While nothing is set in stone, Filipino superstar Manny Pacquaio’s (51-3-2) two previous fights with current WBA super welterweight champion Miguel Cotto and former IBF weltweight champion Joshua Clottey seem to indicate that he will be boasting much greater hand-speed in his upcoming fight with three-time former world champion Antonio Margarito (38-6). Pacquiao will most likely try to keep the fight in the center of his ring so that he can utilize his footwork and angles to punish Margarito while keeping safe from harm. Along with four-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach, Pacquiao will most certainly have a solid gameplan coming into his fight with Margarito, which will more than likely consist of using his speed and angles to reduce Margarito into a rotating punching bag at center ring (think Pacquiao vs. Oscar De la Hoya.) While some anticipate that Pacquiao will choose to fight on the inside against Margarito in order to nullify Margarito’s reach advantage, it would pose a serious risk to Pacquiao as he would be exposed to Margarito’s vicious body punches and uppercuts. Despite Margarito’s TKO loss in his fight against Sugar Shane Mosley, his chin is still probably one of the toughest in the welterweight division and Pacquiao will most likely have a difficult time putting a dent in it.
Pacquiao’s gameplan is more or less predictable, but the real question is Margarito’s strategy. The outcome of their fight on November 13th will largely depend on which Margarito decides to show up. If the Margarito that demolished Miguel Cotto shows up, then Pacquiao will have his hands full, and fight fans can brace themselves for a firefight. If the Margarito that squeezed out a unanimous decision over the relatively untested contender Roberto Garcia shows up, then Pacquiao will most likely have an easy night, tearing apart the much slower and less technical Margarito.
There are many questions surrounding Margarito regarding his stamina, whether he’ll be able to keep up the offensive pressure, or if he’ll try to outbox Pacquiao using his reach advantage, but unfortunately most of these questions will not be answered until the bell sounds on fight night. There are however some clues that may hint at how the fight will play out. Pacquiao’s camp reportedly turned down a fight with former WBA super-welterweight champion Yuri Foreman, citing that Foreman’s height and reach would prove problematic which is interesting because Margarito’s is the same height as Foreman at 5’10,’’ and his reach is actually one inch longer than Foreman’s at 73”. Manny Pacquiao only stands at 5’6,’’ with a reach of 67,” so the 4” height advantage and the 6” reach advantage are definitely two points that Margarito should utilize if he hopes to emerge victorious. Unfortunately, Margarito has never shown much ability to utilize his reach advantage — at least not against an opponent as quick as Pacquiao. Margarito was outboxed by the faster Miguel Cotto, who was in turn outboxed by the even faster Manny Pacquiao, so Margarito’s chances of keeping Pacquiao at the end of his jab are looking slim at the moment.
Margarito’s height advantage serves as a double-edged sword. On one hand, it will force Pacquiao to punch at an upwards angle, in effect taking away some of his punching power, but on the other hand, it will also force Margarito to punch at a downwards angle which will leave him exposed and possibly off-balance. Margarito’s shoulders will mostly likely be too high for Pacquiao to effectively land a right hook over, and Margarito’s head will usually be too high for Pacquiao to land a hard uppercut, so straight punches down the line are the main punches that Margarito will have to avoid. Unfortunately for Margarito, his habit of squaring up his shoulders, which usually helps make up for his lackluster hand-speed, will also leave him incredibly vulnerable to straight shots down the line.
On top of squaring up his shoulders, Margarito also has a host of defensive liabilities which have been exposed over the years. One of Margarito’s bad habits is his tendency to paw with his right hand, either to gauge distance or push himself away from his opponent. This position leaves his face completely unprotected which will be an easy target for straight punches for a fighter as quick as Pacquiao. Margarito also has a habit of leaning into his right hand shots which leaves him very vulnerable to left-hand or right-hand uppercuts, a flaw that has been exploited by Shane Mosley and Joshua Clottey. If these bad tendencies were not enough, Margarito also very rarely counterpunches, often choosing to block or walk through opponents’ punches before landing his own punches. Coupled with his lack of head movement, Margarito may end up looking like a mix of Oscar De la Hoya and Joshua Clottey as he plows forward, chasing after Pacquiao, eating straight shots all night.
So, factoring in all these defensive liabilities, what must Margarito do to win on November 13th?