So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2011, Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley on May 7. Previously: the stakes of the bout; a Pacquiao vs. Mosley-themed Open Thread; keys to the fight, part I. Next: the final preview and prediction.
Mind. Matter. How do Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley stack up in those categories? In the second of two parts, we compare their more mental attributes.
(The Alicia Keys to the fight.)
Offfense. I’ve talked about Pacquiao’s offensive evolution so much that I don’t have anything to add, plus nothing has changed for a while, so for the best available rundown, revisit here. Summarized: Pacquiao is simply the best offensive fighter in the sport, and by a good margin. He has every punch in his arsenal, he varies them up well, and he throws them in unconventional ways in his brutal southpaw flurries. He is also supremely aggressive. The knock, if any, still remains on his underutilized jab. It might make it easier for him to track down the occasional opponent who decides he isn’t eager to trade, plus the jab has often been an effective weapon against Mosley in particular. But so far it hasn’t really been an issue that keeps him from winning fights and it feels like nitpicking to mention it.
Mosley is a great deal more inconsistent offensively, although he’s equally aggressive. Sometimes he has a jab, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes his punches are wide, sometimes they’re short and compact. But he’s also a very good offensive fighter overall, if not in Pacquiao’s class. He has extremely effective uppercuts, left hooks, and body shots… but what really stands out is that right hand of his. It’s usually thrown in an overhand fashion, and when it lands it does a lot of damage. Against a southpaw like Pacquiao, it is usually the best weapon when thrown straight. But it could be determinative, especially since Mosley is a pretty good counterpuncher when he wants to be. Still — Edge: Pacquiao
Defense. Both of these men are as good as they want to be on defense, but rarely want to be good at it because they’re so consumed with their offense. Mosley’s quick feet, head movement and ability to roll with punches are his primary defensive assets. As his reflexes get worse with age, he gets hit even more. He’s physically strong enough to tie up anyone when he needs to or wants to for defensive purposes, as he showed against Antonio Margarito in 2009. He just doesn’t care about defense, really.
There was a span of three fights — starting in 2008 against David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya, then against Ricky Hatton in 2009 — where Pacquiao looked like he was going to become an excellent defensive fighter, after a career spent neglecting the art. His in and out movement is great for offensive purposes, but it’s also great for defensive purposes, especially when he gets his gloves up so quickly after a combination. A certain amount of machismo accounts for his drop off since then — in particular, against Miguel Cotto in 2009, Pacquiao deliberately took punches because, he said, he wanted to taste Cotto’s power. But I wonder if he hasn’t returned to bad habits. Against Mosley, with the kind of power he has especially early, that could be fatal. Because of the backsliding Pacquiao has shown on defense and Mosley’s inconsistency with it, it’s hard for me to pick a clear advantage for either man. I’ll go with the guy who’s shown the capacity to be better at defense, when both are at their best. Edge: Pacquiao
Intelligence. Both the trainers, Freddie Roach for Pacquiao and Naazim Richardson for Mosley, respectively, will tell you their men have high ring IQs. I don’t think of either of them as stupid, that’s for sure. Both have been outsmarted before, though, with Pacquiao twice getting outmaneuvered by midfight adjustments from Juan Manuel Marquez and Mosley getting outmaneuvered by Floyd Mayweather. Granted, Mayweather and Marquez are two of boxing’s reigning braniacs, but it’s important to note. Mosley has probably exhibited the ability to make a midfight adjustment a bit better than Pacquiao, if only by a little. Where Pacquiao and Mosley are smart is in their ability to pick up a good game plan for a fight, then execute it well.
They both should have good game plans, because their trainers are probably the two smartest trainers in the sport today. Each have a knack for detecting the weaknesses of boxers and figuring out how to exploit them. Both have only mildly telegraphed their intentions. Roach has talked about working on Mosley’s body and being respectful of Mosley’s power early. Richardson has talked about Mosley coming out guns a-blazing. Both strategies make sense, since Mosley’s power is fearsome and his age might make him wear down even faster than usual, while Mosley’s best chance is catching Pacquiao with something big early. Roach is the more acclaimed trainer if you’re counting Trainer of the Year trophies, but I think Richardson is wildly underrated despite broad acclaim. This is another close one, and I’m not going to make a call. Edge: Even
Willpower. I’ve never seen Pacquiao back down. Never. He fights the same way in every fight, every second of every round, regardless of whether he’s losing or winning. His training mania is legendary, to the point that even a distracted Pacquiao trains harder than almost every other fighter. He’s no egomaniac, but he seems incapable of doubting himself. Slight demerit: He has, at times, been thrown off his game by cuts. But he has had good cutmen, and they’ve always sealed him up pretty quickly when needed.
Mosley also has self-belief that borders on unshakeable, which is why he keeps fighting on at age 39 despite the doubters. But there is one occasion where I’ve seen Mosley wilt, when he shied away from contact late in his fight last year against Mayweather, and if you’re looking for daylight between Pacquiao and Mosley, this is it. Edge: Pacquiao
The Rest. Recent form goes to Pacquiao in a big way, who’s on a years-long hot streak and hasn’t lost since 2005. In the last two years, Mosley is 0-1-1 against Mayweather (a defensible loss against one of the best fighters of the past couple decades, but still a bad late-fight performance) and Sergio Mora (I thought he won clearly, so the draw doesn’t bother me, but the fact that Mora looked like he could’ve dominated if he had chosen to actually fight is damning)… Neither fighter has any outside-the-ring distractions of note right now, but that matters more for Pacquiao than Mosley. A Pacquiao who is as focused as he can be is lethal, and accounts out of his training camp are very positive; reports on Mosley’s camp have been a bit quieter… There’s no lack of big fight experience for either men, but Mosley does seem to get a bit fidgety and jittery in big fights. Pacquiao is universally serene… Mosley does have a lot more to lose than Pacquiao. Presumably he’ll fight with that kind of urgency… Pacquiao is more likely to suffer a cut than Mosley… Roach has warned that Mosley is going to be dirty, but he never has and I don’t know why he’d start now. Pacquiao and Mosley are both sportsmen… The crowd will be a pro-Pacquiao crowd, for what it’s worth… Cumulatively? Edge: Pacquiao