After several years of growing anticipation, a megafight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao is finally set to take place. The May 2 event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is arguably the most prominent fight in decades, featuring two of the sport's most recognizable stars.
But the two welterweight legends are in their mid to late 30s, suggesting to some that they are years past their best boxing level. Mayweather, 38, and Pacquiao, 36, should have touched gloves in 2009 and not in 2015, according to one famed analyst and former trainer.
“I think that it’s not the same fight that it would’ve been six years ago. These aren’t the same guys,” Teddy Atlas told reporters in Los Angeles before a Mayweather-Pacquiao press conference last week.
Somewhat reiterating his comments to Newsday last month, Atlas cited the probable mental toll Pacquiao’s two losses in the last two and a half years have likely had on the Filipino star, and suggested Pacquiao might not have the same punching power he unleashed in the past to drop 38 opponents.
“Pacquiao is not the same seek-and-destroy missile that he was six years ago when he was knocking out guys like (Miguel) Cotto ... guys that were junior middleweights like (Antonio) Margarito,” Atlas said. “He’s not physically that guy. He’s not mentally that guy anymore. He doesn’t have the power anymore. He’s not even as big as he used to be. You figure that out. I don’t know why. Maybe Floyd had a point some years ago [about Pacquiao’s weight gain]. Who knows?"
The undefeated Mayweather, more recently known for his calculated, defensive style, has only knocked out two opponents in the last seven years, and Atlas claims Mayweather has grown less aggressive in recent years.
“They are different guys. Floyd, 38 years old, is a great defensive fighter, very cautious boxer, and takes as little risk as possible and is all about defense, he is more defensive-minded than he was even back then. So, they’re two different guys now. But the timing is right to make money, because the fans have been looking for a good fight.”
There is evidence to back up Atlas' comments. Pacquiao shook off the highly questionable split decision loss to Timothy Bradley back in 2012 and the devastating knockout result against Juan Manuel Marquez with three straight victories. But with the exception of the revenge victory over Bradley, Pacquiao hasn’t faced a truly quality opponent since Marquez, earning unanimous decisions over Americans Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios.
And like Mayweather, Pacquiao hasn’t dropped an opponent in quite some time. Pacquiao last recorded a technical knockout over Cotto in 2009, a follow up to his second-round knockout of Great Britain’s Ricky Hatton. Both of those fights established Pacquiao as a boxing icon, but he hasn’t displayed the same lethal dose of punching power since.
Mayweather, at times criticized for his more cautious fighting posture, rocked Hatton for a 10th-round TKO in 2007, then picked apart Marquez for his 40th straight victory in 2009, and did the same to Cotto three years later.
And yet he’s largely run though several opponents who have never been considered part of Pacquiao’s class. The best quality opponent was Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2013, a 12-round decision that saw Mayweather handily win with surgical strikes that made Mexico’s champ appear as a second-tier fighter. But bouts with Marcos Maidana in 2014 were not met with great enthusiasm.
Atlas likely took all of the above into consideration before his comments, and he has forgot more about boxing than most fans will ever know. But there is still is a very good chance Pacquiao-Mayweather lives up to its hype. Despite their age and recent form, both boxers have a great deal of pride, and are still regarded as the top pound-for-pound boxers in the world.