With the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao mega-fight less than a week away (May 2 in Las Vegas), we sought analysis from one of Kansas City’s most successful boxers: Greg Suttington, who graduated from Wyandotte High in 1984 and won a national Golden Gloves championship as a heavyweight in 1990.
Suttington fought 20 professional fights and won 17, 16 by knockout. He was once ranked the 10th-best heavyweight in the world.
After retiring from the ring, he opened the Community Boxing and Fitness Center to give back to kids what boxing had given him.
“Boxing kept me off the streets and out of trouble when I was young, so I wanted to give kids a sanctuary from the streets,” Suttington said. “Boxing gave me courage and taught me discipline. It also showed me how to overcome adversity. I wanted kids to learn these things and apply them in the ring, but more importantly, apply them in life.”
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Floyd vs. Manny
Mayweather is undefeated. Pacquiao has five losses. In the first news conference ahead of their showdown, Mayweather said losing will be on Pacquiao’s mind.
“One thing I know about any sport, when you lose, it’s in your mind,” Mayweather said.
Mayweather hasn’t lost, but will the threat of defeat be on his mind, too? Suttington, who started his career 12-0, said he always thought about the possibility of losing.
“It made me more aggressive because I didn’t want to lose,” Suttington said. “I trained harder and did whatever it took so I wouldn’t lose.”
Most boxing analysts think Mayweather will win the fight. And perhaps more importantly, four of the five common opponents that both Mayweather and Pacquiao have faced — Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley — think Mayweather will win. Only Miguel Cotto thinks Pacquiao will prevail.
Suttington isn’t sure who’ll win, but said, “Styles make fights.”
“What that means in this fight is just because Marquez knocked Manny out cold in their last fight, but Floyd easily beat Marquez, don’t assume Floyd will beat Manny easily,” Suttington said. “Don’t even assume Floyd will beat Manny. You have to remember Pacquiao and Marquez have completely different styles.”
With that in mind, here are a few things to watch when these two fighters square off.
▪ Offense: Mayweather’s offense — which is spectacular — is underrated. He doesn’t throw a lot of punches, and he rarely throws combinations. But he’s exceptionally accurate. According to CompuBox, a computerized system that records every punch a boxer lands, Mayweather threw 40 punches per round in his last five fights and connected 41 percent of the time.
Pacquaio is renowned for his offense. He throws many punches and lots of combinations. In his last five fights, he threw 56 punches per round and connected 35 percent of the time. Translation: In their last five fights, Pacquiao landed three more punches per round than Mayweather.
▪ Defense: Mayweather is one of the most elusive boxers in history: In his last five fights, opponents landed just 28 percent of their punches against him. He will use uncanny reflexes and quick feet to avoid Pacquiao’s punches then respond with accurate counter-punches.
Pacquiao is widely criticized for his defense. Marquez, who beat him in 2012, said, “When (Pacquiao) is aggressive, he throws without looking out for the counter. And in this respect, he must change because Mayweather is a great counterpuncher.”
In Pacquiao’s last five fights, opponents landed 34 percent of their punches against him. Suttington explained Pacquiao’s defensive philosophy: “Manny knows the best defense is a good offense. He won’t be trying to protect himself or block punches. He’ll be out there to fight. His activity will defend him.”
▪ Power: The assumption is that Pacquiao has more power than Mayweather. Some say lots more. Suttington disagrees.
“For all the talk about Pacquiao’s power — and he can hurt Floyd, don’t misunderstand — his power is about the same as Mayweather’s,” Suttington said.
De La Hoya had this to say on the subject: “I would say they punch the same. The only difference is Pacquiao has that real ability to knock you out, but he’s got to land that perfect punch. It’s more the accumulation (of Pacquiao’s punches that hurt you).”
▪ Hand speed: De La Hoya explained the difference in these fighters’ hand speed this way: “It’s a different type of speed. Mayweather is a guy who times you. He will throw one fast shot. Mayweather is not a guy who will throw a combination, three (or) four punches. He’s not that type of fighter. Pacquiao is. He will throw four, five, six, seven punches, and fast.”
▪ So who wins? Mayweather is the better boxer, and he’ll try to force Pacquiao to box. Pacquiao’s the better brawler, and he’ll try to force Mayweather to brawl. Whoever forces his opponent to change styles will win.
Suttington said Mayweather is the best fighter in the world, but Pacquiao is dangerous … and can beat him.
“It’s a very dangerous fight for (Mayweather) because he has not faced any opponent with the speed or aggression of Pacquiao,” Marquez said. “And in this case, also with power.”
Mayweather, Suttington said, will use a different strategy.
“Floyd usually takes a round or two to study his opponent,” Suttington said. “But in this fight — and this will surprise a lot of people — Floyd is going to attack Manny from the opening bell.”
“Anything can happen in a pro fight. But I know this: It’ll be a great fight.”
Edward Long is a freelance writer from Kansas City, Kan. He can be reached at email@example.com.