x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Pacquiao is master of his trade

The "Pac Man" has tried his hand as a construction labourer, stevedore, street vendor, film producing, actor and musician but he is a master in the ring.

Manny Pacquiao arrives for a press conference at Cowboys Stadium in Texas.
Manny Pacquiao arrives for a press conference at Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

Manny Pacquiao has had many vocations. The "Pac Man" has tried his hand as a construction labourer, stevedore, street vendor, film producing, actor and musician. A life in politics beckons once he hangs up his gloves and he has already signalled his intention to run for a congressional seat in the Philippine elections in May. Pacquiao is a jack of all trades, but truly a master of one: boxing.

The one thing Pacquiao has enjoyed doing to excess for the last 14 years is throw punches. His stamina is surpassed only by his speed and Zeus-like power. Tonight, he makes the first defence of his WBO welterweight championship against Joshua Clottey, the American-based Ghanaian, at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas. Beating Clottey will not elevate Pacquiao's status any higher than it already is. Only a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr, his rival for the mythical pound-for-pound title, can do that.

Suggestions that Pacquiao, a southpaw, is someone who simply likes to "slug it out" ignore his attributes as an astute ring technician. It also ignores the tactical nous of his trainer, Freddie Roach, who is fast carving out a reputation as one of, if not the greatest, trainer of all time. "The Mexicutioner", another nickname garnered for the brutal way in which he has dispatched Mexico's elite pugilists such as Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales in the past, likes to fight off the front foot and going toe-to-toe with Clottey will suit him; he has been to the coal face so many times it is a wonder his teeth are not charred black.

But that may well be the one area where Clottey can capitalise. An outstanding defence is backed up by counter-punches that rarely miss, with timing you could set your watch by, although one criticism is that he does not throw enough of them. If he hopes to usurp Pacquiao, he will need to launch some earth-to-chin missiles on a frequent basis because if there is a weakness in Pacquiao's defence, it is that he struggles against good counter-punchers. That was evident in his two duels with Juan Manuel Marquez, arguably the best counter-puncher in the business.

The main weapon in Pacquiao's arsenal is his lightning-quick combinations. He is of the same ilk as , Joe Calzaghe, the retired, undisputed super middleweight champion, in terms of the damage his flurries cause. The science behind combinations is simple: they are designed to shock and awe as you try to, ultimately, line up that one big punch to knock your opponent out. Most boxers will have a good mixture of four-to-six punch combinations.

However, Pacquiao comes at you with eight, nine and 10-punch medleys consistently for 12 rounds. At times he resembles a two-fisted maniac. The key to Pacquiao's combinations is that, like Calzaghe's, they do not diminish in strength from punch one to punch 10. The freak of his nature is that they actually get stronger with every blow. Strangely, victory, rather than defeat, could signal the end of Pacquiao's boxing career.

If he beats Clottey, and Mayweather Jr keeps up his gamesmanship of trying to reinvent the laws of drug testing (the American wants the mandatory drug test to be done the day before the fight instead the usual 30 days), there is no one left in the welterweights division to entice him. The number of contenders is the one aspect of Pacquiao's life that, sadly, lacks excess. sluckings@thenational.ae

Pacquiao v Clottey, 6am Sunday, live on e-View