By Eric Raskin
Sometimes one big punch can render every other punch thrown in a fight moot. More often, one big punch is the end result of every other punch that led up to it. Whether a fight goes the distance or ends in a knockout, the CompuBox punch stats tell a large portion of the tale. In a fight-week tradition as indispensible as the weigh-in, the final press conference, and the free media buffet, HBO Inside Boxing bloggers Kieran Mulvaney and Eric Raskin have again joined forces to analyze the CompuBox numbers and what they tell us about the Manny Pacquiao vs. Tim Bradley matchup:
Raskin: It’s fight week again, Kieran, and we have one very familiar face in Manny Pacquiao, and one rather unfamiliar face when it comes to Vegas and the mega-fight scene in Timothy Bradley. As different as these two men are in many ways, their average CompuBox numbers are startlingly similar. Pacquiao’s output is a little higher, but the percentages are almost identical. Do you feel these numbers portend a fairly even fight on Saturday?
Mulvaney: I wonder if the numbers are a tad skewed by the quality of the opposition. Bradley has fought some pretty good comp over the last several years, but Pacquiao has taken apart likely future Hall of Famers among others. And the power of his power punches is significantly greater than the power of Bradley’s power punches. That said, I was surprised to see the numbers as close as they are, and I do think Bradley is a very, very live ‘dog on Saturday.
Raskin: Funny, I was going to ask you about the level of opposition. Certainly, Pacquiao’s has been better. But has it been that much better? Shane Mosley was done, Antonio Margarito was faded as well, Joshua Clottey wasn’t anything special. If you look at career resume, sure, it’s a blowout in favor of Manny. But I think if you look at their past five fights, it’s a close win for Manny.
Mulvaney: I think a shot Mosley is better than a shot Joel Casamayor. Margarito was faded but 20 pounds heavier. Clottey … okay, I’ll give you Clottey.
Raskin: True, Casamayor wasn’t the most meaningful win for Bradley. But wins over Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson, etc., are fairly strong. In any case, the numbers show that both Pacquiao and Bradley throw a decent number of jabs, but neither has a strong connect rate. Will the jab be a significant part of this fight? And who does it favor if there is a lot of jabbing from the outside?
Mulvaney: It seems to me that Bradley needs a strong jab more than Pacquiao. Pacquiao’s jab is hardly Holmes-esque, but it doesn’t need to be, because he has sudden freakish power from either hand. Bradley would benefit from sticking his jab out there, just to keep Pacquiao on his back foot a little, and to limit his punch output. If Pac-Man gets into a comfort zone, where he feels he can send in punches from any angle, then Bradley may be in for a difficult night.
Raskin: Good technical analysis! Hey, do you watch a lot of boxing or something? I think you’re spot on with what the jab will likely mean in this fight. You mentioned Pac-Man’s comfort zone; let’s talk about Bradley’s discomfort zone. The stats show he throws about two-thirds as many punches per round against southpaws as against orthodox fighters. And he’s bound to throw even fewer with a force like Pacquiao punching back at him. Could we see a personal-worst output from Bradley?
Mulvaney: You know, I found myself thinking about that, and wondering if it would necessarily be such a terrible thing for him to be relatively cautious with his punch output. The reason I say that is that, given Pacquiao’s speed and ability to conjure power punches seemingly from nowhere, Bradley would be well served fighting behind a tight defense and throwing selectively, going for quality rather than quantity. And it may very well be that, as a consequence, his punch output drops. I can see there being a lot of feinting, too, as each man seeks to get a real-estate advantage.
Raskin: Low punch outputs … lots of feinting … I’m not sure we’re doing the best job hyping this fight.
Mulvaney: And yet, I find myself really looking forward to it. The exchanges that do take place will be meaningful, I think. Granted, you and I are weird, but I’m sure you’ll agree that there are times when a fight can be exciting and tense even if the protagonists aren’t throwing hundreds of punches a round.
Raskin: Yes, I agree; we are weird. I also agree that tense, tactical fights can be edge-of-your-seat exciting in their own way. And like you, I am indeed looking forward to this fight, and I actually expect it to vary wildly from round to round in terms of the action—tactical at times, explosive at others. Let’s wrap up with the topic you can’t avoid when discussing Pacquiao-Bradley strategy: headbutts. Should CompuBox hire an extra counter to track butts thrown and butts landed for this fight?
Mulvaney: Like so many, I fear the worst about this fight: that it ends as a no-contest or technical decision, with Bradley’s brow bruised and a crimson river cascading down Pac-Man’s face. There’s a real danger of this happening: It’s orthodox vs. southpaw, Bradley leads with his head often, Pacquiao sometimes leaps forward 10 feet to throw a punch. It all augers ominously. But Bradley insists he is working hard to avoid that scenario, and I believe him. He has no desire for his big shot to end inconclusively like that.
Raskin: Absolutely right, and Pacquiao and Roach have been game-planning for it too. Fingers are crossed that we see the fight reach its natural conclusion. Shall we end with predictions on exactly how it concludes? I like Pacquiao by mid-to-late knockout, taking over after a tense, competitive start, perhaps vaguely reminiscent of his fight with Miguel Cotto. You?
Mulvaney: I see much the same scenario. I can see this being very close and exciting initially, but eventually, because it is his nature, Bradley will be drawn into a war, and that can have only one ending. Pacquiao’s artillery produces a late TKO.