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Manny Pacquiao predictions: Strengths, weaknesses and keys to Floyd Mayweather victory

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Every boxing generation has its standard-bearers -- the superstars who stand at the forefront of their peers. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, The Four Kings, Mike Tyson, men so integral to the sport and its following that it's almost impossible to imagine the sport without them.

For this generation, those men are Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, who will finally do battle after five long years of waiting this weekend (Sat., May 2, 2015). will deliver LIVE round-by-round coverage of "Mayweather vs. Pacquiao" on fight night, starting with the pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast at 9 p.m. ET RIGHT HERE.

As we approach this landmark showdown, it's only appropriate that we take a look at just what makes these two icons the elite of the elite. Here's our breakdown of the great Filipino champion, Manny Pacquiao:

Name: Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao
Age: 36
Record: 57-5-2, 38 KO
Last Five Fights: Chris Algieri (UD), Tim Bradley (UD), Brandon Rios (UD), Juan Manuel Marquez (KO Loss), Timothy Bradley (SD Loss)
Significant Victories: Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez (2x), Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Oscar de la Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera (2x), Erik Morales (2x), Lehlo Ledwaba.

If you ask the layman combat sports fan what makes Pacquiao so great, you'll generally get some combination of the following: Speed, power, angles, footwork, combinations. More specifically, his style is one that both commands and demands respect. Pacquiao is an ever-advancing engine of aggression against whom any willingness to give ground will result in punishment.

In short, Pacquiao is a combination puncher who prefers to be on the front foot, chasing down a retreating opponent and catching him with the end of his long punches. Here, he's at his destructive best.

Throughout his career, the lynchpin of Pacquiao's offense has been his cannon of a left hand. In his younger days, it was pretty much his entire arsenal, which his tremendous speed and ability to cover distance permitted. More recently, though, he's turned it from a straightforward power shot into an incredibly versatile weapon. He can use it as a lead, he can double- or triple-it up on a stationary opponent as he did against Brandon Rios, or he can use its threat to bring his right hand to bear.

One thing he does very well with that left hand is fire it from different heights, either from his normal stance or chambered lower to either hit the body, change the trajectory on his head punches or catch a ducking opponent.

Even if the left hand doesn't connect, it does an excellent job of opening up the right hand. He loves following the straight with the right hook/straight, which seems to be his favorite combination. Here's where his footwork shines: He has several variations of this combination, depending on how his opponent moves. Against Bradley, watch how he reorients himself mid-combination to land the right hand as Bradley tries to move away from the left. Here, Pacquiao pursues a retreating Miguel Cotto and drops him with the right hook, maintaining his balance the entire time.

A nice wrinkle in his game is his shifting -- Pacquiao will fire the left hand and use its momentum to bring his feet either parallel or into the orthodox position, adding a considerable amount of power to the right hand.

Pacquiao, when on the offensive, is always in position to inflict the maximum amount of damage. He has the awareness of both his own foot position and that of his opponent to maneuver himself into the best possible firing angle.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this attack, however, is how well he protects himself at the end of his combinations. When he finds holes in his opponents' defenses, he can worm punches through from bizarre angles that seemingly leave him open, but by the time the opponent fires back, he's gone. He does a very good job of "closing the door" by ending combinations with the right hand, allowing him to immediately resume his defensive stance. He also circles very well, angling out after the left hand and often smashing opponents when they turn to follow him.

Just because he's so good on the attack doesn't mean he's helpless on the retreat. He's got a very sharp check hook and, like his upcoming opponent, can punish any overextension with a brutal straight. Note how, once again, he angles away from any possible retaliation and forces Rios to turn to him.

This is how Pacquiao's style commands respect: Whether you're chasing, retreating or angling away from him -- or just covering up -- you are always in danger of his thudding power. The more you try to avoid it, the more you're going to suffer.

So if he can do all that, why is there a 5 in the loss column instead of a 0?

Watch this flurry by Pacquiao in the Bradley rematch -- his head isn't moving at all. If you watch some of those long right-left-right combinations I mentioned, his feet will sometimes completely leave the ground as he makes that shift.

Pacquiao protects himself extremely well after combinations. If, like Rios, you try to lash out at the when the punches cease, you're in for a long night. It's during the combinations that he's vulnerable.

When I set out to look more closely at Pacquiao, the thing I was most excited about was having an excuse to figure out what it is about Marquez's style that makes him such a perfect foil for "Pac-Man." Now, I get it. Earlier, I described how Pacquiao's style commands respect. The weakness is that it demands it as well. The big rushes, the furious exchanges -- it's all predicated on the certainty that the opponent will give ground.

Marquez doesn't.

Marquez is a unique fusion of classic Mexican grit and sublime counter-punching. He'll plant his feet and throw combinations in the middle of his opponents' attempts at offense. While being on a hair-trigger like this gets him knocked down once a fight or so, it also means that what he does land is ridiculously devastating.

Here is the infamous knockout it took Marquez 3.5 fights to achieve. He earned it and all the other quality blows he landed during the series by refusing to acknowledge Pacquiao's overwhelming offense and recognizing that the only direction Pacquiao's head moves in when he's chasing is forward.

Can Mayweather do the same? Maybe, maybe not. But, it took a special kind of counter-puncher to pull this off. Reducing the answer to "Manny got knocked out by a counter and Floyd is a counter-puncher" is sorely misguided. will deliver LIVE round-by-round coverage of "Mayweather vs. Pacquiao" on fight night, starting with the pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast at 9 p.m. ET RIGHT HERE.

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