By Lee Groves
In the weeks following Shane Mosley’s ninth-round destruction of Antonio Margarito in January 2009, most fans believed a showdown between pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and Mosley was the next best thing to the Pacquiao-Mayweather superfight.
What a difference two years have made.
While Typhoon Manny blew through Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Margarito – a gauntlet that saw Pacquiao add three divisional belts to his collection – Mosley endured a momentum-killing 16-month layoff, then suffered a lopsided loss to Mayweather and an ugly draw to Sergio Mora. As a result, the shine that emanated from Pacquiao-Mosley in 2009 turned to tarnish in 2011.
Still, many words will be written because each man is familiar even to casual fans. Every fight that generates this level of interest deserves a thorough analysis of the nuts-and-bolts – and that’s where The Ring comes in.
In this special feature, Pacquiao and Mosley will be rated in 20 categories that encompass the physical and the intangible. Each fighter is rated on a scale of 0 to 5, with a score of 100 denoting the perfect fighter. The assessments will be largely, but not exclusively, based on their last three fights.
The physical categories are self-explanatory: Hand speed, foot speed, power (lead hand), power (trail hand), jab effectiveness, hook effectiveness, cross and uppercut effectiveness, body punching and infighting skills, reach, endurance, ability to slip and block punches, physical conditio, and resistance to cuts.
Traits involving intangibles are more subjective because they dig into a fighter’s psyche. These include “poise and reaction to external pressures,” which assesses how a fighter deals with the glare that accompanies big events. “Other general defensive skills” judges an athlete’s capacity to neutralize opponents’ surges and overcome crises while “killer instinct” references a battler’s willingness to throw mercy aside and mete out the most punishment possible.
Some categories involve attributes that can only be acquired through hard-earned experience. “Intelligence and strategic dexterity” gauges the ability to formulate fight plans, execute on-the-fly adjustments and following his trainer’s blueprint. “Ability to absorb punches and recover from a knockdown” is as much about a fighter’s mindset as his conditioning while “experience and quality of opponents” judges his resume and his eagerness to take risks. Finally “peak quotient” assigns a value of where the fighter stands in comparison to his prime.
This analysis is not intended to be the final word – that privilege is reserved for the fighters – but it will provide plenty of fodder for discussion and debate. After all, trading opinions is half the fun. So without further delay, let’s get started:
1. HAND SPEED:Pacquiao’s blazing fists have been the foundation of his historic run through the divisions. Where some fighters produce occasional three- and four-punch bursts, Pacquiao strings together six- or seven-punch bouquets that are thrown in unpredictable patterns and from angles only special southpaws can conjure. Even at 32, Pacquiao’s speed rates 5.0.
The same could have been said of Mosley during his lightweight reign and his landmark first victory over Oscar De La Hoya, but those days are long past. Still, his raw speed is remarkable for someone pushing 40, and he’s still faster than most of today’s contenders. Mayweather and Mora’s fists were only slightly quicker, and Mosley’s combinations made mince meat of Margarito. Thus, he rates a 4.5.
2. FOOT SPEED:Pacquiao’s mobility is another key to his tremendous success. Pacquiao’s superb footwork creates punching angles on offense and enables him to elude counterattacks on defense. His fluidity in both directions only adds to his opponents’ headaches, as Cotto, Clottey and Margarito will attest. Another 5.0 for Manny.
The once-swift Mosley fought flat-footed against the speedier Mayweather and Mora, but he also showed adept movement against the heavy-legged Margarito. His “power boxing” philosophy doesn’t invest a premium on movement, and it’s unlikely he’ll utilize it much against Pacquiao. Though aging, Mosley merits a respectable 4.0
3. POWER (LEAD HAND):In past years Pacquiao’s right was a mere table-setter for the big left, but once he developed his right hook he improved exponentially. While it still doesn’t have the power of his left, opponents must now respect it. Thus, it deserves a 4.0.
Most of Mosley’s left-handed power lies in his body hooks, which proved effective against Margarito and Mora. These days, hooks targeting the head are rare and when they land they don’t have the same snap. A pair of head hooks flattened Ricardo Mayorga in 2008, and a heavy hook to the jaw ushered Margarito’s demise in 2009, but Mayweather easily shook off one early head hook and Mora faced few hooks targeting the jaw. Given recent form, a 4.0 is fair.
4. POWER (TRAIL HAND):Pacquiao’s left crosses devastated lighter opponents but against bigger men the single-shot heft is diminished. Still, a wicked left put Hatton down and out in the second, dropped Cotto in the fourth, and Clottey, though never floored, said Pacquiao has the power to hurt welterweights. That’s good enough to rate a 4.0.
