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Manny Pacquiao Vs Floyd Mayweather JR: The Art of War

By Jeff Stoyanoff

“Every battle is won before it is ever fought” – Sun Tzu – The Art of War (6th Century BC)

The idea that the negotiations between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather for a proposed mega fight are simply discussions surrounding terms and conditions for the fight is probably true on one level, and yet hopelessly naïve on another. The battle of wills between the two is already well underway and it will only reach its ultimate culmination on that fateful night when the two finally meet in the ring. Ironically, the negotiations might ultimately serve to define the battle to such a degree that the fight itself will merely be a denouement to a story that has already unfolded.

Manny Pacquaio has been on a roll to say the least. His recent string of victories have been impressive on many levels. The names of the fallen opponents, the dominating nature of the wins, and the fact that he has done it against supposedly bigger and stronger men have made it a truly legendary run for Pacquiao. Originally, this fight was targeted for March of 2010. That would have certainly seemed to set up well for Pacquiao. He was fighting at a ridiculously high level and he could have simply carried that momentum into the biggest fight of his career. On top of that, he could have wrapped things up and perhaps finished off one of the greatest careers in boxing just in time to move comfortably into his new life as a unifying figure and potential agent of change in the Philippines. The timing seemed to fit perfectly for Manny and Floyd couldn’t have that. Floyd haters have no compunction in suggesting that he is scared, but I have never seen anyone suggest that he is stupid.

One can never be certain what truly motivated a behavior unless the person themselves elects to share what was behind their actions. But, let’s examine what could be an interesting method behind the madness of Mayweather’s approach. Manny was comfortable and on a roll. First, Mayweather would need to upset his comfort level by creating a little doubt, throw off his timing, and perhaps even get him a little upset.

Floyd’s Art of War

“Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting” – Sun Tzu

What would have been perfect would have been to find a way to needle Pacquiao; and that appears to be just what happened. The demand for random blood testing certainly threw a sizable wrench into the negotiations the first time around and ultimately imploded the fight. Clearly, Mayweather received the brunt of the criticism for the failure to make the fight the first time around, but surprisingly, Pacquiao received a heap of criticism as well. This was an unfortunate result in some ways as Pacquiao was branded as a potential cheater even though he has never tested positive for any banned substance in a remarkable, hall of fame career. Predictably, this angered Pacquiao who filed a lawsuit in response to the unsubstantiated accusations of the Mayweather camp. Anger is not a good thing for a fighter and Manny was, and likely still is, angry. One can never be sure how these things will turn out in the ring, but Mayweather was certainly successful in getting under Pacquiao’s skin. Sun Tzu might suggest that if your opponent is angry then one should seek to irritate him; that seems right up Mayweather’s alley.

The only thing that seems to have been able to derail Pacquiao in the ring of late is a needle. Certainly, Juan Manuel Marquez fought brilliantly over 24 rounds with Pacquiao, but even those remarkable performances netted him only a draw and a loss. Rather, it was Erik Morales who overcame Pacquiao. Morales fought brilliantly en route to a unanimous decision victory in 2005; the last loss of Pacquiao’s career. However, Pacquiao has always maintained that he felt a little weak that night after having given blood in the lead up to the fight.

More than anything, the supposed damage inflicted by the needle was an opening; just like one looks for in the ring, and Mayweather pounced. Perhaps, all the talk of PED’s was largely a smoke screen and the real goal was simply to drain a little blood from a modern day Achilles. All war is based on deception. It was a gamble for Mayweather to be sure. Pacquiao might elect to walk away rather than fight and that would cost Mayweather tens of millions. Moreover, it was going to make Mayweather look bad and scared in terms of public perception.

However, the maneuver did buy him some time which could only work in his favor given that Manny was on such a roll. And in the end, his risk wasn’t all that great because he had ample reason to believe that Manny, being the true fighter he is, would be back. Finally, as for the bad press, there is no such thing for Money Mayweather..

Pressure on Pac: Heroes, Villains, and Time

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight” – Sun Tzu

Floyd Mayweather not only doesn’t care about the fans who question the degree to which he can back up his boasting; he positively counts on them. I have a friend who hates Floyd Mayweather more than anybody on the face of the earth. He is not so delusional as to claim he’s not an excellent fighter, but nobody thinks he is more prone to overrating himself, nor is there anyone more anxious to finally see him defeated. In the last year, that friend has purchased one of his pay per view bouts and attended a theater showing of another of Mayweather’s fights. Mayweather is busy counting the money of a guy who can’t wait to see him get knocked out. I have spent the same amount of money, but at least I like him.

The point is, Mayweather derailing this fight the first time around was no big deal. Money Mayweather could take over, cultivate the dislike, remind everyone of how all roads lead to Floyd Mayweather, and remind everyone once again that nobody had beaten Floyd Mayweather and how that wasn’t going to change after this fight. All coverage is good coverage if you thrive on being the villain. In fact, Mayweather could walk away from the fight (for a time) and nothing would be endangered as the resulting vacuum could simply be filled with hype; hype that translated directly to more money when the fight finally was made.

Conversely, there is Pacquiao. Pacquiao is the quintessential people’s champion. He has made a career of fighting anyone who was willing to meet him in the ring. There can be little doubt that Pacquiao takes a lot of pride in that willingness to meet the best and it probably brings him a measure of joy to bring so much pleasure to his fans by constantly delivering great performances against the biggest names in the sport. Yet, here is potentially the biggest fight of all time and he can’t get this guy in the ring without stunts, games, and ploys. None of us know him, but it has to be bothering him a little. Pacquiao is the hero who will face and defeat any man. Isn’t it possible that Mayweather knows this? Let’s see how this waiting game is working out for him so far.

