Freddie Roach, trainer of Manny Pacquiao, listened carefully. As soon as a reporter finished telling him why Pacquiao figures to be in deep water when he takes on Floyd Mayweather Jr. on March 13, Roach immediately agreed.
"Without a doubt, it's the toughest fight in the world for us, I know that," Roach said Tuesday via telephone from his Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif. "I want to go to camp early. I want to start working on some changes, some new moves, some traps we need to set."
Pacquiao is a very accurate power puncher with speed. But Mayweather is the best defensive fighter in the world. It sounds like Roach knows it.
"This is a whole new ballgame," Roach said. "Everything that worked for (Oscar) De La Hoya, everything that worked for (Miguel) Cotto, everything that worked for (Ricky) Hatton, will not work against Mayweather. We have to make some changes, some adjustments and we have to come up with a whole new game plan."
Roach said he has told Pacquiao he wants to start training camp Jan. 1. That's New Years Day, so perhaps Roach meant right after that. Either way, that would give Pacquiao a good 10 weeks. Roach suggested the both of them will need it.
"As soon as possible, we are going to start to work on ways to win this fight," Roach said.
Merchant The Handicapper
You know how Yogi Berra always doled out sayings that boggled the mind? Well, longtime HBO commentator Larry Merchant on Tuesday recalled one by a former major-league pitcher that was rather contradictory, but perhaps befitting of what might transpire with Mayweather-Pacquiao.
"There was an old Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher named Bob Veale, and he always said, 'Good pitching will beat good hitting any time, and vice versa,' " Merchant said, laughing.
Well, trying to figure that one out is tricky. Either good pitching beats good hitting, or it doesn't. Perhaps Veale meant on any given day, one can beat the other. Anyway, Merchant said typically speaking, good defense beats good offense, and that is what Pacquiao - Mr. Offense - will be faced with.
"In general, defense can shut down offense," Merchant said. "Great pitchers shut down great hitters. So just looking at it, one guy (Pacquiao) throws bombs and the other guy (Mayweather) diffuses them; that is his priority. One guy's purpose is to hit and not be hit, the other's purpose is to not be hit and hit."
Merchant said there's an intangible in this mix that could prove beneficial to one of these fighters.
"Particularly in these kinds of mega events, other things can come into play," Merchant said. "Somebody who dares to be great, as (Muhammad) Ali used to say. Emotion as well as motion plays into an event like this and that is something you can't really calculate ahead of time.
"Each of them has handled it in his own way in big fights. And each of them has had a lot of big fights; arguably, Pacquiao has had more of them in which he had something to prove."
Merchant said he doesn't think either fighter will be overwhelmed by the moment. But he doesn't rule out the idea that at some point during the fight, one or the other could get caught up in the enormity of the event.
"Sometimes spontaneous combustion happens and the tactics get thrown out and get pushed into the background and you just don't know how that is going to play out," Merchant said. "Mayweather is extremely controlled and will probably be even more controlled during a crisis or a firestorm. That is what he does. But you never know.
What if he falls behind?
"And Manny is a pretty controlled fighter these days, but he's not afraid to unleash big punches in a committed way. But what if he gets frustrated by Mayweather? How will he deal with that?"
Pacquiao, 'That funny little guy'
Pacquiao comes off as a real sweet guy out of the ring. He always greets reporters with a smile, always treats them with respect. Inside the ring is a different story.
"He transforms from being that funny little guy into being a killer," said Hall of Fame trainer, Emanuel Steward, who, like Merchant, will be one of the HBO pay-per-view commentators for Mayweather-Pacquiao. "Very, very interesting person."
Speaking via telephone from Detroit, Steward talked about various aspects of the two fighters. He said one thing he really liked was the rope-a-dope Pacquiao did in the fourth round of his 12th-round stoppage of Cotto last month in Las Vegas. He said that demonstrates just how collected Pacquiao has become, which makes him even more
"He's very relaxed when he needs to be and then can turn it on when he wants to," Steward said.
Steward also discussed the punching power of the two.
"Pacquiao is not the full weight of Mayweather, but he is the bigger puncher," Steward said. "He has tremendous follow-through and power. Mayweather hits and he is already ready to recoil and get back in defensive position. But he can do the thing most fighters can't do, catch you with punches you can't see.
"Just when you think he is going to lean back, he catches you with that punch and bingo. You don't see them coming with his intelligence in the ring. That makes him a dangerous puncher because it's the punches you don't see that hurt you the most."
The thing in Steward's mind is will Mayweather be there for Pacquiao to hit? If he's not, Pacquiao's supposed power advantage might not matter.
"Floyd is a very good technical fighter," Steward said. "He may find he doesn't want to exchange that much and he may want to make it a technical fight."
Steward said Mayweather can control the way a fight is contested as far as flow and style, with the best. Steward said his fighter, heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, is also very adept at dictating the tempo.
Everywhere They Go, People Want To Know
Mayweather-Pacquiao hasn't even been formally announced - though it figures to be soon - and Merchant and Steward are already being randomly interrogated.
"I can hardly go anywhere, guys stopping me in trucks or cars, 'Larry, what do you think of the fight?' " Merchant said. "There is a lot of heat about it and I guess everybody wants to get it while it's hot."
Said Steward: "Everywhere I go, stores, the car wash, everywhere I've been, everyone is coming up to me and saying, 'Mr. Steward, how do you see the fight?' And they're saying, 'Mayweather is too slick,' or, 'Pacquiao is just a machine.' I'm getting 50-50."
Steward said not since the first Thomas Hearns-Sugar Ray Leonard fight in 1981 has he seen such hoopla so early.
"Right now this fight here is going to be the biggest fight ever in boxing, maybe the biggest-grossing fight," Steward said.