Mosley’s right shook Mayweather to his foundations multiple times in the second round, but, these days, his power rights are rounded or chopped rather than straight, which signals an erosion of flexibility. Mosley’s right still carries plenty of kick, though, so it scores 4.5.
5. JAB EFFECTIVENESS:Despite his stylistic metamorphosis, Pacquiao’s jab remains the weakest part of his arsenal because jabs are ineffective against the army of right-handers southpaws face. According to CompuBox, Pacquiao’s jab landed three percent of the time against Clottey, 18 percent against Margarito, but a more respectable 27 percent against Cotto. A 3.0 grade fits here.
Mosley’s jab is only slightly better. While Mosley jabbed well to the body against Mayweather and Margarito, and a body jab helped set up a concussive right against “Money,” it is not Mosley’s money punch because it lacks steam and accuracy. He landed 22 percent of them against Margarito, 19 percent against Mora, and 16 percent against Mayweather. He deserves a 3.5 here.
6. HOOK EFFECTIVENESS:As mentioned previously, Pacquiao’s right hook is his most-improved punch. He staggered the iron-chinned Margarito with one in the 10th and it produced a flash knockdown against Cotto. Considering Pacquiao is an ex-flyweight titleholder, the impressiveness of these power demonstrations can’t be overstated. While the hook isn’t the equal of his left cross in terms of power, it still rates a 4.0 for its accuracy.
Mosley’s left hook is an incomplete weapon because it’s far more effective to the body than the head. He does throw the body hook with gusto and it does hurt, so if the body hook is a 4.5 and the head hook a 3.5, a 4.0 is justified.
7. CROSS/UPPERCUT EFFECTIVENESS:For both, it’s a half-and-half proposition because each uses the cross spectacularly while the uppercut is neglected. Of the two, Mosley’s uppercut is better because he used it with both hands against Mora and a right uppercut started the wave of blows that led to a knockdown of Margarito. Because Pacquiao is vulnerable to uppercuts – Clottey hit him with five of them in the 11th round alone – Mosley would be well advised to include them in his blueprint.
As for Pacquiao, his crosses are chin-seeking missiles while the uppercut is almost non-existent. Because Mosley uses both punches better as a whole, he gets a 4.5 to 4.0 edge.
8. BODY PUNCHING AND INFIGHTING SKILLS:Pacquiao is a devoted in-fighter, but in his last few fights against much bigger men his blows in the trenches were intended to target and tenderize rather than devastate. Most of the time Pacquiao fights at arm’s length so he can prevent his larger foes from draping their weight on him. Score him a 4.0.
Mosley also works best with his arms extended but he can blast the flanks when the situation strikes. His body attack in the later rounds drew a hesitant Mora into crowd-pleasing exchanges down the stretch, but more often than not, Mosley is more grappler than puncher in close quarters. He’s also a 4.0.
9. REACH:The 5-foot, 6½-inch Pacquiao owns a 67½-inch reach, only slightly above average for a man his height. His enormous speed and mobility makes up for most shortcomings because he can nip in and out of range well before his bigger and slower opponents can react. For this, Pacquiao rates 3.5.
Conversely, Mosley’s 74-inch reach is very lengthy for someone standing 5-9. However, Mosley’s height is average for a welterweight and his style is not predicated on long punches that keep opponents at bay. So while he has the equipment to use his range against Pacquiao, his warrior’s heart demands a fight. While he could have rated 4.5 in this category, his style dictates a 4.0.
10. ENDURANCE:Even as Pacquiao fights progressively bigger opponents, he showed no signs of slowing down against Cotto, Clottey, and Margarito. In all three fights, he stepped on the gas at the halfway point and forced them to choke on his smoke. He’s a strong 5.0 here.
Mosley’s stamina runs hot-and-cold. He showed signs of tiring at the midway point against Mayweather, but he was stronger than Margarito and Mora down the stretch. He also was the first to outperform Cotto in the final rounds at a time when the Puerto Rican was celebrated for that trait. In past years, his finishing kick led to two wins against De La Hoya, but now his status has slipped to a more-than-respectable 4.5.
11. ABILITY TO SLIP AND BLOCK PUNCHES:Although Pacquiao’s defensive skills have improved, Pacquiao is no Pep, Whitaker or Mayweather. Margarito regularly popped him with jabs early and when Clottey actually threw shots, they were accurate and authoritative. While he does move his torso from side-to-side, Pacquiao’s offensive firepower is his best defense. A 4.0 for Manny.
