The fight of the century, between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, takes place in Las Vegas on May 2 and will draw in millions of fans—including old-timers who had all but given up on the sport and a new generation of fans who probably haven’t seen such a high-profile fight in their lifetime.
It promises to be a rare fight—one that both the public and boxing purists want to see. Here’s what to keep an eye on during the matchup:
1. The basics
Mayweather has an orthodox stance, meaning that he leads with his left hand. Pacquiao is a southpaw—he leads with his right—and southpaws are often trickier to fight.
Both like to stand in one place. But Mayweather prefers slipping and dodging the punches coming at him, while Pacquiao likes throwing four-, five-, and six-punch combinations.
Mayweather is undefeated in 47 professional fights. Pacquiao has won 57 of his 64 fights. The combination of these two athletes—two of the best at their respective styles—is what makes this fight exciting before a single punch is thrown.
2. Pacquaio’s punches
As Quartz already has noted, one way Pacquiao might beat Mayweather is by throwing lots and lots of punches. Indeed, his work rate could be the deciding factor. But though Pacquiao throws a great many punches, he misses a lot of them.
In his last fight, Pacquiao threw 669 punches and landed 35% of them. Try to count how many clean shots land to Mayweather’s head and torso. That’s what the judges will be looking for.
3. Mayweather’s traps
Mayweather likes to lure his opponents in. Another boxing great, Oscar de la Hoya, says Mayweather loves throwing the left-hand straight to the body, as opposed to the head. As he noted (paywall) in the Los Angeles Times:
The reason he throws it is to obligate you to put that right hand down and then he can attack you to the chin. That’s the combination he uses. He’ll throw the jab to the body, feint you, then come back with his left hook.
Mayweather also likes to fight going backwards. Witness his knockout of Ricky Hatton with a “check hook,” an old-fashioned punch landed while your opponent is coming forward with a flurry of punches:
Pacquiao likes to come forward, and that leaves holes in his guard—his hands are punching and not defending himself. Mayweather will want to draw him in—and then hurt him on the counterattack.
4. The longer the fight goes on…
Pacquiao won his last three fights on points after 12 rounds. Mayweather won his last five that way. It’s more than likely that this fight will go the distance. If you’re watching outside the US, prepare to be up late into the night or early morning.
Mayweather often loses some of the earlier rounds as his opponents outwork him—after all, in boxing you don’t get points for dodging punches, only landing them—but he comes through in the later rounds. De la Hoya thinks that if Pacquiao can keep punching into the later rounds, he may finally defeat Mayweather.
5. The effect of the crowd
The tickets cost $19,000 before they were even made available. In the end, only 500 of the 16,000 seats in the stadium were put on sale at the public—and the resale prices make $19,000 seem like a bargain.
This means you won’t see any ordinary boxing fans—the loud, often boorish kind that typically follow around Ricky Hatton or the Mexican fighters. Nor too many ordinary Filipinos out to support Pacquiao. Those fans are the ones who usually give these kind of fights their amazing atmosphere.
Instead, you’ll have a lot of corporate guests, celebrities, millionaires—the kind of people who tend to know nothing about boxing and don’t make much noise. With so much on the line, this is expected to be a cagey fight, with Mayweather waiting for his openings. Paying what they did to be there, even the quieter types in the seats might indulge in some booing if they don’t get an all-out war.