Merchant, De La Hoya rooting for Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao meets fans and members of the media during a workout.  AFP PHOTO

Manny Pacquiao meets fans and members of the media during a workout.

Boxing’s foremost commentator Larry Merchant and former pound-for-pound king Oscar De La Hoya are leaning toward underdog Manny Pacquiao ending Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s impressive 47-bout unbeaten streak in their May 2 welterweight unification showdown in Las Vegas.

Merchant, the a boxing commentator for HBO Sports for 44 years until his retirement in 2012, said the outcome of Mayweather-Pacquiao could boil down to who’s faster between the two.

“I think the crucial unknown element in this fight is what happens when one of these two elite fighters known for their speed finds out that the other one is faster than him,” Merchant told the Manila Times in a phone interview from his Santa Monica, California home.

One possibility, Merchant surmised, is that the slower fighter would be forced to dig in and trade punches—which then results to truly great and entertaining fight.

Pacman the quicker guy
Merchant has not doubt that Pacquiao, who remains a slight underdog, is the quicker guy as he demonstrated in his career defining fight against De La Hoya as well as his more recent bouts, particularly against former world welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley.

“Oscar De La Hoya found out that Manny was too quick, his movement so good and he was throwing punches from different angles,” said Merchant, who was described by fellow commentator Dan Rafael of ESPN as “the greatest television boxing analyst of all time.”

Merchant said a more recent example of Pacquiao’s speed was in full display in his rematch against Bradley, which Pacquiao won clearly via unanimous decision.

“Manny used his feet too well against Bradley, it was almost a mismatch,” Merchant quipped.

De La Hoya, probably the best-known common opponent of Pacquiao and Mayweather, said in a television interview with Balitang America that Pacquiao’s vaunted speed would make the match-up a “great fight.”

The Barcelona lightweight Olympic gold medalist and former 12-time world champion in six different weight classes said only Pacquiao’s aggressiveness and volume punching could prevent the so-called “Super Bowl of boxing” from being a bore, even if the defensive-minded Mayweather tries to make it a technical boxing match.

“[But] we can see a great fight because Pacquiao is just putting the pressure and making him (Mayweather) fight,” De La Hoya told Balitang America’s Steve Angeles on Tuesday.

The Mexican-American boxing golden boy declined when asked his prediction on the Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown, which guarantees Mayweather $120 million against Pacquiao’s $80 million in the world’s financially biggest single sporting event.

“My mind goes with Mayweather, but my heart goes for Pacquiao,” said the 42-year-old De La Hoya who now runs Golden Boy Promotions, one of the biggest boxing promoters in the world.

“It’s going to be a great fight, but don’t get it past Pacquiao that he goes out there and surprises Mayweather.”

Merchant also avoided making a prediction but said, “I’ll be rooting for Pacquiao.”

“I like Manny’s style, no disrespect for Mayweather who is probably the best boxer of his generation,” said the 84-year-old boxing analyst.

In his book, Merchant thinks Mayweather vs Pacquiao is a “classic clash between a great boxer and a great fighter.”

He said Mayweather is the great boxer who goes by the purist dictum of winning by hitting an opponent while avoiding being hit, without taking risks.

Pacquiao, Merchant added, is the “great fighter, not a brawler, but one who can both box and bang, unafraid to attack and take risks in search of a dramatic win.”

Megabout tickets go on sale today
Meanwhile, tickets for the richest fight in boxing history will go on sale on Thursday (Friday in Manila) after the two camps put their squabbles aside and finally reached a deal.

The release of tickets will come just nine days before the May 2 fight after being held up for weeks because of a contract dispute between Pacquiao’s camp, Mayweather Promotions and the MGM Grand Hotel.

Wednesday’s announcement paves the way for a very limited number of seats to go on sale in the Grand Garden Arena. Organizers declined to say how many seats would be offered for sale.

Organizers said Grand Garden tickets will be priced between $1,500 and $7,500 and closed circuit seats at Las Vegas area venues are priced at $150.

But very few tickets are expected to be available to the public, as the majority of seats in the Grand Garden arena are being reserved for sponsors, organizers and friends and family of the two camps.

Tickets are supposed to go to Pacquiao and Mayweather’s camps, HBO, MGM Grand and Showtime for distribution.

The ticket fiasco is just that latest issue of contention in the build up to the fight, which is expected to generate a record $400 million in revenue.

The sides also argued over drug testing, who would come out last to the ring for the fight, who would sponsor the fight and how much to charge for the pay-per-view which will cost around $100. with report from



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