Pacquiao or De La Hoya: Who’s the Better Fighter ?

A lot of armchair boxing tacticians have been debating the question of who the better fighter is between Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Oscar “Golden Boy” De La Hoya after word got out of their projected superfight on December 6. Today’s Inquirer headline screamed: $100-M fight: Pacquiao vs. De La Hoya.

The tale of the tape doesn’t say it all, and reveals only the more superficial aspects of this much-anticipated clash of titans.

De La Hoya

Ht. — 5’10.5”
Wt. — 150 lb.
Reach — 73”
Age — 35


Ht. — 5’6.5”
Wt. — 135 lb.
Reach — 67”
Age – 29

Manny is clearly the underdog, as the size differential is dramatic. Aside from heft, ODLH has significantly longer reach. Manny may have an edge, age-wise, but that advantage is easily offset by Oscar’s wiliness and years of experience. It seems obvious that Pacman will be pummeled if he goes toe-to-toe against the Golden Boy.

As for power and speed, both fighters have proven themselves to be outstanding in that regard. Trainer Freddy Roach believes Manny’s quickness and punching ability, in full display during his WBC lightweight championship victory over David Diaz, will serve him in good stead. Perhaps, but De La Hoya is no slouch in that department either, with his flashing long jabs and deadly left cross. 30 of his 39 wins were by KOs.

On speculation that Oscar is over the hill, or as Roach puts it, he “can’t pull the trigger anymore”, this is simply not realistic. True, he may have lost three of his last six bouts over the last five years (including the last one against Floyd Mayweather, Jr.) but he’s far from being a “Golden Girl”. He’s made a career of trouncing fighters waaay bigger and stronger than Pacman and his loss to Mayweather was by split decision. He’s still in good, if not top, form and his physical gifts are far superior to Pacquiao’s (and I’m not talking about his face).

So as to the question of who is the better fighter, on paper it’s De La Hoya by a wide margin.

But as to who will be the better fighter on December 6 is another matter. It will all come down to strategy, the small details and the intangibles.

They both have to bridge the weight disparity to make welterweight, Pacquiao going up by about 10 lbs. and De La Hoya giving up 10-15 lbs. from his present optimum fighting weight. The added poundage might slow Pacman down. Oscar might weaken from his reducing regimen by weigh-in, although he’ll bounce back by fight day, after being rehydrated. Bottom line, the weight difference of 15-20 pounds will remain in De La Hoya’s favor.

Pacman will likely employ hit-and-run tactics, avoiding squaring off against the bigger man. Roach promises the “sharpest fight plan” of Manny’s career. He’ll possibly go for body blows and combination shots to the head, once Oscar opens up. After delivering his punches, he’ll need to explode out of the clinch. This will be his most “defensive” fight, as he must be masterful in catching, blocking or parrying the expected flurry of sharp jabs from his longer-reached opponent.

De La Hoya will want to bring the fight to Manny and force him to trade punches. A close-in brawl will be to his advantage and he won’t allow Pacquiao to dance out of danger. He’d also want to put Manny away early, as a marathon fight would be to the younger man’s advantage.

In the end, it will come down to heart, which both have plenty of. Manny will be fighting the biggest bout of his life, a “career-changing event”, as they say. Oscar will be giving the boxing world his swan song, and he will die fighting to protect the Golden Boy legend.

An interesting sidelight is Manny’s mouthing off this early. Said he with a laugh:

I will frustrate the desire of Oscar De La Hoya to avenge the defeats of the great Mexican boxers who lost to me. I am dedicating this forthcoming fight to my countrymen and all the boxing fans all over the world. Don’t worry.

Smart move to ensure that ODLH doesn’t back out now. If he does, he’ll look bad. As I pointed out, it’s a win-win proposition for Pacquiao. In contrast, some Golden Boy fans believe that this is a lose-lose situation for De La Hoya. Blogger Dave “Large” Larzellare bewails that Oscar seems to have painted himself into a corner:

To my mind, the Pacquiao fight is the same scenario with the entire sports community at large. Because of the size difference between him and Manny, and because that will be THE headline of this fight above all others, if he loses he’ll look terrible, and if he wins, it will be like, “well, of course he won, he’s the bigger man BY FAR.” There’s no upside for him whatsoever, absolutely nothing for De La Hoya to gain out of this bout but a big payday. At this stage of the game, I’m shocked that he’s still on the “if it makes dollars, it makes sense” tip. He’s made so many dollars, if he wanted to the guy could afford to make his own sense. Instead, he’s taking the easy way out of his own career.

It’s all about the money, Dave.

Pacman fans see “shock knockout” win.

Trainer Floyd Mayweather, Sr., in explaining why he’s not training De La Hoya for the fight, says that Pacquiao is sure to lose.

Ain’t no way Pacquiao can beat Oscar. No way. Oscar doesn’t need me to beat Pacquiao. He really doesn’t. For this fight, Oscar can beat Pacquiao with just about anyone training him. When he hits him with that first left hook, it’s all going to be over. So, I’ll be honest, Oscar doesn’t need to pay the price to get me in this fight, because he’ll win this with me or without me.

De La Hoya will adopt the counter-punching style of Juan Manuel Marquez against Manny, and will use his longer reach to full advantage.

Obviously I have to be smart. I have to use my jab. I have to be rangy in that ring, just the way Juan Manuel Marquez did against him both of their fights. He (Marquez) was using that long jab. He was using those long right hands. I just have to make sure that I have my hands up when Pacquiao comes in with that explosive style and his hard punches.

4 thoughts on “Pacquiao or De La Hoya: Who’s the Better Fighter ?”

  1. My knowledge of boxing and boxers is virtually nil — but I have heard and read about Muhammad Ali.

    So, clearly this article helps. Seems indeed that the nation’s favourite pugilist is the underdog but don’t you think, he should be able to duck faster and hit the tummy more effectively of the taller one?

  2. That will be Pacman’s strategy. Get inside. Punish De La Hoya’s body with short, controlled combinations. Then get the hell out of the way of Oscar’s jabs. When the opportunity presents itself, an uppercut or right cross would do nicely. Repeat. Wear the bigger man down. If the fight goes the distance, Pacman has a good chance of winning.

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