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Pacquiao's five factors

The hype around the Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao “Dream Match” has hit its peak, and fight fans are filled with a morbid fascination around what will happen tomorrow.

But in the midst of all the opinions and emotional predictions, what are the factors that will tilt the balance in favor of either boxer?

Here are five.

Size. Clearly, the Golden Boy has the advantage, dwarfing Pacquiao by four inches in height and six inches in reach. Even though he is going down in weight, De La Hoya has fought at 147 pounds from 1997 to 2001.

He started his pro career after the 1992 Olympics at the lightweight limit of 135. Pacquiao started his pro career at 106 pounds, and has only fought at 135 against David Diaz.

What most people don’t realize is that, when a fighter is at his natural weight, he may put on more than 15 pounds from the time of the weigh-in up to fight time. If, for example, De La Hoya makes the 147-pound limit, he could conceivably gain 15 pounds and enter the ring at 162. Pacquiao, for his part, will tip the scales at about 145, then perhaps put on four or five pounds and his 150 as his upper limit. That weight difference will be telling in the clinches, and in cutting off the ring. De La Hoya knows this, and will use it to keep Pacquiao from using more of the ring. Advantage: De La Hoya.

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Records. It’s not the age, but the mileage. For De La Hoya, it may be the lack thereof. Looking at the records of both fighters, De La Hoya has only lost five times in his career, and all to African-American fighters (excluding Puerto Rican Felix “Tito” Trinidad Jr.) De La Hoya has had problems against quick, muscular boxers, and may have, in a way, gotten the monkey off his back by beating the younger, smaller Steve Forbes in his last fight in May. De la Hoya led after the first round, when he finally found his range against Forbes, but lost steam in the later rounds, recovering somewhat in the twelfth. Some say he could have put Forbes away earlier, but needed the rounds because he had only fought five times in the five years prior.

De La Hoya has only been knocked out once, by Bernard Hopkins, in a fight for the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO middleweight titles in March of 2004.

Pacquiao, the WBC lightweight champ, has only been knocked out twice, the last time nine years ago. His last defeat came at the hands of Erik Morales, when they first fought for the WBC international super featherweight title in March of 2005. The Pacman has been busier, and more active. Advantage: Pacquiao.

Speed. This has been Pacquiao’s greatest asset against most of his opponents, except perhaps against equally quick counter-punchers like Juan Manuel Marquez. The big question mark is how much speed Pacquiao has lost in bulking up, and how much has De La Hoya gained in trrimming down. If Manny can use his footwork and keep De La Hoya turning around and unable to set up, he will wear the Golden Boy down.

But if De La Hoya will be able to keep up with Pacquiao, his reach and size will weigh in towards the middle of the bout. Advantage: Pacquiao.

Strategy. This has been De La Hoya’s biggest strength, and one few people talk about. It isn’t Oscar’s gift of boxing. He isn’t a big puncher. It is his uncanny ability to get his opponents to agree to his terms. Even though it appears that he will be going down in weight, if you look at his last five fights, he had already gone down from 160 to 150 since 2004. That means he is actually fighting on his terms. For certain, De La Hoya is either looking at outpointing Pacquiao or scoring a late knockout.

For Pacquiao, his main weapon will be his footwork, and the equal power in both his fists. I don’t expect an early knockout, De La Hoya’s too smart and too big for that to be a likelihood. I do expect Pacquiao to go to the body a lot in the early rounds, and move around.

This will weaken De La Hoya both in terms of stamina and punching power. If Pacquiao were to win, it would probably be in the middle to later rounds. Advantage: De La Hoya.

Power. Initially, I would have thought that Pacquiao had a clear advantage here. But there are two things to consider. First is the previously-mentioned weight issue. Second, and hardly noticed, is the size of the gloves. Before Pacquiao fought Diaz, the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled that from lightweight up, boxers would use ten-ounce gloves. However, that was waived in favor of the fighters’ choice, so Pacman opted for this familiar eight-ounce gloves and demolished Diaz.

However, remember that De La Hoya will now be able to use the eight-ounce gloves, too. That will even things out, considering that, with less cushioning, Pacquiao will now feel more of De La Hoya’s punches, an underestimated factor. So Freddie Roach’s concerns about how De La Hoya’s hands are wrapped is a serious issue. Advantage: Even.

I would love to see Pacquiao tarnish the legend of the Golden Boy, and score another victory. He has vastly improved in terms of balance, defense and footwork in the last three years, and is always exciting to watch, no doubt about it.

Against De La Hoya, though, he is up against someone who is not only a master marketer, but is savvy in and out of the ring. De La Hoya has avoided adding any emotional fuel to the fire, and has feigned much respect for Pacquiao. But that is just another ace to play.

I would love to be wrong, but I find it hard to imagine De La Hoya losing.

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