Where has Manny Pacquiao's Punching Power gone?

Published: Apr 19, 2014 03:01am EDT
By shaneacedera, for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Apr 27, 2014 @ 12:25am EDT



It's been a week after the Manny Pacquiao victory, and I have purposely waited for a week to say what I want. As a fan, the overwhelming emotion of seeing a victory from pacman would've clouded an honest opinion. So here it goes:

Punching Power?

After last week bout, Yahoo's Kevin Iole wrote:

Though Roach correctly said he thought, "Manny's killer instinct was still there," the impact of his punches isn't the same as it was.
"He's still a top fighter pound-for-pound, and it's pretty clear the legs are still there, but obviously, you have to wonder where the punching power has gone," Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said.


It's what everyone has been saying the last couple of years, especially since Manny's last KO happened in 2009 against Cotto. Manny Pacquiao doesn't seem to have the punching power anymore. He just doesn't seem to have the knockout power anymore. Or does he?

When boxers grow older, hand speed and footwork eventually fade. But power does not.  George Foreman was 72-4 with 67 knockouts when he faced Michael Moorer in 1994. At age 45 and 19 years older than Moorer, Foreman knocked out Moorer with a short right hand to the chin. Foreman was old, he was fat and he was slow. But he was the same puncher that had 67 knockouts.
The 35 year old version of Manny Pacquiao doesn't have the speed of five years ago, but is still faster than most boxers in their prime. The footwork is still impeccable. But if boxers don't lose punching power, why has there been no knockouts since Cotto?

Here's the Catch-weight

Catch weights do matter in bouts. According to the digitaljournal.com on 9/28/13:

In addition the methods to drain the body and rehydrate to a normal weight can be dangerous and cause issues during a fight and after.

When Muhammad Ali was pummelled by Larry Holmes in 1980, Ali sped up his weight loss from 253-217 using thyroid meds. He admitted to being lethargic after the loss. In his famous "no mas" bout, Roberto Duran tried to rehydrate on the day of the fight after struggling with the weigh in. Duran suffered stomach cramps and quit in the 8th round.

Draining and rehydrating to meet catch weights take their toll on fighters , especially the bigger fighter since he does not only have to make the catch weight, he also needs to rehydrate after the weigh in in order to go back to his normal weight on fight night.
In the case of Pacquiao, he never really brought his power to the welterweight division, he beat the bigger guys with catch weights:

                         Weight limit     Catch Weight       Result   
vs Marquez 3       147                  144                    MD   
vs Margarito         154                  151                    UD    
vs Cotto                147                 145                   TKO 12   
vs De la Hoya       N/A                 147                    RTD 8 

Except for Marquez who isn't really a bigger guy, Pacquiao fought these bigger champions at a catch weight. He demolished all three of them. Although Margarito finished the fight, he broke his orbital bone in the process.

Pacquiao fought two other "big guys" without a catch weight. They were the defensive minded Joshua Clottey who didn't want to throw punches and the very older Shane Mosley. Pacman won both bouts by UD. Clottey was dominated but was never knocked down. Mosley suffered a knockdown, and looked stunned when he fell to the canvass but he got up to finish the bout.

The Mosley knockdown was close to being a flash knockdown, but Shane was definitely hurt. But even Mosley confirms that Pacman's power isn't what we all think it is:

"With Pacquiao, he just touches you and you're already wobbling. It's not like he's heavy-handed. He's not heavy-handed. It's weird. It's the weirdest thing."

Oscar De La Hoya, boxing's Golden Boy whose face Manny reconfigured during their "Dream Match" had this to say about Pacquiao in an interview with Ring Magazine on May 2012:

“Pacquiao wasn’t my toughest fight, physically. Physically, I didn’t feel like he had beat me up. I felt worse. I mean, I can take a punch. But for Pacquiao, it was his first fight going up to 147, but I just didn’t feel his punches. I was probably 20 percent for that fight."

Oscar added:

“No, I mean, look, when I fought Pacquiao, he’s a great fighter, and I respect him dearly. But he was like a fly everywhere. He was throwing punches and I was like, ‘Whoa.’ But he didn’t hurt me, whatsoever. It was that he was just throwing so many punches."