Age has dulled Mosley’s reflexes. Against Mayweather and Mora, Mosley offered little head movement and he couldn’t roll away from “Money’s” lasers. Against the far slower “Tijuana Tornado,” Mosley applied upper body movement that allowed him to avoid punishment and limit Margarito’s usually prodigious output. The truth may lie between the 3.0 of the Mayweather fight and the 4.0 of the Margarito and Mora fights, so a 3.5 is awarded here.
12. RESISTANCE TO CUTS:In his lighter-weight days – most notably against Morales (first fight) and Marquez (second fight) – Pacquiao’s scar tissue proved troublesome. Ever since moving up from 130 Pacquiao’s face has sustained little damage aside from discoloration and minor swellings. This may be more a testament to his vastly improved defense than the state of his brows, but he still rates a 4.5.
Given his combative ways, Mosley’s skin is astonishingly resilient. The only cut he suffered in an 18-year, 54-fight career against the best in three divisions was a small butt-induced nick on the hairline in the first Forrest fight. In this regard, Mosley’s nickname should be “Mr. Clean.” An easy 5.0.
13. PHYSICAL CONDITION:Both are notorious gym rats and their ripped physiques are proof of their Herculean work ethic. Pacquiao’s four-hour workouts are legendary and he appears invulnerable to all wearing-down tactics. He admitted that the Margarito fight was his toughest because of the energy required to hold off a 165-pound opponent, but his cardiovascular effort concealed whatever stress he felt. Another 5.0 for Pacquiao.
Mosley is almost obsessive about staying in shape between fights. Before the Mayweather fight, trainer Naazim Richardson said Mosley spent part of one South America vacation working out in local gyms to maintain his edge. That is an extraordinary level of commitment for any fighter, much less one who’s 39. A well deserved 5.0 for Shane.
14. POISE AND REACTION TO EXTERNAL PRESSURES:Both fighters not only are accustomed to the media glare surrounding big-time bouts, they revel in it. One can’t find two looser athletes coming down the aisle as they wear megawatt smiles that radiate genuine enjoyment rather than macho bravado.
Pacquiao is the ultimate multi-tasker as he has, at various times, blended movies, singing, billiards tournaments, pick-up basketball games, appearances on TV shows, political rallies and two runs for office into his training schedule. He also is truly never alone as he brings a huge entourage to every fight. Others would find the constant attention distracting, but Pacquiao seems to feed off it. A strong 5.0 for Manny.
Any doubts about Mosley’s focus were eradicated when he produced a career performance against Margarito amidst the leaking of his videotaped testimony and his then-wife Jin’s filing for divorce. Just about anyone else would have been rattled beyond description, but Mosley successfully compartmentalized his crises. A robust 5.0 for Mosley.
15. OTHER GENERAL DEFENSIVE TACTICS:During those rare times when Pacquiao was under duress, he was breathtakingly proactive. He lashed out with even more fury, as if he couldn’t tolerate a moment of weakness. He displayed clever upper body movement against Clottey after being clocked with several uppercuts, but Pacquiao is a predator at heart even when his brain is fuzzy. We still don’t how he’ll react when a true welterweight shakes him to his core, so a 4.5 will do for now.
Like Pacquiao, we’ve seldom seen a shaken Mosley, but his reactions to the two Forrest knockdowns in fight one are revealing. Woozy and without legs, Mosley reached out and grabbed whenever he could but was retaliating less than 30 seconds later. Over the next several minutes Mosley moved, clinched, ducked and punched just enough to clear his head. By the fourth he was fine. Few could have survived Forrest’s vicious assault, but are those instincts and reflexes still there? A hesitant 4.5 for Shane.
16. KILLER INSTINCT:Pacquiao showed plenty of venom as he relentlessly banged away at Cotto, Clottey and Margarito, but, at the time, he also demonstrated compassion. He thrice gestured to referee Laurence Cole to stop the Margarito massacre in the 11th and respectfully throttled down in the 12th. Pacquiao is not the remorseless savage Duran was, but his ferocity still rates a 4.5.
Mosley was a 5.0-quality finisher in his lightweight prime, but time and weight has somewhat compromised his capabilities. Flashes of his best re-emerged as he blasted a final right to Margarito’s face as his rival slumped into the ropes, and the two Mayorga knockdowns in the final 30 seconds wiped out memories of an otherwise uneven fight. But he couldn’t finish off Mayweather when he had the chance, and that hurts his score. Mosley rates a 4.0 but the opportunities to exercise those talents are fewer and farther between.
