a tough bout for six rounds before losing his conditioning and his focus and fading in the second half.

Then, De La Hoya routed veteran Steve Forbes. He didn't seem shot, and scores of experts were picking De La Hoya to slow Pacquiao's roll.

But it was no contest from the early seconds of the fight, as Pacquiao pummeled De La Hoya about the ring and stopped him after eight gruesomely one-sided rounds.

"Let me tell you, Pacquiao can really punch," De La Hoya said.

But Pacquiao hasn't had a knockout since he stopped Miguel Cotto in 2009. He's gone 7-2 in nine fights since, and for a variety of reasons, he's not been able to finish opponents.

Some of the fights, Roach said, were just fluke things. He was battering Antonio Margarito badly, and Margarito was seriously injured. That fight easily could have been stopped, and several times in the bout Pacquiao glanced at the referee in a silent plea to stop the bout.

More often, though, Pacquiao backed off ever so slightly, just when it seemed he only needed to step on the accelerator to end things.

Roach blames at least part of it on Pacquiao's conversion from Roman Catholicism to a born-again Christian.

"He didn't want to hurt anyone," Roach said.

That train of thought, Roach said, is no longer a problem.

The problem is executing against Mayweather, whose lead right hand is deadly against southpaws like Pacquiao.

Pacquiao shadow boxes during a workout in Los Angeles on April 21. (AFP)
Pacquiao shadow boxes during a workout in Los Angeles on April 21. (AFP)

Mayweather's trainer and father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., believes his son is the bigger puncher of the two. Mayweather Jr. is notably bigger than Pacquiao, and Mayweather Sr. said he's going to fight that way.

"I'm going to have Floyd walk his ass down," Mayweather Sr. snapped.

That's unlikely, though for whatever reason, Mayweather has been fighting more aggressively recently.

But for Pacquiao to beat Mayweather, he'll have to accomplish five things:

Throw a high volume of punches and force Mayweather to fight.

Move side-to-side, jumping in at an angle, throwing a flurry of punches, and then jumping back out.

Attack the body and then the head in combination.

Utilize excellent footwork to keep him in punching position while lessening the target area on his body he presents Mayweather.

Maintain his focus and not drop his hands, a tendency he's developed.

"You can't afford to make any mistakes against Mayweather, and he's such a smart fighter, he tricks you into making mistakes," said Juan Manuel Marquez, who was routed by Mayweather in 2009 and went 2-1-1 in four fights against Pacquiao between 2004 and 2012.

Pacquiao smiles wanly when he hears such talk about all the things Mayweather is able to do.

He points out that he's fought perhaps his best fights in those he was expected to lose: against Lehlo Ledwaba in 2001 on a De La Hoya undercard; against Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003; and against The Golden Boy himself in 2008.

"I think I do better when I'm the underdog," Pacquiao said.

After it was mostly Pacquiao money coming in since the fight was announced, Mayweather money has begun to appear and the odds are once again moving in his favor.

A bettor's opinion, though, is not going to deter Pacquiao, not after where he's come from and what he's been through. His family had no money. There was no refrigerator. He used to buy donuts for a nickel and sell them for a dime in order to earn some money.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s father says his son is a bigger puncher than Pacquiao. (AFP)
Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s father says his son is a bigger puncher than Pacquiao. (AFP)

"Before I became a boxer, I used to sleep on the street," said Pacquiao, whose first purse was for roughly $2. "I can't believe that I am in this position. The boy who didn't have food and slept on the street can have this life."

The life would be that much better with a win, which would come with the unofficial designation as the best fighter of this era.

He's been good – very good, even – but he hasn't looked for a while like he was even close to being the best fighter of his era.

In 2008 and ’09, he sure did, and Pacquiao might have to get back to that level to pull off the historic win.

"I'm so happy because that feeling and that focus that I had many years ago is back," Pacquiao said. "I'm confident and relaxed."

He understands the magnitude of the event. He often speaks of giving the fans a good show, and with a pay-per-view audience that could hit three or perhaps even four million, the viewership will be larger than ever.

Roach believes the fans will be in for a show.

"I know what we're facing, but I am convinced that Manny wins this fight," Roach said. "This camp was so good, almost perfect, I can't begin to tell you. I honestly believe he's going to win. I think he's going to kick the [expletive] out of this guy, to tell you the truth."

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