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At which point, W.O. McGeehan chimed in, “No, but an elephant sure as hell can.”
As far as De La Hoya/Pacquiao goes, I think what we’re dealing with is more in the territory of this exchange: A pit bull can defeat a mountain lion. But a bull terrier sure as hell can’t.
In other words, to bring us out of the zoo for a moment, the x factor is the size difference. It has been since day one and it remains the case the day before the fight. I’m eager to see video of the weigh-in (I’m not in Vegas yet, flying in tomorrow morning, keeping the trip short what with Reggie and all) just to look at their comparative hefts after they’ve made the weight (presuming they make the weight), because to this point when I picture the two men together in my mind, I see the big, bloated Oscar towering over the miniscule Manny as if they were brothers and Oscar is 15 and Manny is 8, and all I can think of as a bon mot in the grand tradition of Lardner and Rice is… an 8-year-old cannot defeat a 15-year-old unless he has a bazooka.
Not having much of a handle on how the size difference will influence the fight makes it very difficult to assess. To my mind, the single most pressing question is this: Will Manny have pop at 47? Because if he doesn’t, he is in for a long, long night. There is a groundswell, both in comments here and at other sites, for the idea that Manny is going to be able to knock De La Hoya out. I don’t see why anyone would feel confident about this when you have a natural 130-pounder who is not even a Goodnight Irene puncher with junior lightweights fighting a guy who has eaten the best of Vargas, Tito, Quartey and Chavez in their primes and not been stopped by any of them. Oscar’s been knocked out once in his long career, by a 6’1″ middleweight who pulverized his liver. Forget whether Manny will take his power to 47 for a second and just accept that fact that Oscar doesn’t get knocked out by heavy-hitters who are his own size.
But while I don’t see Oscar getting stopped unless something freaky happens, I still think the key to this fight resides with Pacquiao’s respective power as he moves up in weight, because if he is unable to hurt Oscar and make him respect his punches, he’s not going to be able to keep him at bay and probably will end up getting stopped himself. The size difference is going to be considerable in there, and Manny, though frenetic, is not exactly a defensive wizard a la Money May. His best defense is a relentless offense. If Oscar can wade through that offense without paying too dear a price, then he’ll definitely be able to “pull the trigger,” because if there’s one thing that Marquez has shown us in 24 rounds with Pac Man, it’s that in heavy exchanges Manny usually leaves himself open to a variety of counters.
Then again, while Pacquiao is certainly no Hopkins or Vargas, Oscar is no Marquez. What will the speed differential look like tomorrow night? Pacquiao certainly has explosive handspeed and that straight left coming out of nowhere always seems to shock the shit out of anyone who hasn’t seen it before. Again, however, I come back to the size difference, this time not the weight but the height. Oscar’s got a good four inches on Manny at least. For Pacquaio to make that left-hand effective coming across his body, he’s going to have to fight at a distance that I can only imagine will be more advantageous to De La Hoya over the course of several rounds.
I’ve been back and forth with this one a number of times in my head, but I always come back to the same conclusion. There is a conventional wisdom that’s emerged about this fight that it’s a matchup of brawn versus speed, but I don’t quite see it that way. Manny has fast hands but he is not fast in the elusive sense of the word in the way that, say, Floyd is. Floyd is the type of sneaky fast that allows him to successfully fight much bigger men, because he’s veritably impossible to hit square. The guy is a defensive genius – his “fiddle faddle,” as Hatton put it, is all but impenetrable.
Manny is not cut from that cloth. When you get right down to it, Manny is a brawler, a hyperactive one, but a brawler nevertheless. He throws a lot of shots and he throws them with bad intentions, but he’s right there when you counter him, getting as good as he gives. It’s what has made him such a popular fighter. De La Hoya is actually a better “boxer,” in the truest sense, than Pacquiao. He has more science, to revert to the terminology of Lardner and Rice, and I think he’ll be able to put it to good use tomorrow night.
Finally, I like Oscar because of the situation as I laid it out in my last post here about the fight. He has to win. A loss for De La Hoya is a genuine loss – loss of reputation and future earning potential – whereas for Pacquiao it’s nearly a non-event. I believe that Oscar, while less so than in his prime certainly, is still a great fighter, still capable of great things in the ring. But for a man of his affluence and stature, it takes extreme circumstances to bring it out. On paper, the breakdown between him and Pacquiao is so exceedingly in his favor that the outcome will boil down to a question of Oscar’s will. I think it’s in his power to enforce his will on this affair, but at the same time, I respect the fact that Manny is a spirited little savage, as game as they come. To get back to the zooolgical metaphors, while I don’t think he will float like a butterfly, Pacquiao will at times without question sting like a bee. And when utterly swathed in the creature comforts of bottomless wealth, a couple bee-stings in the right places will make even a mountain lion rethink the depth of his commitment.
In this instance, however, I think that rich, lazy lion has backed himself into a corner, which makes him a more dangerous animal than he might be otherwise. If I had just a touch more repsect for Manny’s defensive awareness it might change my outlook. But I don’t. Oscar may not be Marquez, but he’s no David Diaz either. He’s going to hit Manny, and Manny is going to hit him. It should be a very entertaining bit of business for at least six rounds, and I’m guessing that there will be some moments when it seems like it could go either way. In the end, though, I think the exchange rate is just going to be too heavily weighted in Oscar’s favor.
PROGNOSTIFICATION: Oscar TKO10 Pacquiao
It is written. I’ll try and have some stuff up here tomorrow night from ringside, and I’ll also be posting pre- and post-fight material over at The Sporting Blog. Enjoy the fight and see you back here next week for the post-prandials.