by Lee Groves/CompuBox
If pre-fight estimates are correct, Saturday's fight between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito is poised to break boxing's all-time indoor attendance record of 63,350 set by Ali-Spinks II in September 1978. But will the "Pac Man" and the "Tijuana Tornado" justify the hype and add to their legacies? Everyone will have to wait for that answer but their CompuBox histories prove that "what was" will influence what "will be." They're fighting at a 150-lb catchweight, as Pacquiao seeks his sixth title (154 lbs) in sixth different weight class. Manny's a better than 4-1 favorite.
Factors that may influence the outcome include:
Margarito vs. Southpaws: Margarito has faced three prominent left-handers - Paul Williams, Daniel Santos (twice) and Sergio Martinez - and emerged with a record of 1-2 with one no-contest. The common denominator was their ability to neutralize Margarito's volume, though in different ways. Williams used high output (104.7 punches per round) while Santos used defense and precision (34.7 percent overall and 37.6 percent power shots) to keep Margarito to 54.3 and 56.5 punches per round respectively. Although Margarito stopped Martinez in 2000, the Argentine used his smarts to limit Margarito to 59.5 over the first four rounds before the Tornado blew him away with 115 punches in the decisive seventh.
Against lefties, Margarito averaged 57.6 punches per round while facing 65.8. In 13 fights against non-southpaws, Margarito unleashed 101.4 punches per round - nearly 44 percent more - and faced 60.8 punches per round, nine percent fewer. Margarito's effectiveness wasn't affected much as he landed 28.3 percent (overall) and 33.2 percent (power) against left-handers and 27.3 percent (overall) and 36.9 percent (power) against all others. Surprisingly, the right-handers experienced more offensive success as they landed 30.8 percent (overall) and 38.3 percent (power) to 25.9 percent (overall) and 32.8 (power) for the left-handers.
Margarito vs. Speed: Of Margarito's recent opponents, only the 38-year-old Shane Mosley qualified as a speed demon. Still, Mosley's attack (56.3 punches per round and 49.2 percent power punch accuracy) persuaded Margarito to slow his pace (53.9 punches per round). By controlling pace and geometry, Mosley posted advantages of 178-108 (total connects), 60-30 (jab connects) and 118-78 (power connects).
Now for the other side of the argument:
Pacquiao vs. Height: At 5-11, Margarito will be the tallest opponent the 5-6 1/2 Pacquiao has faced and based on head-to-head results against Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto, he may also be the strongest. Pacquiao has faced four opponents 5-8 or taller (Oscar de la Hoya, Jorge Solis, Erik Morales and Clottey) and three 5-7 rivals who knew how to "fight tall" (Oscar Larios, Juan Manuel Marquez and Nedal Hussein). Unlike Margarito, Pacquiao doesn't let others' styles affect his success. In 10 fights against taller and "fight tall" foes, Pacquiao threw more (69.8 to 48.5), landed more (19.4 to 13.9), unleashed more power shots (40.9 to 26.2) and land them at a higher percentage (38.5 to 36.3). In 17 fights against all other rivals, Pacquiao threw five fewer punches per round (64.2) but landed more overall (22.1) at a higher percentage (34.4 overall and 44 power). The only noticeable difference is that Pacquiao's taller opponents landed at a slightly higher overall rate (28.6 percent to Pacquiao's 27.7) while Pacquiao out-performed his other rivals by nearly eight percent (34.4 to 26.5).
Pacquiao vs. Volume: Pacquiao hasn't faced someone capable of Margarito's volume. In 27 CompuBox-tracked fights, only 11 opponents exceeded 50 punches per round and just one - Erik Morales - defeated him, averaging 59.5 to Pacquiao's 74.5 in fight one. In fact, those 27 opponents averaged just 48 punches thrown per round. Only three managed to out-throw Pacquiao: Gabriel Mira (59.8 to 52), Chatchai Sasakul (52 to 43.8) and Agapito Sanchez (58.2 to 41.2). If Margarito can buck history and impose his volume on Pacquiao, we may get to see a previously unknown side of Pacquiao. Incidentally, Hector Velazquez's 70 is the highest average output achieved against Pacquiao and a prime Margarito can reach that mark in less than 90 seconds.
A Wild Card: It was no accident that Sanchez achieved the greatest volume gap against Pacquiao - 17 punches per round. The Dominican unsettled the fair-play Pacquiao with an assortment of butts and low blows because he lacked the size to physically dominate Pacquiao. Margarito does. Though not a dirty fighter inside the ropes, Margarito could use his size and strength to sidetrack Pacquiao's offense by muscling Pacquiao in the clinches and keeping him pinned to the ropes.
Prediction: Pacquiao fights his fight no matter what while Margarito has a bad history against speed, southpaws and volume punchers. Pacquiao by unanimous decision.