Vitali Klitschko likes to say that the psychological aspect of a boxing duel starts long before the bell rings to start the first round. Don’t doubt the wisdom of Dr. Iron Fist for a second. If he says that in most major fights, one fighter often has a psychological advantage (to some degree) over the other, it must be true.
Applying this Vitali theory to Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, I believe Pacquiao holds a distinct and considerable psychological advantage right now. Allow me to explain and take you through some of the key exchanges that have created this important imbalance.
One of the first moves occured unexpectedly at the Mayweather-Marquez New York press conference. Leonard Ellerbe tapped me on the shoulder and wanted to explain some things to me one on one. Ellerbe hoped to try to straighten me out, as one of Floyd’s most ardent critics. A gentleman and classy man at all times, unlike his boss, Ellerbe told me, among other things, that Floyd would “never ever” fight Pacquiao for 50-50. I will never forget how vehemently he stressed the “never” and “ever,” which signaled to me right then and there that no matter how much money was involved, they were not interested in Pacquiao. In other words, they already knew how dangerously risky Pac was to Floyd and they were going to use the 50-50 as their out from the fight.
This was even before Cotto was annihilated by Pacquiao. Now I know it’s the truth that Floyd avoided Cotto in 2008 – Ellerbe said Cotto wasn’t a big enough name and his numbers weren’t big enough. But no matter what they say now or then, you just know Floyd had to be freaked out when he saw what Pac unleashed on Cotto.
Don’t forget, Floyd’s initial stance after Cotto was destroyed by Pac was expressed in that BBC interview (laying groundwork for Matthew Hatton London fight?) where Floyd floated all the excuses and reasons of why he didn’t have to fight Pac (Pac lost twice by KO, he beat Marquez more decisively than Pac did, He beat Oscar and Hatton first.) While many Floyd defenders assumed he was just trying to gain leverage for negotiations, this assumption is incorrect. Because Floyd came down from the 60-40 to 50-50 without much dickering. Floyd revealed at this time that he really wasn’t up for Pacquiao, like you would have expected him to be if he were so assured of victory. To the contrary, he was emitting negative vibes about taking the superfight.
Then Floyd made many more statements which indicated more negativity to the idea of fighting Pac in potentially the biggest fight of all time, though Ellerbe was running around saying it would be an easy fight for Floyd. If it was an easy win for Floyd, then why did Floyd say: It was a no win situation for him; He would flip-flop on his previous duck of Mosley and fight Mosley next if Mosley beats Berto (which would be a smaller money fight than Pac); He wanted to fight Matthew Hatton next in England (which is also a much less lucrative fight than Pac); He implied that Pac must be on some kind of performance enhancers. If it’s an easy fight, why would Floyd be trying to discredit Pac’s spectacularly explosive and sensationally exciting recent wins?
If Floyd were so confident, as you would expect the self-proclaimed greatest fighter ever to be, he should not be worried about Pacquiao in any way, after all, it’s going to be an easy fight. Floyd should not have to bother with trying to downplay Pac’s finest performances, because Pac is just a good little fighter, right? And Floyd is the best fighter ever, right?
Bluffs and smokescreens are 90% of boxing, says Michaell Bentt.
I believe Floyd fully knows Pacquiao is his worst nightmare and is only going to agree to the fight (let’s hope) on March 13 because he is totally cornered and has no way to escape this time. Pressure from HBO, the media, fans, and the amount of money involved are forcing Floyd to take the fight he really would rather, as Ellerbe told me this past summer, “never, ever” accept for 50-50.
This time Floyd can’t fake retire or go to MMA or WWE, he has to finally do something he has never ever done – something he has avoided his entire career – FIGHT THE VERY BEST.
Mike Tyson says a scared fighter is a dangerous fighter. And if Floyd decides to go through with it (we know Pac will for sure), Floyd will be fighting scared. Of course not with his knees knocking-frightened, but very defensive-oriented and with adrenaline. Floyd will be acutely sharp and more pumped up than ever to avoid getting slaughtered by Pacquiao, who he knows has extraordinary firepower in his fists. Floyd knows Manny is a man of magic and will have to be at his best.
But in all of these superfights I’ve been fortunate enough to cover and study, whenever one man has clearly shown signs of not really wanting the fight as much as the other, the less enthusiastic and less confident warrior always loses. Always. And I can think of not one exception.
Some examples: Cotto taking the extra month longer to finally sign the contract than Margarito. Holyfield delaying unification with Lennox Lewis for over a year, then demanding $15 million. Then when that figure was agreed to, Holyfield suddenly and shockingly raised his bluff demand to $20 million! (Lewis began calling Holyfield “Evader.”) The Byrd-Wladimir Klitschko rematch which was delayed an extra 12 months by Byrd. Roy Jones with the protection of HBO, tried to avoid the Tarver rematch with HBO offering a doubleheader of Jones-Johnson & Tarver-Gonzalez, which Tarver vociferously argued against, until Jones finally accepted the rematch and was later KOed in the second round.
I am quite sure the mental edge is held firmly by Pacquiao now. And there have been other minute clues from Floyd which further support this judgement: Floyd’s own father advised his son to avoid Pacquiao. Floyd referred to his reign of dominance on “Joe Buck Live” in the past tense. Floyd also said on that show that “like a police officer, one shot could end” a boxer’s career. Floyd called Pacquiao a “one dimensional” and “a good little fighter,” but if that’s all Pacquiao is, then why all the hesitation and reluctance to close the deal?
And last but not least, there is the historical quotation which perfectly applies to this fight: “The exalted shall be humbled, and the humbled shall be exalted.”
There’s no question, in my view, Manny Pacquiao has gained the vitally important psychological advantage over Floyd Mayweather. And as Angelo Dundee once said, Once you win the psychological fight, the physical fight becomes much easier to win.”
Scoop’s book “Heavyweight Armageddon: The Tyson-Lewis Championship Battle” was called “A smashing success,” by Emanuel Steward, “One of the two best boxing books I ever read.”