Manny Pacquiao may be a hero in the Philippines but even his fans and associates admit he will be the underdog in his bout against undefeated Floyd Mayweather in the “fight of the century.”
Betting odds in Las Vegas, where the fight will be held on May 2, favor the 38-year-old American, who has never lost in 47 fights. By contrast, the 36-year-old Pacquiao has 57 victories and five defeats—including two suffered as recently as 2012.
The fight, which was years in the making, will finally answer the question as to which of the two is the best “pound-for-pound” fighter of their generation.
But Pacquiao, who has several other duties outside the ring, has plenty of baggage to shed.
“Manny likes to be in the underdog position,” said sports writer Winchell Campos, who is working on a biography of the fighter.
“He thrives on that kind of pressure. It gives extra motivation for him.”
Pacquiao has made a fortune as a commercial pitchman, dabbled in television, movies and music, and leveraged his boxing fame to get elected to Congress in 2010.
Last year, he even made his debut as player-coach of a newly-created professional basketball team.
All of that, however, will have to be put aside for the Mayweather fight.
“Mayweather will be the favored one [in Las Vegas],” said Pacquiao’s business manager Eric Pineda, who has labeled the bout the Philippine boxer’s “toughest fight”.
“But he [Pacquiao] has a big chance. Every time he fights, everything takes a back seat to training,” he said, noting that Pacquiao will leave in March to train in the United States, away from the distractions in the Philippines.
Philippine Olympic Committee spokesman Joey Romasanta, an avowed fan of the sport, meanwhile warned that “the fighting style of Mayweather is such that it would be very difficult for any fighter to hit him where it would matter.”
“Pacquiao has to be very patient with Mayweather. If he gets too aggressive, there could be problems,” he told AFP.
Romasanta said Pacquiao’s widespread popularity in the Philippines would, however, survive a defeat at Mayweather’s hands.
“It will be a letdown for the country if Pacquiao will lose miserably but I don’t think that will happen,” he said.
Others are more upbeat about Pacquiao’s chances.
Veteran sportscaster Ronnie Nathanielsz, who has covered Pacquiao closely, said the fight would have been much more explosive had it happened four years ago, when both men were younger, but said the passage of time favoured the Philippine boxer.
“It is all going to depend on what kind of condition Mayweather comes in. He is older than Manny. He may age overnight in the ring,” Nathanielsz added.
The American has lost some of his power, the sportscaster said, adding that he believed Pacquiao still retained much of his strength and footspeed, giving him an advantage.
Regardless of perceptions of his chances, the announcement of the long-awaited fight has grabbed the headlines in the Philippines.
“Everyone is ecstatic,” Campos, the sportswriter, said.
“Everyone is looking forward to seeing this fight.”