Punches in bunches

Punches in bunches. That's what made Manny Pacquiao the mega star that he is. That's what made him a force of nature in boxing. Because while different foes had different things to say about his power, they all agreed that he was lightning fast with his fists. And that he threw punches from awkward angles.

Take a look at this piece from mightyfighter.com:

"Pacquiao’s ability to throw shots from a variety of angles with blazing speed makes it difficult for his opponents to see the punches coming. This is mainly due to his footwork and confidence to throw these unorthodox punches from awkward angles.
Pacquiao utilizes his quick feet to adopt an in-and-out style and constant pivoting, it’s hard to predict where he’s going to be. One moment he’s there throwing punches, and by the time his opponent is set to return fire, he’s in a completely different position."

Footwork, angles and speed are Pacquiao's natural gifts. Freddie Roach transformed him from slugger to boxer by working on his defense and his right hand. Roach also upgraded him from a reckless lion to a calculating  wolf. But despite all these, Pacquiao physically remained a lightweight or a junior welterweight at best.

Welterweight Division

Pacquaio told ABS CBN in 2013:

“I’m a fighter, and different fights are different. This is a bigger weight class now, and it’s just different styles in different fights. In the beginning, when I was fighting at 140 and 135 (pounds), I was stronger.”

Pacquiao's right.  During his first professional bout at the age of 16, Manny weighed just 98 lbs which is seven pounds below the miminumweight division. As Pacquiao made his leap from one weight class to another, his punching power naturally diminished because of the bigger foes who fought at their normal weight classes. Although he kayoed  Hatton at the Jr. Welterweight limit of 140 lbs, pacquiao weighed in at 138 lbs. De la Hoya and Cotto got TKOed at catchweights.
Up to and including the David Diaz bout, Pacman was 8-0 with 5 KOs after his loss to EriK Morales. All the bouts were at super featherweight ( jr. lightweight) limit of 130 lbs. The Diaz bout was at the lightweight limit of 135 lbs.
Below is a comparison of the official weights in Pacman's  bouts after beating Diaz:
                    Weight     Pacman weight   
Marquez 4      143              147   
Bradley           146              147   
Marquez 3      143              142   
Mosley            147              145   
Margarito        151              144.6   
Clottey            147              145 3/4   
Cotto               145              144   
Hatton             140              138   
De la Hoya      145              142 

In the nine fights above, Pacquiao's weight was lower than his opponent seven times.  His record was 7-0 in those bouts. In the two remaining fights, Manny was heavier than his opponent. He lost both bouts. In those two losses, Pacquiao weighed at the welter weight limit of 147 lbs.

The stats tell us Pacquiao was a destroyer at  the 135 lbs division and below. Maybe his best division would've been  the 140 lbs, when he demolished a healthy Hatton. Unfortunately, we cannot prove this because that was his lone fight in that weight class. Manny next moved to welterweight, not because it was his natural weight, but because the bigger money fights were there and he was chasing title after title at that time.
Unfortunately, his punching power has been neutralized in the welterweight division.

Here are Pacman's punching stats in the welterweight division:
                           Total Punces thrown   % landed    Power Punches      Result   
BRadley 2                627                            38.5%      198                       UD   
Rios                         792                            53%         223                       UD   
BRadley 1                751                            34%        190                       Lost SD   
Marquez 3               578                             30%        117                       MD   
Mosley                    727                             31%        727                       UD   
Margarito               1069                            44%        411                       UD   
Clottey                   1231                            20%        399                       UD   
Cotto                        780                            43%       273                       TKO12 
Marquez IV was excluded because it lasted less than 12 rounds to compare punching stats.

The only knockout victory here is against Cotto, which again was fought at a catch weight. Didn't Cotto say no to a rematch after Roach asked for another catch weight?

Manny Pacquiao is not a natural welterweight, although he will always say he is comfortable at that wieght class because boxing is a business.

There are no problems with Pacquiao's hands. He punches well against sluggers althoug struggles with a counter puncher like Marquez. Last November, a 34 year old Pacquiao threw 792 punches against Bambam Rios, the most since 2010 against Margarito.  So those who say Pacquiao doesn’t have the speed anymore are incorrect. Manny's hand are still blazing. He can still let them go and connect. It's just that it's not as fast as five years ago.