17. INTELLIGENCE AND STRATEGIC DEXTERITY:While Pacquiao remains an awesome force of nature, the welterweight version has become quite the tactician. Trainer Freddie Roach has expressed amazement at Pacquiao’s strategic knowledge and says that he would make a good trainer some day. Knowing he could never out-strength Margarito, Pacquiao wisely scaled 144½ to maximize the speed advantage that proved pivotal. He has the smarts to know when to shift gears while still having the physical prowess to carry out his brain’s commands – a most enviable combination. Pacquiao deserves an emphatic 5.0.
When all is well, Mosley can carry out a fight plan, but when that blueprint goes awry, he’s often at a loss when it comes to finding solutions on the fly. While he performed better in rematches against Forrest and Wright, he had the luxury of starting fresh, plus he couldn’t conjure an adequate response once Mayweather made his adjustments after being stunned in the second round. A 3.5 may be somewhat harsh, but the record speaks for itself.
18. ABILITY TO ABSORB PUNCHES AND RECOVER FROM A KNOCKDOWN:Pacquiao’s ability to take and shake off the blows of naturally bigger men may be the most amazing aspect of this journey up the scale. Pacquiao hasn’t suffered a knockdown since September 1999, when a weight-drained PacMan crumbled at the feet of Medgoen Singsurat and lost the WBC flyweight belt. Since then, he’s been a rock-solid 5.0.
Mosley’s chin is among boxing’s best. Forrest scored the only two knockdowns of his career, but Mosley said it was the butt preceding it that stunned him more – a disputable claim when one watches the video. Mosley has taken the best of everyone he’s faced since, and, even as Mayweather clocked him again and again, his ability to snap back into action seldom wavered. A 5.0 for Mosley.
19. EXPERIENCE AND QUALITY OF OPPONENTS:Pacquiao and Mosley boast two of the deepest resumes in boxing and each has earned a strong 5.0. Pacquiao has crossed gloves with 14 men who won major belts, and Mosley is the ninth-consecutive titleholder he has faced. Only one man can lay claim to such a streak: Mosley himself, whose string is also at nine.
Sugar Shane has also faced 14 men who have held titles, plus he had the fortitude to face Forrest, Winky Wright and Luis Collazo when no other world-class fighter would. He was a significant underdog in the first De La Hoya fight (they fought twice) and against Margarito and still came out 3-0. Yes, Pacquiao and Mosley’s records bear scars (a combined 12 blemishes), but their star power continued to shine. In this age of over-cautious matchmaking, more fighters and managers should learn from their example.
20. PEAK QUOTIENT:It’s difficult to believe that the 32-year-old Pacquiao, an aggressive 57-fight veteran who has campaigned in nearly half of boxing’s weight classes, can still be near the top of his game. But that’s exactly where he is. His nimbleness of mind and body are something to behold, but the fact that he’s getting hit a little bit more lately suggests his time at the ultimate summit may be waning. While he rates an improbable 5.0, he won’t stay there forever.
On the other hand, Mosley is nowhere near the fighter he once was and perhaps a notch or two below where he was against Margarito. However, the ultra-slick and quick Mayweather and the cagey Mora might not be the best barometers to gauge Mosley’s standing as a fighter, because they can make anyone look bad. His hand speed is still above average but his legs have lost their spring, his reactions are somewhat slower, and his vaunted power punching accuracy has waned. Thus, a 3.5 score he gets here may be a bit generous.
SUMMARY AND PREDICTION:Somewhat surprisingly, Pacquiao and Mosley scored 55 points each in the physical categories. Mosley is bigger and stronger, while Pacquiao is fresher and faster. The stylistic blend should be pleasing. But the intangible categories prove decisive as Pacquiao’s 34-30.5 edge paced his ultimate 89.0-85.5 winning margin.
Chalk this up to excellent timing rather than adventuresome matchmaking. The Mosley who annihilated Margarito would have produced a better challenge for Pacquiao, but Top Rank and Team Pacquiao chose to ignore Mosley’s frequent and sometimes desperate public challenges – and for good reason. The fight was made only after an aging Mosley suffered back-to-back blemishes against speedy fighters with difficult styles. Taking advantage of a great name that also happens to be a declining force is an oft-used but ignoble tradition in boxing.
The bigger Mosley will do his best, but his best at 39 won’t be enough to counteract Pacquiao’s considerable gifts. Pacquiao will pull away in the second half en route to a wide — and utterly predictable – decision.
Lee Groves is the author of “Tales from the Vault”and a writer/researcher/punch counter for CompuBox Inc.