By Doug Fischer
Although Pacquiao began his career as a slugger who relied on his awesome speed and power and Mosley was viewed as a technically sound boxer-puncher (or “power boxer,” as his former trainer and father called him), the Filipino icon has continually improved his skill and versatility over the past six years. Mosley‘s technique, on the other hand, appeared to plateau with his move from lightweight to welterweight. Despite the fact that he no longer had the size advantage he held over lightweights, Mosley began to rely more on his physical strength and punching power when he campaigned at welterweight and junior middleweight (probably due in part to the early success he had knocking out second-tier contenders at 147 pounds). As they stand now, Pacquiao possesses better balance, sharper technique and more versatility than Mosley has shown in recent years. Pacquiao works a crisp and consistent jab, employs lateral movement, puts his punches together in accurate combinations and exhibits effective head and upper-body movement. Mosley, who often paws with his jab and loads up on single power shots, has taken on a careful stalker-type style recently. The veteran appeared almost one-dimensional in his fights against Mora, Mayweather, Margarito and Mayorga. His stalk-and-bomb approach was only effective against Margarito, who has a similar straight-forward style but considerably less talent.
This is a tough category to call given their recent performances against common opposition. Mosley, who never had Cotto in serious trouble during their competitive distance bout in 2007, dropped and stopped Margarito in early 2009. Pacquiao, who twice dropped Cotto en route to dominating and scoring a 12th-round TKO against the Puerto Rican in late 2009, beat up Margarito but wasn’t able to drop or stop the rugged Mexican last November. Who punches harder? It must be noted that Mosley fought the undefeated, pre-Margarito version of Cotto. The Puerto Rican star, 30-0 at the time, had not been through the proverbial grinder with the relentless Mexican, who some believe could have had loaded hand wraps for their grueling 2008 battle of attrition. Pacquiao fought the post-Margarito and post-Clottey version of Cotto. Both the Margarito and Clottey fights took a toll on Cotto. Pacquiao also fought the post-Mosley version of Margarito. The controversial former two-time titleholder had lost bouts prior to fighting Mosley but he had never been physically dominated and halted in a professional contest. There’s no telling what the physical and psychological impact that Mosley’s beating had on Margarito, who attempted to cheat by loading his gloves prior to the fight, but it couldn’t have been positive. And the disgraced Mexican did not look good in his one interim bout between the Mosley and Pacquiao fights. So it can be argued that Pacquiao faced weaker versions of Margarito and Cotto than Mosley did. However, it should be noted that Margarito had a much better camp for Pacquiao than he did for Mosley. The hunch here is that Mosley, the naturally bigger man, hits harder than Pacquiao does with single power punches. Pacquiao is able to do more damage with his punches and drop naturally bigger men like Cotto, in part because of his phenomenal speed, accuracy and the unorthodox angles from which his shots are often delivered.
SPEED AND ATHLETIC ABILITY
This category would have been a toss up 10 years ago. Even at 39, Mosley possesses world-class speed and power. His reflexes have dulled, but his reactions are still quick enough to catch most fighters. Mosley even caught Mayweather in the second round of their fight; he just wasn’t able to pull the trigger enough to follow up and finish the defensive wizard. Pacquiao has no trouble letting his hands go when he needs to, and when he does, no other fighter in the world is as dynamic and explosive. Pacquiao’s hands are not only quickest in the sport, his feet are fast and nimble, his balance is excellent and his reflexes are like lightning. Oh, and he also has bone-crunching power, as Cotto and Margarito can attest to.
Pacquiao and Mosley aren’t going to remind anyone of Willie Pep or Pernell Whitaker. Both future hall of famers are capable of defensive prowess but being elusive is not paramount to their styles or ring identities. They’re fighters at heart, not practitioners of the Sweet Science. Mosley possesses good head and upper-body movement but he doesn’t incorporate that into his offense. In other words, his head is straight up and vulnerable when he attacks. Pacquiao’s head is also a hitable target when he attacks, but the Filipino dynamo’s fast feet get him in and out of the danger zone more quickly than most fighters are able to react. Like Mosley, Pacquiao moves his head when he’s out of range, but it’s his underrated footwork and lateral movement that has prevented him from absorbing unnecessary punishment in recent years.
