• Who’s underestimating whom?

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    Conrad M. Cariño

    Conrad M. Cariño

    I closely followed the four press conference legs of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor super fight and I was amused at the on-stage antics of the two protagonists. Although I would say McGregor won “the war of the words,” I cannot say he has unsettled Mayweather to a great degree.

    It also looks like both fighters are underestimating each other, albeit to varying degrees.

    So who is really underestimating whom?

    From what I have witnessed from time the fight was officially sealed, it looks like McGregor is underestimating Mayweather.

    There are a lot of reasons why McGregor himself should believe he may be able to defeat Mayweather: he is the edge in power; has a slight size advantage; has been active in the last 12 months; and is the younger of the two at 29 years old.

    And it looks like hordes of fight fans finally want to see Mayweather get beaten. Some are even seeing a repeat of Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn bout; a younger and stronger fighter beating a smaller, aging fighter.

    But how realistic are McGregor’s chances of beating Mayweather?

    Honestly, when I see how McGregor assess Mayweather, I do not know if he has forgotten a popular statement of martial arts legend Bruce Lee from the movie “Enter the Dragon”: “boards don’t hit back.” Or, an accomplished fighter can hit back.

    While it is easy to discount Mayweather’s punching power at this point because his last seven fights, including his mega match against Pacquiao, lasted the distance; it is foolish to think he no longer cannot hurt an opponent. Just watch closely his last fight in September 2015 against Andre Berto, an erstwhile world welterweight champion.

    If Mayweather’s punching power has deteriorated to the “powder puff” type, then McGregor wins hands down.

    There is also this misconception that Mayweather has a hard time against southpaws like Pacquiao. This is foolish thinking; just watch how Mayweather toyed around with southpaw Robert Guerrero over 12 rounds in May 2013 and did not have a hard time against Victor Ortiz, another southpaw who roughhoused the American, in September 2011.

    And while it is true that Mayweather is facing a bigger fighter in McGregor, the American had little problems when he faced a bull-strong Saul Alvarez, who stands 5’9”, in September 2013 in a fight where most fans wanted Mayweather deposited on the deck (I was hoping for that too).

    Also, the two fights between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev also proved that a counter puncher with a low knockout percentage (compared to his wins) can defeat a feared knockout artist.

    Ward, who now holds three versions of the world light heavyweight (175 pounds) title, could have been another knockout victim of Kovalev in December 2016. Ward entered the fight with a record of 30-0 with 15 knockouts while Kovalev’s was 30-0 with 26 KOs.

    Ward was also climbing up in weight from super middleweight (168 pounds) and eight of his last 10 fights since 2009 prior to meeting Kovalev ended in decision. As for Kovalev, eight of his last 10 fights since 2013 prior to fighting Ward ended in knockout or stoppage.

    I first thought Kovalev would beat Ward, because the Russian was not a mindless slugger and had a very good jab on top of his strong right cross. And Russian fighters have a conditioning program that makes them tough as nails.

    Well, Ward went on to beat Kovalev twice with one of them a stoppage in June 17 this year.

    The Ward-Kovalev fight can give a clearer glimpse of how the Mayweather-McGregor fight could unfold and not Pacquiao-Horn because the Filipino is not a counter puncher.

    Ward and Mayweather, in their recent fights that went the distance, also demonstrate that counter punchers can gain control of the fight in the latter rounds, where they have figured the weaknesses in their opponent’s defense and still have stamina to move around and punching power to hurt (not knock out) their opponents. In the first Ward-Kovalev fight, the Russian lost much of his punching power in the latter rounds enabling the American to win the bout.

    Compared to Mayweather, however, Ward is still a notch or two below his compatriot because Ward fights relatively flat-footed and allows himself to get hit on occasions.

    Ward demonstrated one thing in his two fights against Kovalev: the punching power of a fighter with a low knockout percentage should never be discounted; they can hurt and even stop an opponent!

    Underestimating counter punchers can be fatal. Very fatal!

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