Manny Pacquiao Vs. Shane Mosley: Keys To The Fight, Part I

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. Next: the keys to the fight, part II.

Mind. Matter. How do Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley stack up in those categories? In the first of two parts, we compare their physical attributes.

(The skeleton keys to the fight.)

Speed. Almost no matter whom Pacquiao fights, he’s going to win this category. Maybe if Floyd Mayweather mans up and faces Pacquiao some day, or if Pacquiao decides to get bold-bordering-on-crazy and moves up to middleweight to face division champion Sergio Martinez, he’ll get a challenge. Until then, his hands are too quick, his feet are too quick and probably every other part of him is too quick for any opponent. The quick of his fingernails are probably quicker than everyone else’s. It’s one of a few standout qualities that make him the special fighter he is.

Mosley himself used to be quicker than everybody else he fought, but it’s no longer the case. Going back to 2007, he was out-quicked by Miguel Cotto, who hadn’t been known for his speed. Yet even this version of Mosley is still going to be arguably the fastest man Pacquiao has ever fought. Pacquiao fought Cotto recently, but that was a version of Cotto who very well might have been slower physically than he was against Mosley owing to some grueling, career-shortening battles in the interim. Mosley’s definitely more nimble of foot than any version of Cotto. It’s one thing to be faster than Mosley, but as Mayweather discovered, when you’re not used to facing men who are pretty fast overall, it can be a shock. Even Mosley’s diminished speed will be an asset here, then, even though he’s going to be significantly slower than his opponent. Edge: Pacquiao

Size. For several years now, size has been one of the best hopes of Pacquiao’s opponents. Since 2008, he’s come into the ring the physically smaller man. Every indicator is that he is a natural junior welterweight, but he was presumed to be smaller than David Diaz in a move up to lightweight and likewise against Ricky Hatton in a move up to junior welterweight. Since moving up to welterweight, though, he has suffered a little for lack of size. He’s been slightly less effective due to it, but because of some of his physical gifts and other assets — speed, power, strength, style, etc. — size rarely has been decisive in the way his opponents would have liked. You might think you can box him from the outside with a size advantage, but everything about Pacquiao has thus far made that a losing proposition.

Mosley has some of this “size” stuff. Once about as overpowering a lightweight as you’ll ever see, he is a full-fledged welterweight who’s quite big for the division. He can fight effectively at junior middleweight, although it’s not ideal for him. At 5’9″ and with a 74″ reach, he’ll have three inches in height and seven inches in reach on Pacquiao. And it’s not just that: Mosley is strong as an ox at welter, as he showed by bullying the seemingly bigger Antonio Margarito in 2009. If Mosley decides to try and implement the same hit-and-hold strategy against Pacquiao that he did against Margarito, this size could come in handy. Edge: Mosley

Power. This one’s interesting. In some ways, it’s a toss-up. Mosley has flashed one-punch power in spells, such as with his sudden out-of-nowhere 12th round knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2008, with his beatdown of a man in Margarito whose primary skill is getting hit and not going down, and against Mayweather in the 2nd round of their fight last year. If Mosley catches you flush, you might not wake up anytime soon.

At welterweight and above, Pacquiao’s one-punch power has been a bit less vaunted. He flashed it against Cotto, but his wins over Joshua Clottey and Margarito in 2010 were more prolonged beatings. Maybe he would have knocked out Cotto earlier if he hadn’t decided to avoid contact after tasting Pacquiao’s power; maybe he would have knocked out Clottey if he had engaged one whit; maybe he would have stopped Margarito with a more compassionate referee; but he didn’t obliterate those men the way he did Diaz and Hatton. A key difference between Pacquiao and Mosley is that, in recent fights, Mosley’s power exists only in the early rounds. Pacquiao’s is around the whole fight. It’s a close call, but I’d rather be a guy with really good power all fight long than a guy with really excellent power for only brief spells. Edge: Pacquiao

Chin. These are two men who can take a shot. Oh, they might get wobbled or beat up, but these weebles don’t stay down. Long ago, that wasn’t the case for Pacquiao. He was stopped twice and last in 1999, but it has zero relevance to today: He was struggling with weight then, and for several years now has been taking shots from bigger men without so much as staggering. A body shot from Margarito hurt him, but prior to that you have to go back to early 2008 to find any occasion in which he was in any trouble. His face has looked like he’s gotten his ass kicked in his last three, however — until you look at the other guy. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to Mosley’s power early, since Pacquiao hasn’t faced anyone with Mosley’s kind of one-punch power perhaps ever.

Mosley also hasn’t been staggered in a while, a longer while than Pacquiao in fact. He got dropped by Vernon Forrest back in 2002, but has always shown a knack for withstanding power punches, maybe too many of them, if you listen to his voice slur here and there. One point of concern here for Mosley is that, against Mayweather, he began shying away from contact late in the bout. Maybe he didn’t get staggered, but he clearly was feeling what Mayweather was dishing out. Mayweather hits harder than he’s given credit for, but if you gave me a choice of being hit by Mayweather or Pacquiao, I’d take Mayweather. On the balance, both men have shown some dings, but they even out. Edge: Even

Condition. This is kind of a merged category of a boxer’s ring wear, age, stamina and related factors. And things don’t stack up great here for Mosley. At 39, he’s looked his age in his last two fights. Prior to the Mayweather fight, I’d never seen him huffing and puffing. From the 3rd round of their fight on, it’s pretty much all he’s done, including almost the entire bout against Shane Mosley. He’ll tell you it’s related to having to chase opponents who thrive on movement, but I don’t remember him huffing and puffing at any time prior against boxer-movers. And while his chin has held up, you get the sense it could give at any time, when you consider all the punishment he’s taken over the years. As I mentioned earlier this week, Mosley has at times looked old and done before turning in a vintage performance, but that’s not the ideal situation.

Pacquiao is 32 and by all measures still in his peak physically. He also has taken a ton of punishment in the ring, but he has not shown himself to be any worse for the wear because of it. Trainer Freddie Roach, who errs on the side of caution with his fighters due to his own ring career leading to his current Parkinson’s, said Pacquiao has shown no signs of slowing down. And Pacquiao’s stamina is one of the freakiest elements of his game that still is serially underestimated as a vital component of what makes him what he is. This is the clearest category advantage for Pacquiao in the fight, hands down. Edge: Pacquiao

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.