"Everybody wants to see the fight. You don't have to promote it, you don't have to build it up."
Something Must Be Done
Flash back to October 2005. The site is Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas and in the ring are Bobby Pacquiao and Carlos "Famous" Hernandez in a super featherweight fight. To every reporter questioned afterward by yours truly, Hernandez dominated the younger brother of Manny Pacquiao. Alas, Pacquiao was awarded a split decision.
Roach - who was in Bobby Pacquiao's corner - then did something a trainer very rarely does. As he exited the ring, he passed by press row. He was asked who he thought had won the fight. He pointed toward Hernandez's corner.
Since then we've seen many other absurd scorecards. In March 2007 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Demetrius Hopkins was given a gift of a decision in a fight with Steve Forbes. Again, veteran reporters - to a man - had Forbes winning handily. But Robert Hoyle, Glenn Trowbridge and Dalby Shirley had it for Hopkins by scores of 118-110, 118-110 and 117-111, respectively. Just atrocious. To be fair, Hoyle had scored Hernandez the winner over Pacquiao by five points.
In the past four months, we have seen more egregious scorecards. In August, Gale Van Hoy scored Juan Diaz a 118-110 winner over Paulie Malignaggi in a super lightweight fight. Raul Caiz had it 115-113 and David Sutherland 116-112 - both for Diaz in what everyone thought was a close fight. Caiz's scorecard was one that could be lived with. Sutherland's was a bit out of whack. But Van Hoy's card was ridiculous. The fight was in Diaz's hometown of Houston.
Then there was the majority draw between Joan Guzman and Ali Funeka in a lightweight title fight Nov. 28 in Canada. One judge, Joseph Pasquale, seemed to have it right as he scored it for Funeka, 116-112. The other two judges - Alan Davis and Benoit Roussel - had it 114-114.
And, of course, there was last Saturday's middleweight fight between Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez. This was undoubtedly a close fight. Judge Lynne Carter scored it for Williams, 115-113, and Julie Lederman had it 114-114. But, wait, Pierre Benoist gave it to Williams by the laughable count of 119-110.
Just when boxing is perhaps as hot as it has been in recent years, Roach agreed this is a trend that could send it in reverse.
"That is the biggest thing to keep people away for sure - bad decisions," Roach said. "They say, 'How can that be? I'm not going to go to another fight again.' "
Roach said he's not sure what the answer is.
"I don't know if there is any way around it," he said. "Some people like different styles. Some people like this, some people like that. Sometimes you wonder what they are watching."
When things like this happen, fans, in particular, start to wonder if the fix was in. Not to point fingers at any promoter involved in the aforementioned fights, but that is an understandable reaction. Some of these scorecards are so off-base, the "Something's rotten in Denmark" thought is bound to seep into the minds of many of us.
"Bad decisions are the worst thing in boxing, for sure," Roach said. "People see that and it pisses them off."
Goossen Takes Umbrage at Pavlik's Comments
An Associated Press story on middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik ran this week. In it Pavlik said he wants to schedule another fight with Williams, but Pavlik said he isn't holding out much hope in that regard.
"I want to fight him, but it probably won't happen," Pavlik said in the AP story. "Here's a kid that went from fighting for $1.5 million in Atlantic City at the Boardwalk Hall in front of maybe 10,000 had he fought me, to fighting Martinez in the ballroom above that for $1 million less than he would've made. Paul Williams needs me after this fight. I don't need Paul Williams. But I still want to fight him."
Pavlik was twice scheduled to fight Williams - in October and this past Saturday - but Pavlik pulled out because of his injured left hand. Pavlik said he wanted to push the fight back to late January to give his hand more time to heal. Pavlik is now slated to fight Miguel Espino a week from Saturday in Pavlik's native Youngstown, Ohio.
Reached at his L.A.-area office Wednesday, Williams' promoter, Dan Goossen, scoffed after the above comments from Pavlik were read to him verbatim.
"He better check his facts again," Goossen said. "He would be completely inaccurate, and that would be nothing out of the ordinary. He hasn't been correct since he accepted these fights with Paul Williams. He has never been around to follow through on it and make them come to fruition.
"I'm not going to get into a verbal war with Kelly Pavlik. Paul Williams fought on HBO on 3 1/2 weeks preparation. Kelly Pavlik is going to be fighting on Latin Fury. I don't need to say anything else."
Well, Williams actually had more like four weeks to prepare for Martinez. And Pavlik's fight with Espino won't be one of Top Rank's Latin Fury cards, though it will be a Top Rank pay-per-view production, as are the company's Latin Fury cards.
Goossen was asked to clarify Pavlik's inaccuracies.
"About (Williams) making a million less, that couldn't be further from the truth," Goossen said. "If he wants to really be accurate, he went from making a few million to fight Paul Williams to making approximately $300,000 to fight Espino. If there is anyone calling the kettle black, it's Pavlik.
"The bottom line on this is Kelly Pavlik is pretty much out of everyone's thought process in the Williams fight mainly because we don't believe Kelly ever wants to fight (Williams)."
A source close to the situation said Pavlik's purse for Espino is closer to $500,000. Pavlik also stands to make more from pay-per-view upside, should there be any.
Goossen said he the rest of Team Williams won't even consider signing to fight Pavlik again unless there is a 50-50 split of the proceeds. Furthermore, Goossen said he didn't like having to put Williams in a situation where he was forced to go from training for the right-handed Pavlik to a "slick left-hander" like Martinez.
"It wasn't fair to Paul," Goossen said, "and we wouldn't put Paul in that position again."
Goossen said Williams had approximately 36 stitches to repair a cut over his left eye. He said he will sit down next week with Williams' advisor, Al Haymon, and trainer, George Peterson, to see where Williams will go next in his career.