LAS VEGAS (AP) — Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the bigger man. There’s a good chance he could be the quicker man.
Those are qualities that win fights, and those are advantages Mayweather brings into Saturday’s welterweight title showdown with Manny Pacquiao. He also comes in with the confidence that comes in knowing he’s beaten every man — all 47 of them — he’s stepped into the ring with since turning pro as a scrawny 130-pounder 19 years ago.
Yes, Pacquiao could easily be the toughest test of his career so far. The Filipino poses problems for Mayweather not only because he is a southpaw, but because he fights in spurts and at odd angles.
There’s a good chance Pacquiao will start fast and win some early rounds. His trainer, Freddie Roach, is the best in the business today and has put together a fight plan that will allow Pacquiao to do just that.
Like a good chess match, though, this will be a fight about adjustments. And that will be where Mayweather will really earn his $180 million.
“I’ve always got the remedy to solve the problem and come out on top,” Mayweather said. “I don’t know if he can make adjustments. I’ve always been able to make adjustments.”
Indeed, Mayweather has an uncanny knack of being able to figure opponents out, whether in mid-round or mid-fight. If something isn’t working on any particular night, he switches to something else, and then adjusts that if needed.
Mayweather showed that in his 2010 fight with Shane Mosley, when he started slowly and had his knees buckled by a Mosley right hand in the second round. Mosley landed another right later in that round, but Mayweather figured things out and dominated every round after that on his way to an easy decision win.
Three years earlier, Mayweather lost most of the early rounds to Oscar De La Hoya only to take control and sweep the later rounds in the fight that made him a pay-per-view star.
Pacquiao might be more difficult than most to solve, but don’t sell Mayweather short. He’s beaten all eight southpaws he’s faced in his career, including Zab Judah in 2006 in another fight he had trouble in early rounds only to dominate late.
“He comes at different angles so we’ll just have to see,” Mayweather said. “I just know he will be facing a solid, strong welterweight.”
The size differential between the two men was noticeable when they got together in Los Angeles in March to promote the bout. Mayweather was struck by it, saying later he would have towered over Pacquiao even more if Pacquiao hadn’t put lifts in his shoes to look taller.
That’s different for Mayweather, who in many of his recent fights faced fighters who rehydrated so much after the weigh-in that they were 15 pounds heavier than he was. That won’t be the case against Pacquiao, who struggles just to get to the 147-pound weight limit.
If there’s a knock against Mayweather it’s that he’s lost a step at the age of 38 and can no longer count on his elusive defense to carry the night for him. He must engage more, and trade punches, something that could play into Pacquiao’s hands.
“If he wants to fight me, good for me,” Pacquiao said Tuesday. “If he’s running and moving around the ring, we’re prepared for that, too.”
Mayweather will also have difficulty using his shoulder roll to full advantage when playing defense because a southpaw can punch around it from the other side.
This could be a fight with far more action than a normal Mayweather bout. Mayweather may try to impose his will, with his size carrying the day.
“Floyd Mayweather is going to try to take Manny Pacquiao’s head off, you can count on that,” Mayweather’s promoter, Leonard Ellerbe said. “Floyd Mayweather is looking to finish him off.”
Mayweather has always been a thinking man’s fighter, calculating his moves well ahead of time so he can stay one move ahead of whoever is in the ring with him. He believes Pacquiao is a reckless fighter who will make a reckless mistake, much like he did when he was knocked out with one punch by Juan Manuel Marquez in their last fight.
So far, Mayweather has been right 47 times. Forty seven times he stood in the ring after a fight, with his hand raised.
It will happen again in the richest fight ever, on a night when Mayweather’s legacy is finally secured.
“I’ve never wanted to win a fight so bad in my life,” he said.
Tim Dahlberg is the boxing writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
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