As it turns out the well-guarded secret training strategy for Mayweather-Pacquiao fight is spilling out. Roach himself spilled the beans, perhaps inadvertently, on the red carpet Wednesday. When pressed by an eager reporter about how training camp was going and the prospects for a Pacquiao victory Roach let it all hang out. He said that Mayweather likes to set traps and in so doing makes a fundamental mistake that leaves him open to a specific kind of counter. Roach indicated that when he and Pacman work the mitts they drill a specific response that Pacquiao nails every time.
Some are surmising what this move is but it is actually a simple thing to figure out. Mayweather finds success as he works off of the so-called philly-shell otherwise known as the shoulder roll. Great fighters of the past have used it to great success. When employed properly it gives one’s opponent a false sense of security as it is extraordinarily difficult for anyone employing the shell to mount a significant offense out of it.
The mechanics of the roll, as Mayweather employs it, are simple in their execution yet notoriously difficult for the average fighter to employ with success. Those who try it in fights with better than average fighters find that as they move out of the defensive shell and into an offensive one they are forced to open up. In so doing they become unusually open to their opponent’s offensive punches. The trick is to be first but there is a fraction of a second where, in the adjustment, a fighter is exposed to punches coming down the middle or the well-executed hook.
Mayweather, from the orthodox stance, has a bread-and-butter punch that appears to, for his opposition, literally come out of nowhere. He is able to take his right hand, normally positioned just in front of his left chin/cheek, straighten it up and drive it forward in a straight line. This punch, sometimes referred to as “pot shotting” is what eventually undid Marcos Maidana in the last half of the first fight and essentially dominated the second fight. Mayweather is so quick in employing the shot that fighters do not know it is coming until their head snaps back and it is too late.
While the punch, as Mayweather throws it, is not a knockout punch, the after-effects of the punch are, from a visual standpoint, stunning. When it comes to judges scoring the fight, the effective employment of the pot-shot creates the illusion that Mayweather is dominating and picking an opponent apart.
The trap Mayweather sets is one in which he simply gets his opponent to commit to a punch, usually a left hook or slow jab. When an opponent throws the punch, thinking Mayweather is within range, Mayweather simply steps back, then when the left side of the head is left unguarded, he fires the punch unhindered. The practical effect is usually the snapping back of a fighter’s head and the predictable ooh’s and ahh’s of the crowd. Mayweather has been fighting so long that he can anticipate his opponents’ punches before they throw them and position himself to throw the pot-shot with an amazing degree of accuracy.
The second punch that Mayweather lives and has yet to die on is his “check-hook.” It is a simple punch that is extremely hard to throw with precision and power. Mayweather is notorious for setting fighters up as he steps in, pulls the opponent out after him, then steps back, controlling space, then firing off the punch. In the immediate aftermath of his opponent’s failed punch he is open to a counter then boom, lightning strikes. The check-hook is a short left hook where the left elbow is kept tight to the body, allowing the punch, as it extends, to take an initially straight trajectory until it reaches the target. When it arrives at the target the punch is rolled to the right, the wrist snaps or torques in a clock-wise direction, creating, together with the elbow snapping, a powerful up then-down-impact.
Fighters like Mayweather who throw it well compare it to a homerun swing where they did not necessarily throw it hard but threw it well. Like a homerun hitter where the ball just seemed to crack off the bat and fly out of the park of its own volition, so-likewise is the effect of a properly executed check hook on an unwitting opponent. When thrown well, the power literally comes from the floor, through a torqueing pelvis, moving up along a linear line through the elbow and wrist. Its aftereffects are euphemistically referred to as “getting hit by the floor.” When a knock down occurs it can be said that a fighter gets hit by the canvas twice.
Roach, by all appearances, in spilling out his secret training strategy, appears to be preparing Pacquiao for these and perhaps lesser traps that Mayweather is sure to set. When one hears Roach brag about his fighter having a skill set that perfectly counters the above Mayweather strengths and traps, he is referring to how styles make fights. Pac’s style allows him the ability to, when pressed into a Mayweather-esque pot-shot trap, move out of the straight line or trajectory of Mayweather’s right hand and move to its side. When this move is effected with precision the pot-shotting fighter, executing out of the shell, is vulnerable to a counter right or left thrown from the right or left angle.
The problem for most fighters is that they have neither the speed nor power of anticipation it takes to counter the shoulder roll pot-shot effectively. When they, or rather if they see the punch coming, it is by then too late to adjust. Roach appears to be prepping Pacquiao in both the anticipation of the pot-shot and the angle-based delivery of the counter-punch or punches. This requires a skill set that only Pacquiao appears to possess. Pacquiao is genius at moving his feet and body so quickly that opponents struggle to find their target. The danger for an aging Pacquiao is that with age one loses one’s legs first. His ability to so counter is, with age, increasingly problematic. Those in the know recognize that Mayweather waited to fight an aging Pacquiao with just this issue in mind.
For Pacquiao the check-hook is problematic as well unless he retains the footwork and angle-making ability that have proven so disastrous for his opponents. No one, literally no one in the history of boxing, has thrown the check hook with more precision than Mayweather. It is, if you will, his money punch. Ricky Hatton found out what a well-executed Mayweather check hook can do as he lay on the canvas disconnected from reality. Mayweather timed him perfectly. Pacquiao will need to work on spending more time on Mayweather’s right side in order to stay out of range of the check-hook. This strategy will put him in range of the pot-shot so pulling this strategy off becomes a bit problematic unless he can master then perfect side-to-side movement against a fighter known for his ability to anticipate and manage space.
For Pacquiao, the equation is rather simple. His strategy is too move at lightning speed, creating well executed angles that start with world-class footwork. He needs to throw punches in bunches. If he does not move effectively or moves in a predictable manner Mayweather, as Floyd Sr. has suggested, will time him and make it look easy. Constant, side-to-side movement that changes pace, direction and velocity interspersed with hurtful, zinging punches can disrupt an opponent’s ability to time his movement.
Currently Roach is doing mitt work that involves movement, angles, speed and punch velocity. The power will build over time but for the time being, a foundation of well executed angle-making and punching is being built. From a strictly scientific standpoint, if Pac can properly prepare in the details so delineated, then, from a technical standpoint, he will be difficult for Mayweather to beat. The wild-card will be Pac’s ability to endure the massive energy outlay this sort of frenetic movement and high volume and velocity punching will require. If Pac fails in the details of this execution or tires in the latter rounds, Mayweather is just the opponent to take advantage and turn Pacquiao’s would-be victory into a vicious defeat.
After all is said and done, it would appear that the fight will turn on one issue, and that is, whether Pacman still has young legs and the world-class endurance he is legendary for. If he does, Mayweather has little chance of coming out victorious. As it turns out, Roach’s so-called secret training strategy for Mayweather-Pacquiao, spilling out a little earlier than anticipated, adds intrigue to an already compelling fight.
Commentary By Matthew R. Fellows
Photo By: Thomas Flickr License