De La Hoya-Pacquiao Fight Preview: Round Two of Three

December 5, 2008

With the De La Hoya-Pacquiao fight only days away, our three-man boxing brain trust met up to breakdown the fight for our readers. Here's our second round of analysis, as provided by Kweku Turkson:

QUESTION #1: Is this more of a fight, or an event?

This is probably the question that is on most people's minds. In other words, when the two fighters step in the ring on Saturday, will we even see a legitimate, fair fight?

Answer: Yes, yes and yes. This fight pits two multi-division champions fighting against each other. One appears to still be in the prime of his fighting career, and the other appears to be determined to secure his place as the premiere multi-tasking pugilist/ promoter that the world has ever seen.

First off, it should come as no surprise that this bout is being billed as that rare match that transcends boxing, captivates casual observers, and truly is an event. Far more than just the classic "good little man versus good big man" scenario, here we see two legitimately great fighters, icons even, each taking a calculated risk by agreeing to fight a very dangerous opponent at an unfamiliar weight class (unfamiliar for De La Hoya, given his 7 year absence).

The fact that each has decided advantages in certain categories only adds to the intrigue and suspense. Although this matchup has captivated the fans of two entire countries, it still remains at its base level a fight. A fight that should not only prove to be competitive, but also great.

QUESTION #2: Does the smaller man really have a legitimate chance of winning? In other words, can the PacMan be able to withstand Oscar’s power?

Yes. Although it must be said that Pacquiao will first and foremost be at a decided size disadvantage - Pacquaio stands just 5 6 1/2" with a 67" reach, compared to 5 10 1/2" and a 73" for De La Hoya - he also has several advantages that can work in his favor.

Before getting to those however, lets take a closer look at how the size factor will potentially affect the outcome of the fight. It has been said by many that the story of the fight could be told the very first time De La Hoya hits Pacquiao with one of his vaunted left hooks. How will Manny respond the first time he is caught cleanly by a man outweighing him by as much as 15 pounds? Obviously, there is no precedent here, as Manny is jumping two weight classes, and has never been in with a man this size before.

It must be said that Pacquiao has proven himself to be a durable, tough fighter as evidenced by the number of wars he has had with Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Mauel Marquez. However, an even closer look at Pacquiao's career record reveals two losses by knockout. Although both events occurred in the mid-late 90's before he rose to prominence, the fact that the KO losses came against flyweight (112-pound) opposition should be seen as an ominous sign.

That being said, in order to inflict damage on Pacquiao, De La Hoya will have to find a way to offset his opponents best attribute - his unrelenting offense and speed. In other words, Oscar must properly place his punches.

QUESTION #3: Will Oscar be able to fight effectively and overcome Manny's clear advantage in speed?

Anybody who has ever had the pleasure of watching Manny Pacquiao fight is sure to notice one thing: a truly unique fighting style. Utilizing an offbeat and awkward whirlwind style, the all-action Pacquiao is most accurately described as "bereft of defense" or "offensive-minded." Known to dart in and out and then back in again at frightening speeds, while neglecting to protect himself in the process, Pacquiao is truly of the "best defense is a good offense" school of thought.

An ability to negate the pace at which Pacquiao fights will likely be the most critical factor in ensuring victory for "The Golden Boy." If Oscar is able to settle in and make the necessary strategic adjustments to negate what is sure to be Pacquiao's clear advantage in hand speed after the first few rounds, then he could wear down the smaller man with his heavier shots and win easily. However, that is an enormous "if."

Few fighters thus far have shown themselves to be able to keep up with the Filipino fireplug's frenetic pace. That being said, Oscar does have the necessary tools to do so, starting with his jab. Oscar must keep Pacquiao off-balance by committing to working behind his world class, yet often neglected left jab. If he is to win, Oscar must use his pronounced reach advantage and keep Pacquiao at bay with the jab. The importance of this cannot be overstated. For his own sake, hopefully Oscar will realize that utilizing his jab throughout the fight, and not abandoning it as in his fight with Floyd Mayweather, will set up his legendary left hook, and give him the best chance of winning.

If Pacquiao does close the distance by jumping in, Oscar must either then throw uppercuts in combination with his left hook, or tie him up and use his strength and bigger frame to wear down the smaller man.

QUESTION #4: Can Oscar once and for all put to rest the questions about his stamina?

Whether or not Oscar is being honest about the success and quality of his training camp remains to be seen. Known throughout boxing circles for being notoriously fickle and switching trainers with startling frequency, it is no surprise that Oscar is claiming his preparation for this fight has put him in "the best shape of his life." Oscar has repeatedly declared to all who will listen that this training camp, his first under the tutelage of Legendary Mexico City-based trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, has required him to work harder than he has in years, and has "brought out the best in him."

