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Explaining “The Fight” to the casual viewer

By: Nick Johns

Boxing isn't like what we see in the movies where it's 12-straight rounds of haymakers. This was a brilliant display of strategy by Floyd Mayweather.

Boxing isn’t like what we see in the movies where it’s 12-straight rounds of haymakers. This was a brilliant display of strategy by Floyd Mayweather.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao — the fight everyone wanted to see, played out exactly how I expected. The two pugilists (people don’t say “pugilist” enough anymore) split the early rounds but a declining Pacquiao could not maintain Mayweather’s pace and by the ninth round Mayweather was in firm control. I would have much rather seen this fight five years ago when both men were still in their prime and Pacquiao was constantly knocking everbody out. I think Mayweather would have beaten Pacquiao five years ago, but it would have been much closer than it was on my score card. I scored the fight 117-113, with Pacquiao winning the second, fourth, and sixth rounds, the two men splitting the third and fifth, and Mayweather winning the remaining 7 rounds (judges seem to shy away from scoring 10-10 rounds, but I felt like those two rounds were too close to give to either fighter).

Despite my feelings about the fight being less than it could have been, it was still a phenomenal bout. As someone who has a great understanding and appreciation for boxing, watching the chess match between such talented fighters whose strengths played directly into the strengths of their opponents was a treat. Well worth the cost of the pay-per-view. So imagine my surprise when I checked social media to see so many people complaining that the fight was boring and that all Mayweather did was run around.

The first important fact that the casual boxing viewer needs to realize is that boxing is not like you see in the movies. It’s not two men standing in the middle of the ring furiously exchanging head shots until one of them dramatically knocks the other out in the closing seconds of the final round. That’s more like Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots than it is like an actual boxing match. While Pacquiao is an offensive fighter, he, like every other fighter, isn’t capable of maintaining a constant barrage of punches for 12 rounds. Mayweather is almost the opposite of boxers in movies. He is possibly the best defensive fighters in history. He makes his opponents waste energy throwing punches that don’t connect and then counters with effective right hands that put him ahead on the score cards. We saw these two styles play out on Saturday. Pacquiao was forced to chase Mayweather and throw a multitude of punches that either missed or were blocked. While both men have knockout power, I expected this fight to go the score cards.

This brings me to my next point. Many of the tweets and memes I’ve seen about the fight have been making fun of Mayweather for “running away” and for clinching. Clinching is a part of boxing. It just is. Watching that fight I didn’t notice a higher than average amount of clinching. If you want to see excessive clinching, watch the Wlademir Klitschko vs. Bryant Jennings fight. As for the running away, putting aside the fact that Mayweather landed almost twice as many punches as Pacquiao, Mayweather is a defensive fighter. He’s not going to stand there and let Pacquiao punch him in the head. He uses his evasiveness to sidestep hits. Again, it’s not like the movies when two men punch each other in the face for 12 rounds until one of them gets knocked out. Heck, Muhammad Ali’s famous “Rope-a-Dope” against George Foreman could be considered as Ali “running away,” but it’s remembered as one of the most brilliant tactical moves in boxing history. Forcing your opponent to chase you and throw punches that don’t connect is a valid and effective strategy, and one that worked for Mayweather, allowing him to dominate the final three rounds.

Pacquiao’s performance needs no explanation. He is an offensive fighter that uses his speed to unleash a barrage of hits on his opponent, and this fight was a shining example of that. I think that may have been one of Pacquiao’s best performances in the last few years. He was fast, he was throwing with power, he landed several shots that staggered Mayweather, and for the first half of the fight he was giving Mayweather all he could handle. In the end, Pacquiao just couldn’t get around Mayweather’s defense.

Another point that should be addressed is the way boxing matches are scored. The crowd would erupt every time Pacquiao unleashed one of his impressive flurries, but the truth is that for the most part those punches were either blocked or missed completely. Boxing scores are based on who had the more significant punches land. The Compubox numbers show that Mayweather landed more jabs and power punches than Pacquiao. While Pacquiao’s many flurries showed off his impressive speed and left Mayweather reeling from their sheer ferocity, very few of those shots landed and the flurries were more visually impressive than anything.

So there you have it. I’m sure plenty of people will accuse me of writing a bias article praising Mayweather, but the reason for writing this isn’t to say how great Mayweather is. Mayweather doesn’t practice the style of boxing that people who watch boxing in passing are accustom to, and it’s important for the casual fan to realize that there’s more to boxing than just knockout blows. Both men fought a masterful fight and as a boxing fan I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

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