From a purely physical standpoint, size and speed are dominating the discussion from boxing’s media, fighters, and trainers for Saturday night’s WBC super welterweight (154 lbs.) title fight between pound-for-pound living legend Manny Pacquiao and former welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito.
However, there’s also a big emphasis on conditioning, preparation, the trainers, and mental fortitude for this fight, even more than usual. Early reports of Pacquiao struggling in camp and Margarito possibly having trouble making the contractually-obligated 150-pound limit are both potentially major factors in determining the outcome of this fight.
The Pacquiao camp (namely, trainer Freddie Roach) are calling for a mid-to-late rounds knockout. The Margarito camp (namely, all of them) are saying it will be the other way around. Boxing fans seem to be heavily favoring Pacquiao, but some believe Margarito is simply too big, or at least too big if you combine that with the earlier reports that Pacquiao’s training camp in the Philippines didn’t go as well as they’d have liked.
ESPN’s Dan Rafael rounded up some picks from those within the sport. While the field of 13 fighters and trainers is overwhelmingly pro-Pacquiao, the most interesting pick comes from Joshua Clottey. Clottey has fought both Pacquiao and Margarito, losing by decision to both. In 2006, Margarito out-pointed Clottey, and Clottey was beaten by Pacquiao in March of this year in the first main event fight at Cowboys Stadium.
Pacquiao is going to win by hitting him with too many punches. I can tell by the interviews that Margarito thinks Pacquiao doesn’t have the power because he is so small, but he does have the power. Because of this, Margarito will eventually turn the fight into a street fight, a do or die fight. This would not be good for Margarito because Pacquiao will then hit him with so many punches; Margarito will go down and Pacquiao will knock him out.
It’s also worth noting that Zab Judah, coming off of a less-than-stellar win over Lucas Matthysse last weekend, simply offered the comment, “I will fight whoever the winner is.” For those unfamiliar with boxing, think Ron Artest, in good ways and bad.
Over at The Ring, Doug Fischer went deep into his imagination, bringing out of it his vision of the fight’s outcome.
The championship rounds of the bout will expose how much each fighter wants the victory and how good (or bad) their camps were. Pacquiao will show signs of fatigue for the first time in many years as his constant movement and Margarito’s body attack take a toll. Margarito will bull Pacquiao to the ropes, where they will go tit for tat, landing head-spinning power punches and crippling body shots. The crowd will be on its feet for the duration of the dramatic 12th round as Margarito closes hard and a tired, but defiant Pacquiao exhibits the heart of a champion. Margarito’s rally will sweep the final two rounds but it won’t be enough to matter on the scorecards.
Pacquiao’s fellow Filipino boxing star Gerry Penalosa believes it will be a short night in the ring for both men, and favors his countryman:
"I have a feeling that Margarito will not go past three rounds. I see him being rescued by the referee."
Margarito’s slow-motion reflexes "is made-to-order for Pacquiao."
Tim Starks of The Queensberry Rules sees one (well, four) ways for Margarito to score the upset of Pacquiao:
If you’re a Pacquiao fan and you’re worried about your man – a 6-1 or 5-1 favorite with bettors – you have to worry about these scenarios:
1. Pacquiao won’t be able to hurt or otherwise dissuade Margarito from coming forward relentlessly, and Margarito will thereby negate Pacquiao’s speed.
2. Margarito proves he was the monster he was against Cotto and before.
3. Pacquiao’s hit-and-move strategy won’t be effective against a constantly-throwing Margarito, and Pacquiao will be too small to tie up Margarito the way Shane Mosley was able to in the only comprehensive defeat of Margarito’s career.
4. Pacquiao’s early poor training camp will come back to haunt him, and his bad foot isn’t all the way healed, and mentally he’ll be distracted by politics and the unnamed personal issue he raised a couple weeks ago, and maybe for good measure his stomach is a bit sensitive from the ulcer he developed earlier this year while campaigning for Congress.
As good a job as HBO 24/7 has done in making this fight sound competitive, I think Margarito only wins if all four of those scenarios materialize.
Truth be told, it’s not easy to find a credible name out there picking Antonio Margarito to score what would be the biggest win of his career. At 32 and likely a little rusty having not fought tough competition in 22 months, Margarito’s huge disadvantage in speed — both of hand and foot — is making this an uphill battle for him on paper. Pacquiao is giving up four inches of height and six inches of reach, which for a lesser fighter might be enough in itself for many to put on their Criswell costumes and predict the massive upset, because boxing fans love to call for the upset. But against a fighter of Manny Pacquiao’s caliber, with fans having seen him overcome bigger men in recent fights with brutally stunning ease, the prevailing thought is that Margarito is wading into the deep end of the pool against a smaller, but simply better man.
For more Pacquiao-Margarito predictions and analysis, check out Bad Left Hook’s in-depth breakdown of the main event, and The Boxing Bulletin’s full preview of the fight.