According to compubox.com, Pacman throws an average of 69 punches per rounds. If we translate that to 12 rounds,  that would mean 828 punches per bout. Since 2009, Manny's eclipsed that twice only  against Cotto and Margarito. So there is a decrease in the volume of punches Manny's output per round. But again, that comes with age.

After the rios fight Manny stressed:

“Before the fight I already said I will be like the old Manny Pacquiao and I think I showed that tonight,”

Pacquiao showed the speed of the old Manny Pacquiao but Rios was not a moving target. Sure he was hit like a punching bag, but Manny never had Rios in serious trouble. And so they said Manny no longer had the killer instinct.  But the truth is, Manny tried his best to go for the kill. It was only when he realized he could not floor Rios that he stepped back on the gas pedal and coasted to victory.

And so last week, he fought Tim Bradley. Sure, he avenged his loss to Dessert Storm, but everyone knew he never lost that bout in the first place. Beating Bradley meant getting the WBO belt back. But what was it worth?
The Bradley bout was the only logical choice after they couldn't get Mayweather. Marquez was playing hard to get too. They could not risk Pacquiao against Provodnikov, much more Maidana or Amir Khan. So Bradley was really more a business decision rather than a redemption thing.

Boxing is business

Manny won the bout, and won some at the gates and in PPV. As Yahoo's Kevin Iole reports on 4.19.14:

"The pay-per-view numbers for the rematch with Bradley have yet to be released, but by all indications, they won't hit one million. It's likely to settle into the 800,000-to-825,000 range when the numbers are finally counted.That is a terrific number and will bring in a massive amount of pay-per-view revenue, but it's significantly less than he'd been doing not that long ago and it leaves him badly trailing rival Floyd Mayweather in sales."
"The most obvious answer for that decline, of course, is Pacquiao's failure to score a knockout in any of his last eight fights. Knockouts aren't a prerequisite for sales – Mayweather is in the midst of a streak in which each of his last seven fights was announced at one million or more in sales, yet he has just one KO in that time – but they had become expected of Pacquiao".

After last week's bout, Pacquiao proudly told the media:

“I proved tonight that my journey in boxing will continue. A couple of more years, I can still fight.”

In the business of boxing, it's the numbers that make fights. And for as long as Manny sells, his journey will continue. Filipinos will always be behind the man who's put the nation on top of the boxing world in the past decade. We will never cease to cheer our national treasure- win or lose.

But if we expect to see that little dynamo who moved like a buzzsaw in chopping down opponents, we will only be disappointed. Manny Pacquiao is 35 years old and he is not getting any younger. His hands are still fast and feet are still quick, but not like before. That goes with age. The Manny Pacquiao of 2014 is still an elite fighter, who can beat championship level fighters at their best.  But he is no longer the destroyer we once loved.

Fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the only fight to make, although it won't really tell who is better between the two. For his part, we've seen the untouchable Floyd Jr. get hit more in his recent bouts than during his prime. Although Mayweather doesn't admit it, age has also diminished his invincibility. So if and when they fight, no matter how remote that possibility is, it won't be the same as them fighting in their prime. It would only become a money and ego fight. But it's still one that most want to see, including me.
Manny Pacquiao's journey will continue for the next couple of years. But it won't be for glory or pride anymore, although he always says it's for the country.  Only a handful of people buy that crap today. He's beaten everybody he needs to beat except Mayweather. Of course, it's Mayweather who doesn't want to be beaten. But Pacquiao's resume includes the who's who of the sport including hall of famers. What is there to prove and achieve?

If Manny fights and it's not Floyd, it's not for the love of the sport anymore. It's business. And for as long as there are people like us who will pay to watch PPV, that journey does indeed continue. Let's just hope Manny doesn't  get victimized by the thief called "one more time".

It would've been better if he left in a blaze of glory or retire on top. But that doesn't seem to be his path. Bob Arum and Michael Knocz control him more than Aling Dionisia and Jinkee.  If you ask his family, they want him to quit now. But the reason why they call boxers prize fighters is because of the money. Arum and Koncz are hungry for more. And while the world has their to spare and spend on Pacman bouts, Manny will fight again.

Manny can still fight, and we still love him to death. He will fight at 147 because he cannot go down in weight anymore. He will fight, but that destroyer is gone and will never be back.



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