This is how Manny Pacquiao can—maybe—beat Floyd Mayweather

It only takes one punch.
It only takes one punch.
Image: Reuters/Steve Marcus
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The training camps are over, and it’s almost time for the fight of the century: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will finally meet in Las Vegas on Saturday, May 2. (Don’t even bother trying to get tickets.)

Everyone wants to see if the cocky American will do something he has never done in 47 fights as a professional: lose. It’s going to be difficult for Pacquiao. But not impossible. Here’s a few things he can do to try to beat one of the best boxers of all time:

1. Hit him—a lot

They say that “styles make fights,” and what makes Mayweather vs. Pacquiao so mouthwatering is the clash of styles between the pair. Pacquiao likes to throw punches. Lots of punches. In 2010 against Joshua Clottey, for example, Pacquiao threw 1,231 punches. His opponent threw 399.

The legendary Oscar de la Hoya—who lost to both Mayweather and Pacquiao—remembers his bout with Pacquiao as one spent thinking: “When are you going to stop throwing punches?” He wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Pacquiao’s work-rate could even be the decider:

If Pacquiao doesn’t get tired, Mayweather is going to be shooing away that fly for 12 rounds, and Pacquiao might surprise him. I’m inclining more, as the fight gets closer, to Pacquiao.

But Mayweather may have the best defense in history—many certainly think so, including Mayweather, who likes to stand, make fighters miss, and hit on the counter. No one should underestimate how demoralizing it is for a champion fighter to get in the ring with someone like Mayweather and not be able to touch him.

If Pacquiao can clear the psychological hurdles and keep throwing punches, he has a shot.

2. Use Castillo’s blueprint

Many of the people paying to watch the pay-per-view of this fight will not have heard of Mexico’s Jose Luis Castillo. But a lot of boxing purists think Castillo beat Mayweather in a hard-fought contest back in 2002, when Mayweather was only 25.

The British fighter Carl Froch thinks Mayweather lost the fight and that, because of Mayweather’s age and experience, it was the one chance to beat him. How did Castillo (almost) do it? He told Sports on Earth: “He also had very good speed and quickness but I just kept putting pressure on him as much as I could.” This style suits Pacquiao’s amazing stamina.

3. Go downstairs

Boxing News also notes that Castillo ignored Mayweather’s head and went with crippling body shots. That is exactly how de la Hoya won some of the early rounds against Mayweather in their 2007 fight—by pounding the challenger with “body and stomach barrages… clearly employing a plan to sap some of Mayweather’s energy.”

The result of all that? It made Mayweather smile. If Pacquiao can land the body shot that puts Mayweather down, he won’t be smiling anymore. One thing to bear in mind, though: Mayweather comfortably won his rematch with Castillo six months later. He may have sussed this particular trick.

4. Hope that age has slowed him down

Mayweather didn’t look that great in his last two fights. Both were against Marcos Maidana, a simplistic fighter who nonetheless managed to do well enough in his first fight to force a rematch.

Many feel that that, at the age of 38, Mayweather’s lightning-quick reflexes have slowed down to the point that a punch could get through—perhaps one from a certain Filipino.

Will Mayweather be 48-0 on Sunday, or 47-1? We find out very, very soon.