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John Lumpkin

Weighty Issue

De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao:
De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao:

By John Lumpkin: On December 6, 2008, Manny Pacquiao, the consensus choice for pound for pound king, will be taking on an opponent whose last nine fights have occurred in divisions 3 and 4 weight classes higher than the highest weight class he has ever participated in. The catch weight for the bout is still two classes higher than his highest fighting class, yet despite the old boxing axiom that a good big man beats a good little man, many people give Pacquiao a good chance to beat Oscar De La Hoya. Maybe we are putting too much stock in the relative positions these two are at in their respective careers.

Oscar De La Hoya has some huge advantages in this fight that cannot be ignored. Aside from the obvious size and weight advantages, Oscar is one the highest skilled fighters Pacquiao will have faced in his career. In addition to his offensive and defensive capabilities, Oscar has a chin proven against murderous punchers in the weight classes higher than Pacquaio has ever fought. While Pacquiao has demonstrated bone chilling power at the lower weight classes, his KO ratio is just 50% at 130 and above. It’s not that Pacquiao will lack respectable power at welterweight, but rather that his power will not be the weapon it has been.

De La Hoya clearly isn’t the fighter he once was, but he is still a formidable opponent for any world class fighter. Most would still favor him to defeat many of the current jr. middleweight champions. Some people thought his last performance showed improvements over his previous, but the opinion is hotly disputed. When fighters age; they lose some of their timing, quickness, and ability to avoid punches. What they do not lose is their power and they usually benefit to some extent from their experience. The question here is whether or not any of these differences are serious enough to make a meaningful difference for this fight.

Pacquiao’s ticket to victory is his speed and activity level. While he has used his fast hands and quick footwork to great effect in the past, it has always been in conjunction with this tremendous power that has made him a threat. Opponents had to respect the power and were thus limited by how they could respond to his assaults. In this contest, it is De La Hoya that is the power threat. De La Hoya has knocked out world class opposition in weights up through Jr. Middleweight. Pacquiao, on the other hand, has been twice flattened by opponents weighing just 112 lbs.

Pacquiao is a much improved fighter since most people in USA first witnessed him overwhelming Marco Antonio Barrera in their original meeting. He has only recently added the right hand to his arsenal, but he is no defensive wizard. In fact, defense really has not been much of an issue in his fights. This may be the first fight he has been in for some time where he will have to be very conscientious about getting tagged because he is in with an opponent who could KO him with a single shot. The net effect is that he is going to have to outbox and outfox De La Hoya and this is just not his game.

World class fighters do not usually get massacred, so this fight will probably go some rounds before we get a sense of which way this fight will go. What Pacquiao is attempting is not unheard of. We have seen a number of middleweights rise to the heavyweight ranks and perform well. Speed and skill were the differentiators in those contests. Pacquiao has the speed, but is dependent on a significant slide in De La Hoya’s ability to capture the edge in usable skill. This is the unknown factor that makes this fight interesting. The storyline only really works if Pacquiao can overcome the odds and secure a definitive victory. If he does, there will be those that will herald him as one of the greatest of all time.

December 2, 2008

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