Tough fighters and Pretty Fighters: Pacquiao v. Mayweather, The Latest Installment
By Caesar Almase: In the history of boxing, some of the greatest wars were waged between a tough fighters and a pretty fighter. Robinson v. LaMotta, Ali v. Frazier, Leonard v. Hearns/Duran/Hagler, Arguello v. Pryor, and now most recently, (hopefully) Pacquiao v. Mayweather. This fight, like the others mentioned, has the potential to uplift and transcend the sport of boxing. This is THE FIGHT of our generation, regardless of what the critics and naysayers say (aka the “Perez Menace,” as aptly labeled by boxing contributor, Steve Lewis, but I digress). Pacquiao and Mayweather are the best in the sport right now. Pacquiao is quite the tough fighter and Mayweather, as befits his nickname, is currently the prettiest of all pretty fighters.
Generally a tough fighter takes on all-comers, regardless of risk to him or to his legacy. Everyone who wants some gets some. The challenge is taken on by the tough fighter. . .and the challenger is then invariably KTFO, or at least that is what the tough fighter tries to do. The tough fighter strikes fear. The tough fighter’s power is avoided. The tough fighter likes nothing better than to stand toe-to-toe, and when two all-time great BAs are in the ring, something very memorable happens—think Hagler v. Hearns, Hearns v. Duran, and Frazier v. Foreman.
Regarding the pretty fighter, he is slick. He is intelligent. It is a must that the pretty fighter has speed, because he won’t stay pretty otherwise. The pretty fighter usually has great defense and is a practitioner of the Sweet Science in its purest form. Boxing fans remember the pretty fighter for his moves, his technique, his ring savvy.
Notably, in the above list of fights, the pretty fighter got the better of the tough fighter. Robinson only lost once to LaMotta in the approximately one hundred thousand times they fought. Ali beat Frazier 2 out of 3 times. Leonard was a combined 3-1-1 against the other members of the 80’s Fab Four, although the draw with Hearns really should have been another loss. The exception was Pryor v. Arguello. Pryor, boxing extraordinaire that he was, out-hustled and out-punched one of the all-time pretty fighters in Arguello.
How is it then, that the best PF has such success against the best tough fighter? Simple. Being a PF and a tough fighter aren’t mutually exclusive—one can be a pretty fighter and also a tough fighter, and vice versa. The term pretty fighter is a reference to style: the outward application of skills, the Flash. Tough fighter is a reference to fortitude: the heart, the Substance. Ali’s history shows he was indeed “A bad man.” It wasn’t his prettiness that allowed him to overcome the big bad bear Liston, to endure a broken jaw against Norton, and to fight through the monumental punishment he took against Frazier. Leonard too, as pretty as he was, has to be considered pure tough fighter. With a detached retina and behind on points, he knocked down and then knocked out the tough Tommy Hearns. Speaking of Hearns, how pretty was that thunderbolt right hand? It was destructive, like Frazier’s left hook was destructive, and both were sublime. Fighters can be both tough fighter and pretty fighter; it is what they are primarily known as, that defines them.
Which brings us to this most recent installment of the tough fighter (Pacquiao) v. the pretty fighter (Mayweather), and the chief question to be answered: will Mayweather’s prettiness compensate for his lack of badness? In other words, will he be able to keep it a boxing match, where he clearly has the advantage, or will Pacquiao make it a fight? I think it’s safe to say Pacquiao is more of a tough fighter than Mayweather. In fact, a strong argument could be made that Mayweather isn’t really much of a tough fighter to begin with, or at least, has never really shown it. Mayweather does not fight all-comers. He is the avoider and not the avoided. As a pretty fighter, he does not strike fear, like Robinson, Leonard, Arguello surely did. Mayweather has never really had to dig deep, to show his heart, to prove his Substance. Of course one could argue he hasn’t had to show what he is made of because of his skills, and that is precisely what is at the heart of the matter. Mayweather has plenty of Flash, but if his prettiness doesn’t hold up, Pacquiao will out tough fighter him in a terrible way.
This is how I see Pacquiao v. Mayweather going. I don’t think Mayweather, pretty fighter that he is, has such skills as to completely dominate Pacquiao over twelve rounds. Pacquiao will find a way and he is, in his own right, a pretty fighter. His lightning combinations are beautiful and, to quote Harold Lederman during the Cotto fight, he exhibits “gorgeous ring generalship.” Pacquiao will get countered with Mayweather’s pretty overhand right, and he will get beaten to the punch at times. But based on his history, Pacquiao will keep coming, and his heart won’t fail. Mayweather will absorb powerful straight lefts and hooks, and he will take punches from surprise angles. Mayweather’s history, by contrast, leaves open the question as to his heart.
It is anticipated that this fight, like all the classic battles between tough fighter and pretty fighter, will be competitive. The fight will ebb and flow between Pacquiao and Mayweather. The longer the fight goes, the more punishment is given and received, the more it becomes about what the fighters have left inside. It will come down to who wants it more. Substance over Flash. Who is more tough fighter.
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