LOS ANGELES » Manny Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach have spent the past two months trying to solve the biggest puzzle in modern boxing.
How does anybody hit Floyd Mayweather Jr., a fighter whose perfect career is built on being nearly impossible to touch?
Pacquiao and Roach will reveal their answer in detail Saturday night in Las Vegas, when the fighters meet in the richest bout in boxing history. But clues to a strategy for breaking Mayweather’s impenetrable defense were evident in Pacquiao’s final workout at Roach’s Wild Card gym in Hollywood on Monday.
Pacquiao was a whirlwind of motion from the moment he stepped in the ring, throwing dozens of punches in combinations against Roach’s mitts and chest protector. While Roach took a much-deserved break, Pacquiao shadowboxed across the canvas, peppering the air with hundreds of rapid-fire punches long after his workout could have been over.
"You can beat Floyd Mayweather if you outwork him and never give him a chance to do the things he does best," Roach said. "Manny is punching real hard, but I want him to outscore (Mayweather) in every round. I think we can win a 12-round decision. We want to throw a ton of punches."
Pacquiao is betting on aggression, activity and punch volume to defeat Mayweather, according to the fighter and his longtime trainer. The eight-division world champion has trained fiercely to fight 12 rounds of nonstop offense against the pre-eminent defensive fighter of his generation.
"I’m not really looking for a knockout," Pacquiao said. "We’re not looking only for a knockout, but for throwing a lot of punches, and also making sure that every round, we’re ahead on points."
Pacquiao has built his remarkable career on otherworldly quickness and old-fashioned volume punching, both outmaneuvering and outworking nearly all of his opponents over the past 10 years. He has never faced a fighter with Mayweather’s skills in defense and counterpunching, but Roach believes Mayweather has never dealt with an opponent as relentless as the southpaw Filipino congressman.
"Our volume of combinations is much higher than Mayweather’s," Roach said. "Mayweather waits for you to finish your combination and throws back with the big right hand or the check hook, and we’re not going to be there for that. We’re going to be in and out, and I plan on Manny outscoring him that way."
Roach also seems confident Pacquiao can move better than Mayweather in a 12-round fight, a remarkable prediction based on observation. The trainer believes Mayweather’s legs will fade in the second half of the fight, particularly if Pacquiao chases him around the ring for the first half.
Evidence of the decline in the 38-year-old Mayweather’s legs is debatable, but Roach insists he saw it in Mayweather’s two most recent fights against Marcos Maidana. The hard-hitting Argentine seemed to land more clean shots on Mayweather than anybody in recent history through persistence and volume, although Mayweather has scoffed at the notion.
"Mayweather’s legs are shot, and you saw it twice last year," Roach said. "He’s not becoming more crowd-pleasing. He just can’t move like he used to, so he has to exchange more. As long as we can hit him and then move, Mayweather can’t touch us."
Roach has closed Pacquiao’s sparring sessions to the media, an unusual tactic for the duo. Roach said it’s because they’re working on a detailed game plan that includes "a little bit more of a surprise. Stuff he hasn’t seen before."
But Roach has echoed Pacquiao’s decision to downplay the possibility of a knockout. Mayweather has rarely even been in trouble in his career, much less stopped, while Pacquiao hasn’t stopped anyone in his last nine fights since 2009.
"I can’t count on him knocking this guy out, because he really has never been a big puncher at 147 (pounds)," Roach said. "That’s because by fight time, most of the guys he’s fighting have been 160, and they’re just bigger guys."
But Roach wants Pacquiao to be ready to fight from the opening bell, something that shouldn’t be hard with the likely frenzy in the MGM Grand Garden.
"For some reason, I have an idea that (Mayweather) is going to come out really quick on us and try to knock Manny out in the first round," Roach said. "I think he’s been watching the tape of Manny getting knocked out (by Juan Manuel Marquez). Mayweather does have that big overhand right, or that long right hand. I think he’s going to use that against us. We’re prepared for that one also.
"I think Mayweather will come right after us. I hope he does. We’re ready."