Chris Farina / Top Rank
Sunday, March 29, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach guarantees Floyd Mayweather Jr. will make mistakes Manny Pacquiao can capitalize on during their long-awaited May 2 welterweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
But Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, contends the undefeated Mayweather already has committed his greatest error by not fighting Pacquiao five years ago. Pacquiao’s chances have improved exponentially since the near-booking fell apart in 2010, Roach said.
The odds say this is a classic case of a trainer overhyping his fighter. In 2010, oddsmakers made Mayweather a virtual pick ’em price of minus-120 (risking $1.20 to win $1) to beat Pacquiao, compared with now, when he’s a 2-to-1 favorite.
Is Roach wrong? The Sunday sports writer Case Keefer says no, while sports editor Ray Brewer sees it differently.
CK: Roach isn’t crazy. I agree. Although seeing both fighters in their prime would have been ideal, I think the fight is more competitive now. The 38-year-old defensive mastermind Mayweather has started to get hit. The younger Pacquiao, 36, will be able to track him down, which I’m not sure would have happened in 2010.
RB: Pacquiao’s career was on life support in 2012 after he lost to Juan Manuel Marquez, a fighter Mayweather dominated. Credit promoter Bob Arum for setting Pacquiao up with conquerable opponents for a three-fight streak to prove himself worthy of facing Mayweather. The opponents — Brandon Rios, Timothy Bradley and Chris Algieri — were average at best. They were fighters Pacquiao easily could handle to keep his career alive. He is a shell of his former self. Without question, Mayweather’s undefeated record would have been in jeopardy had this fight happened sooner.
CK: Wait. Did I hear that right? Timothy Bradley is an “average-at-best” fighter? Even though it’s probably unjust, go ahead and bash the other two. But Bradley is almost unanimously seen as one of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world. And Pacquiao, in reality, beat him twice. Although Canelo Alvarez looked like a major foil for Mayweather, it didn’t turn out that way. That means Mayweather hasn’t beaten anyone on Bradley’s level in five or six years.
RB: It only appears that way because of Mayweather’s greatness. He makes all his opponents, from Oscar De La Hoya to Ricky Hatton in 2008 and Miguel Cotto in 2012, look pedestrian. Mayweather is 5-foot-8 with a 72-inch reach, making it tough for smaller welterweights to defend. Pacquiao is 5-foot-6 with a 67-inch reach. And five years after this fight should have happened, Pacquiao still is significantly slower than Mayweather.
CK: Earlier, you brought up the inequality of their fights against Marquez as a pro-Mayweather argument. So can’t I do the same for De La Hoya, Hatton and Cotto? Pacquiao battered all of them far more severely than Mayweather did. That’s worthwhile to remember, but also perhaps besides the point because my core argument centers more on Mayweather slowing down ever so slightly. Five years ago, he was like a prized artifact in a history museum — completely untouchable. Now it’s like the impenetrable casing has been replaced by a velvet rope and a “Do Not Touch” sign that no one obeys — especially not Marcos Maidana, who landed 221 punches on Mayweather in their first fight.
RB: Yes, Mayweather didn’t handle Maidana as convincingly as others he’s casually disposed of. But he was never in danger of losing the fight and is the undisputed best pound-for-pound fighter of our generation, if not all time. Both fighters have seen their skills diminish, which is the shame in waiting five years for the fight of the decade. Pacquiao has five career defeats, three coming by knockout. Mayweather, who prides himself on being undefeated, will add to the tally. He has been calculating during his career, fighting only opponents he easily could beat. That’s why he waited to face Pacquiao. In 2015, he’ll easily defeat him. It might not have been so leisurely in 2010.
CK: Mayweather has taken too much heat for this fight not happening sooner. It’s not entirely his fault. Ulterior motives had nothing to do with the delay from Mayweather’s end, and any suggestion to the contrary is a conspiracy theory even more far-fetched than those who suggest Pacquiao will win to ensure a big-money rematch. Mayweather was at the height of his power when the fight was first discussed. No one, even a spryer Pacquiao, stood a chance.
RB: Pacquiao still doesn’t stand a chance. Mayweather isn’t the punching bag Chris Algieri was. This will be the last of Pacquiao’s big-fight relevance. At least he’ll get a reported $100 million payday to share the ring with Mayweather. Five years ago, the fight would have equaled the hype. Now, those who buy the pay-per-view will be disappointed.
CK: Well, we agree on one thing. If forced to pick a winner, I’m going with Mayweather. But five years ago, I would have felt comfortable taking out a loan and betting the price of a ringside ticket on “Money.” Now, I wouldn’t gamble even a neighborhood bar’s cover charge to watch the pay-per-view. Mark my words: Pacquiao will give Mayweather a scare.