By William Bixby
In boxing matches, contrasting styles make the fights. The preferred fighting methodology of any two pugilists always dictates the profundity of the battle. Like Muhammad Ali using tactical defense and counterpunching against George Foreman’s size and brute strength in the “Rumble in the Jungle”, or the flash and showmanship of Ali versus the workman’s approach and the constant barrages of punches from Joe Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manila”, the match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will showcase two distinct styles that could build into a classic fight.
This boxing match pits Floyd Mayweather, a classic out-fighter with the most impregnable defense in the last thirty years against Manny Pacquiao, one of the most fluid and powerful boxer-punchers of this generation. Mayweather relies on superb defense, accuracy with his jabs, and deft counterpunching to outscore his opponents rather than knock them out. He is more comfortable with space between him and the opposing fighter so that he can dictate the pace of the fight and slip punches in intermittently. Floyd uses a modified Philly shell defense, a defense that tires out and confounds his opponents. He avoids taking a lot of abuse by keeping a low center of gravity and rolling his torso to avoid punches. The variances from the classic Philly shell that Mayweather imparts into his defensive strategy is that he regularly drops his hands at midrange to entice fighters to extend their offenses which opens up his counterpunching. And, he uses his shoulders to deflect punches. In the shell defense, a fighter’s shoulders should never lean further out than his feet, a marker of his center of gravity, but Floyd moves his shoulders well beyond his feet when avoiding punches. That particular move is especially dangerous because it leaves a fighter off-balance and vulnerable to power punches, but Mayweather uses superb quickness and meticulous footwork to stave off most attacks. Floyd is decidedly a defensive fighter and rarely manufactures offense on his own. His style matches perfectly against most power punchers because their aggression and need to land big punches play into his strengths. Mayweather counts on his opponents to pursue him throwing punches and outmaneuvers them using the entire ring while snapping his left jab and straight right to win rounds. He regularly befuddles plodding sluggers with excellent footwork and outclasses in-fighters by dodging and deflecting punches, and then landing a small flurry before retreating to avoid their power punches.
But, a classic boxer-puncher represents the perfect foil for Mayweather’s style. Many boxing aficionados mistakenly classify Manny Pacquiao as an in-fighter or a slugger because of the number of punches that he throws, however Manny fights at midrange and is calculated and methodical in his approach, tell-tale signs of a pure boxer-puncher. Pacquiao prefers to use his head movement along with good hands and feet to dominate his opponents. He has become a refined pugilist at this stage of his career, and he has three specific advantages as a boxer that will help him to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 2nd, his use of his jab and overall hand speed, his ability to land punches and dictate tempo, and his ability to use the entire ring to press his opponents.