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Mayweather vs Pacquiao prediction: Who is winning the fight tonight?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Good things come to those who wait ... or so we hope.

The most anticipated boxing match of the 21st century, Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, takes place tonight (Sat., May 2, 2015) inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Read next: Read our Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight recap.

In one corner stands a fighter as untouchable in the ring as he is controversial out of it: Undefeated (47-0) Floyd Mayweather. In the other stands the "Pride of the Philippines," a man whose blend of furious aggression and technical brilliance has carried him to championships in an astounding eight different weight classes: "The Fighting Congressman" himself, Manny Pacquiao.

Those in charge of promoting the fight have preyed on the anticipation with all the grace and subtlety of lampreys, charging an inexcusable $89.99 for a standard-definition pay-per-view (PPV) and releasing only a fraction of the available tickets to the public, presumably to sell the remainder on the secondary market at a large mark up.

In addition, the under card (see it here) ranges from solid at best to insulting at worst. The PPV opens with a decent Featherweight clash between amateur legend Vasyl Lomachenko and Gamalier Rodriguez, while the co-main pits Top 5-ranked Super Bantamweight Leo Santa Cruz against Mexican brawler Jose Cayetano.

While it's a long-awaited showdown between generational greats, it's also a microcosm of everything wrong with the current state of boxing, a bloated Baron Harkonnen drunk on its own power over the masses.

But, will we at least get a good fight out of the main event when all is said and done? Let's find out:

Name: Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Age: 38
Record: 47-0, 26 KO
Last Five Fights: Marcos Maidana (UD), Marcos Maidana (MD), Saul Alvarez (MD), Robert Guerrero (UD), Miguel Cotto (UD)
Significant Victories (other than those mentioned above): Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton, Oscar de la Hoya, Zab Judah, Jose Luis Castillo (x2), Diego Corrales, Angel Manfredy, Genaro Hernandez.


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 (Knockout Loss), Tim Bradley (SD Loss)
Significant Victories (other than those mentioned above): Juan Manuel Marquez (2x), Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Oscar de la Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera (2x), Erik Morales (2x), Lehlo Ledwaba.


For both fighters, this will be something of a unique experience. Mayweather hasn't faced an elite southpaw with a powerful straight since Judah, while Pacquiao's recent experience with quality counter-punchers begins and ends with Marquez, whose style differs from Mayweather's in some fundamental respects. As such, a breakdown of this fight relies on examining their general trends. I believe the three questions at the root of determining the outcome are the following:

1. How much ground will Mayweather concede?

"Money" can still run circles around opponents if he's so inclined, but as his legs have aged, he's shown a worrying tendency to sit on the ropes or in the corner and let opponents bounce punches fruitlessly off of his guard. This generally works to his advantage -- you can almost see the resignation in opponents' eyes as the rounds progress.

Against Maidana, however, that tendency was mercilessly exploited. Maidana bullied his way inside and went to town on Mayweather's guard, contenting himself with any sort of landed blow and taking the early rounds through his activity. Pacquiao excels at slipping punches through a stationary opponent's guard -- just watch what happened to Rios when he tried to catch-and-pitch.

The other issue this presents for Mayweather is the fact that Pacquiao can cover an incredible amount of distance with his combinations. While this proved his undoing against Marquez, Mayweather doesn't stand his ground in the center the way Marquez does. Rather, he excels at pulling just out of range of strikes, landing a counter and then doing the same for the retaliatory swing. Any miscalculation of distance or failure of his legs to respond properly could leave him with a heavy early deficit.

2. How long will it take Mayweather to figure out Pacquiao?

Barring an early knockout, this is a question of "when" and not "if." Mayweather has dealt with a cornucopia of physical and stylistic challenges before, even outclassing a superior speedster in Judah. Pacquiao is a unique specimen, but Mayweather's ability to adjust mid-fight is legendary.

The question is whether he can do this before Pacquiao either scores a significant blow or simply takes too many rounds through his aggression. Pacquiao does leave openings when he attacks and doesn't have the same kind of acumen in the clinch, but Mayweather will have to exploit those issues before it's too late.

3. How are Pacquiao's legs?

Forget the talk of Pacquiao's chin being "damaged." If there's one thing time has taken from the Filipino great, it's his capacity for sustained offense. He's had issues with cramps in recent fights and, in the first fight against Bradley, was criticized for taking two minutes of each round off and trying to steal them by opening up in the third.

Without question, he has to maintain a steady offense for every minute in the fight. His biggest advantages are his incredible ability to put rapid combinations together and his ability to cover ground, both of which can be draining. Add in Mayweather's body attack and any weakness in Pacquiao's body will be magnified to a debilitating degree.


In short, Pacquiao has to rack up damage early and maintain his output. Mayweather has to stay off the ropes, target the body and look to catch "Pac Man" during his combinations rather than after them.

The multimillion dollar question is, who will win the fight between Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao tonight? I say Pacquiao.

I believe Pacquiao's rapid combinations and suffocating offense ought to sway the judges in at least seven rounds. Mayweather has shown vulnerability to consistent offense and his ability to handle the left straight, especially one as potent as Pacquiao's, remains in question.

Overall, Mayweather's style just isn't as perfectly suited to frustrating Pacquiao as Marquez's is. As I mentioned in my breakdown of "Pac-Man," Pacquiao is at his most vulnerable during combinations, but does a tremendous job of protecting himself after them. Mayweather is going to have difficulty pulling back and catching him at the end, especially since Pacquiao's combinations always seem to travel just a little farther than they should.

As the fight progresses, Mayweather is almost certainly going to start taking over through an understanding of Pacquiao's timing and ability to punish his occasionally-predictable rushes. By then, though, Pacquiao will have pocketed enough early rounds and been aggressive enough in the closer ones to take a narrow decision.

Assuming no corruption, which is about as reliable an assumption as assuming FOX won't cancel your favorite sci-fi show, Mayweather's coveted "O" will go later tonight.

Prediction: Pacquiao via unanimous decision will deliver LIVE round-by-round coverage of "Mayweather vs. Pacquiao" TONIGHT, starting with the pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast at 9 p.m. ET RIGHT HERE.

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