Thus far, Mayweather’s tactics have earned him the random blood testing he wanted. It appears as though a 14 day cutoff has been agreed upon, but the testing appears to be a done deal. Now, Mayweather is asking for more money. There is no word on whether that will happen, but money is typically the easiest thing to negotiate and one would suspect that Mayweather will end up with a little more than fifty percent by the time it is over. Far from imploding the fight, it appears as though every move Mayweather has made has worked; it should come as little surprise given the paths of their careers. Pacquiao wants to fight and the calculating Mayweather is using their respective roles to his advantage.

Finally, what of the timing? Pacquiao has already considered retiring and it is his mother’s fervent wish that he do just that. We all have mothers; their influence is not to be underestimated. But, Pacquiao also has begun a career in politics and genuinely seems to covet an opportunity to make a greater difference in people’s lives by carrying his influence beyond the boxing ring. And, as most fans are aware, he does like to sing and act. Factor in that he is currently fighting at a ridiculous level in the ring and why would Mayweather jump into the ring now? There are no guarantees about performance, but it would seem that time away from the ring can only hurt Pacquiao at this point. Freddie Roach has said that down time is not good for a fighter and this guy has some major stuff going on in his down time. Once again, Pacquiao is brilliant in the ring, but the time away can be a factor. It would seem that it is Pacquiao who would like to make this fight happen now and that just makes Mayweather more likely to wait. From the start, it is Mayweather who has been willing to walk away if the deal isn’t exactly to his liking and everyday it seems as though the deal becomes more and more to his liking. Once again, it appears that there is a method behind this apparent madness.

Calling Bluffs: Manny is cornering Floyd?

“The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones along its path” – Sun Tzu

”He can run, but he can’t hide” – Joe Louis

What if it doesn’t really matter what Mayweather does in the way of negotiating tactics as it will only postpone the inevitable? It seems possible that Floyd could be gaining an advantage by playing his games, but the reverse is also possible. Perhaps, Mayweather’s moves are merely a maze. Pacquiao certainly appears to be the most formidable challenger that Mayweather has ever encountered. In fact, it’s probably not even close. Sun Tzu wrote that even the best strategy can be undone by poor tactics and it could be argued that Mayweather simply getting in the ring with Pacquiao is a bad enough move tactically to undo all of his pre-fight maneuvering. Is this what the Pacquiao camp is counting on? After Mayweather’s recent win over Shane Mosley, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach was more confident than ever that Pacquiao would win big against Mayweather. Roach felt that Mayweather had lost some of his vaunted ability to move in the ring and appeared more stationary than ever. That would certainly seem to set up well for one of the most fearsome offensive fighters in the history of boxing in Manny Pacquiao.

There is so much money to be made that Pacquiao can afford to give away a round or two in the negotiations in order to make the fight. In the end, if it is Pacquiao who is indeed possessed of the superior firepower in the ring then it is quite a solid strategy to lure his weaker opponent into a fight by giving some ground. If Mayweather is like Pacquiao’s previous opponents then he too might be facing a superior force. The only sound move then would be, in the language of Sun Tzu, to evade him; Mayweather may not have that option. In that case, it will ironically have been Pacquiao who patiently lured his clever foe into the trap that spells his ultimate demise.

The Fight: The Continuation of Negotiations by Other Means

“What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.” – Sun Tzu

“The general who is skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven.” – Sun Tzu

Ultimately, this fight will say a tremendous amount about both men. The winner will almost certainly be widely regarded as the best fighter of his generation regardless of weight. The loser will have to accept the consolation prize of being a truly great fighter and a surefire hall of famer; not too bad. But, the stakes are incredibly high as both men seem to represent something greater. Their public personas are practically mirror opposites and their styles in the ring have the same beautiful dichotomy. Pacquiao will inevitably press the attack as he always has relying on a lethal mix of sharply honed and devastating boxing skills with a truly god given blend of natural speed and power. Mayweather on the other hand will do what he has always done. He will rely on his own remarkable god given speed and strength, while using an almost otherworldly calm and discipline to make adjustments and set traps for his unsuspecting foe.

Yet, what is fascinating is that the dynamic that will ultimately play out in the ring has already played out in the negotiations for the fight. Mayweather has already found ways to lure Pacquiao into the concessions he was looking for while he simultaneously worked the timing of the event to suit his purposes. Has he already set the trap that will prove to be Pacquiao’s undoing? Has he angered him with the insinuations, weakened him by taking his blood, and distracted him by making him wait? Of course, Pacquiao might have been all to happy to give a little, perhaps feigning discontent all the while knowing that once he got him in the ring, Floyd Mayweather would at last have nowhere to hide from his devastating arsenal. Has Pacquiao been finessed into giving too much ground? Or, has Floyd finally been cornered by a superior fighter who saw through his moves and called his bluff?

The fighters are obviously evenly matched when it comes to physical skills. Naturally, it seems logical that the fight might then be decided by mental and emotional factors. Perhaps, things like: fear and doubt, courage and determination, will ultimately tell the tale. If that is the case, then the die has likely already been cast. Boxing, more than any other sport, is a window into the human condition. It would seem that such a contest would ultimately be decided by speed and power and fundamentals, but that is so often not the case. Quite often, it is decided by things that are hidden from most, but certainly just as real. The difference is so small, all of which makes the tiniest shift in doubt and belief so very critical. The fight has most certainly already started.

The fight itself will be little more than a fantastic spectacle for the pleasure of the masses because one man will have already imposed his will on the other in the complex battle of wit and will in the lead up to the bout. Boxing fans can never know, only the two men will have a sense of the simple yet unavoidable truth before that fateful night; that when the opening bell rings, one fighter will have already won.

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