All in De La Hoya's camp have unanimously stated that they haven't seen the Golden Boy work so hard in preparing for a fight since he was a young contender. All that is well and good, but will it actually translate to success in the ring, especially into the late rounds? In other words, will Oscar be able to overcome his disturbing penchant for badly fading down the stretch of big fights? With the exception of two fights - a close and disputed 12 round split decision over Ghana’s Ike Quartey and an 11th round KO stoppage of Fernando Vargas - Oscar has given away the majority of the late rounds in all of his big fights.

However, there could be another overlooked factor that could work in De La Hoya's favor, his relative inactivity. While Oscar has chosen to continue his pattern of fighting approximately once every 12-18 months, Pacquiao has continued to fight regularly, against elite level competition, including tough battles against Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, and David Diaz in his last 3 fights since October 2007. Could Oscar's relative inactivity actually make him the better rested and fresher fighter? Could the toll of all those all-out wars, finally begin to slowdown the PacMan? Or, will Oscar be drained from trying to make the 147-lb welterweight limit for the first time in 7 years? The answer to these questions could prove to be the deciding factor in the fight.

Most likely, Pacquiao will be the more energetic and active fighter throughout, especially down the stretch in the last three "championship rounds."

QUESTION #5: Who has more on the line? Whose legacy is at stake?

The simple, and obvious answer is De La Hoya. This is a fight that he, being the bigger man, is supposed to win. Should he lose to a man that began his pro career fighting at less than 110 lbs, Oscar's legacy would definitely be tarnished in the eyes of most. However, would this be deservedly so? After all, against Pacquiao he is fighting the man generally regarded as the best fighter Pound-for-Pound, in the world today.

Pacquiao meanwhile, is in a win-win situation. Few people are giving him a realistic chance of hurting or beating the much bigger man. Should he do just that, he will not only cement his legacy as an all-time great, but also should be able to choose between monster future mega-fights with Ricky Hatton, Floyd Mayweather Jr., or Juan Manuel Marquez. Even if he should fall short, Pacquiao's reputation should take only a minimal hit, provided that he was at least competitive.

Both fighters are to be commended for taking a very risky and dangerous fight, and neither can ever be accused of ducking top competition. De La Hoya has fought nearly everyone there was for him to fight, and except for his KO loss to his current business-partner Bernard Hopkins, he was at worst a close loser in all of them. He deserves tremendous credit for taking such a large, yet calculated risk against the Filipino superstar. And still, there are a lot of people out there who, don't seem to want to give Oscar his props and who, win or lose, will use this fight as ammunition against him. That being said, it is clear that Oscar definitely has far more to lose in this fight.

QUESTION #6: What are the intangibles that could decide the outcome of the fight?

Perhaps the most overlooked factor could actually be pride. Not just pride in one's self, but cultural and nationalistic pride, as Pacquiao looks to add yet another fighter with Mexican heritage to his own personal hit list of vanquished foes. Despite clearly being uncomfortable with the label, and stating several times that he didn't think it was warranted, Pacquiao has, earned the "Mexicutioner" moniker with victories over all of the top Mexican fighters of his era.

Ever the wise business man, it must be said that the team De La Hoya has chosen to surround himself with in the corner- Hall of Fame trainer Angelo Dundee, former bantamweight world champ Daniel Zarazoga, head trainer Beristain - should prove dividends come fight night.

The addition of Nacho Beristain especially cannot be overstated. Via his pupil Juan Manuel Marquez’s two fights with the PacMan, if anybody has become familiar with the most effective ways to counteract Pacquiao's style, its Nacho Beristain. Throw in the pearls of wisdom that Dundee has accquired over a lifetime in the corner of some of the sport’s best fighters, and it would seem that the clear advantage in the corner goes to team De La Hoya.

However, it must be said that while De La Hoya certainly has the edge in number of trainer's with Hall of Fame pedigrees, the tandem of Pacquiao and Freddy Roach have familiarity working in their favor. One must wonder whether Oscar has had the time to truly form the kind of bond that will allow him to fully trust and heed their advice between rounds. Ultimately, the trainer who makes the best suggestions for in-fight adjustments ought to have a large hand in deciding the outcome. Most likely, despite the relative unfamiliarity and newness of their partnership, Oscar's corner will out-think the Roach-led corner.

QUESTION #7: Who will win the fight?

If you made it down this far, you deserve a clear, concise, and to-the-point answer:

And the winner is . . . Pacquiao by Decision.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald

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