Pacquiao and Mosley are two of the most experienced and accomplished active fighters in the sport. Both have faced six opponents that will likely be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Mosley has fought De La Hoya (twice), Mayweather, Forrest (twice), Wright (twice), Cotto and Vargas (twice). Pacquiao has faced Marquez (twice), Barrera (twice), Morales (thrice), De La Hoya, Cotto, and Hatton. Both have faced 14 fighters who have held major titles. Both have fought three RING-recognized champions. Mosley did so against De La Hoya (rematch), Forrest (rematch) and Wright (rematch). Pacquiao did so against Barrera (first match), Marquez (rematch), and Hatton. Mosley, who turned pro in February of 1993, has a slight edge in overall rounds fought. The 39-year-old veteran, who won his first major title in 1997, has compiled 376 rounds since his pro debut. Pacquiao, who turned pro in January of 1995 and won his first major title in ‘98, has compiled 329 rounds. Both won their first belts against THE RING‘s No. 1-rated fighters in their respective divisions. Mosley out-pointed Philip Holiday at lightweight; Pacquiao knocked out Chatchai Saskul at flyweight. If there’s a tie-breaker in this close category, it’s the number of title-bout rounds each has fought. Pacquiao has logged 114 rounds in title fights. Mosley has fought in an astounding 176 title-bout rounds.
Both veterans have the proven ability to take a good shot. Pacquiao absorbed more than a few quality punches from naturally bigger heavy handed fighters such as Cotto and Margarito without slowing down. Mosley also took the best punches Cotto and Margarito had to offer without blinking, plus hard shots from De La Hoya, Vargas, Mayorga, Forrest and Wright. Mosley has only been down (twice) in the second round of his first fight with Forrest. That’s the only fight in which the proud veteran was visibly rocked and in trouble. Pacquiao was stopped twice early in his career, third-round KOs to Torrecampo in 1996 and Singsurat in ‘99. It should be noted that Pacquiao, still a teenager, was weight-drained for both of those flyweight bouts. However, a mature version of Pacquiao was visibly rocked in junior lightweight bouts against Oscar Larios and Marquez (rematch).
Both Mosley and Pacquiao have legendary work ethics in the gym. Mosley has been a gym rat since he first laced on a pair of boxing gloves. He’s probably never been out of shape in his life. Pacquiao takes time off to do other things when he’s not in preparing for a fight, but he’s rarely allowed himself to fall grossly out of condition. When Pacquiao is 100 percent focused in training — which usually happens toward the end of his camps, when he’s at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif. — no other active fighter can match his intensity and work rate. Pacquiao is now what Mosley was in the mid-to-late 1990s — the king of the brutally competitive Southern California gym scene.
WEAR AND TEAR
Mosley’s advanced age plus the reasons he edged Pacquiao out in the experience category equal a lot of wear and tear on that soon-to-be-40-year-old body.
Richardson has proven himself to be one of the sport‘s top trainers. The Philadelphian guided his son, Rock Allen, to a spot on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team and his cousin Karl Dargan to a gold medal at the 2007 Pan-American Games. He was an understudy to an old master, Bouie Fisher, who developed Bernard Hopkins into a future hall of famer from scratch, before Richardson became the Executioner‘s head trainer. He also trains two-time cruiserweight titleholder Steve Cunningham. However, Roach is the only five-time recipient of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Trainer of the Year award (2003, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010) for good reason. Apart from Pacquiao, the 51-year-old former fighter has had longtime training stints with former champs James Toney, Michael Moorer, Virgil Hill, Marlon Starling, Israel Vazquez, Steve Collins and Brian Viloria. He also currently trains junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan (who he took on after the British star had been knocked out in one round), junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Fans get what they paid to see in the early rounds, when Pacquiao starts surprisingly fast. The odds favorite comes forward behind lighting-quick three- and four-punch combinations that knock Mosley’s head around as the 39-year-old fighter is backed up. Just when it appears that Pacquiao is about to overwhelm Mosley inside of three rounds, the “old man” reminds the superstar that he’s still dangerous by landing a chopping right hand that clearly rocks the Filipino icon. Pacquiao uses his fast footwork to dodge Mosley’s follow-up attack but the wobbly moment serves as a wake-up call to the fighter and to Roach, who tells his pupil to box more in the middle rounds. Pacquiao will obey the master trainer and work a crisp jab and step to either side of his experienced adversary while looking for spots to fire off one or two power shots to Mosley’s head or body. This strategy will enable Pacquiao to take control of the bout but it will be disappointing to the crowd. Mosley will not be able to deal with the smaller, faster man’s lateral movement and the fight will lose its intensity as he sleep walks around the ring in pursuit of Pacquiao. Before fans begin to boo the lack of action in the fight, both Pacquiao and Mosley will make decisions that create excitement in the late rounds. Noticing that he hurt Mosley with some of the body shots he landed in the middle rounds, Pacquiao will try to aim more punches to that area as he stands his ground a little more. Mosley will give up trying to time and counter punch Pacquiao and step his pressure up full tilt. The fighters’ warrior mentalities will result in numerous exchanges down the stretch of the fight. Pacquiao will rock Mosley will combinations punctuated with head-snapping uppercuts, but the American legend will land his share of single power shots, including neck-twisting left hooks that briefly wobble the defending welterweight beltholder. The two will let it all hang out in the final round, bringing the crowd to its feet.