The August 21 welterweight battle of Manny Pacquiao vs. Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. is still more than two months away, but the anticipation is already intense.
The WBC/IBF 147 lb. champ from Texas, Spence, is the early betting favorite with odds ranging from -300 to -350 and will enter the ring eleven years younger than Pacquiao. He’s also regarded as the fresher, stronger, and naturally bigger fighter of the two.
Pacquiao, however, is Pacquiao. The legendary Filipino icon is regarded as an 8-division world champ and, may or may not bring with him the WBA welterweight title that was initially taken from him due to his inactivity. Although the betting underdog at about +250, most knowledgeable boxing people regard him as a very live underdog.
So, with the buzz already loud, here’s a look at both fighters, their strengths and weaknesses, and how this big upcoming battle may play out.
The 26-year veteran is now, what he’s been throughout most of his legendary run. Pacquiao is awkwardness wrapped in unorthodoxy. From his extreme southpaw stance to his herky-jerky ring movements to his measured aggression, backed by quick hands and a wide, varied arsenal of offensive weapons, he’s made his fame turning elite-level fighters into tentative pickers and pawers.
Although clearly past his prime at 42 years of age, Pacquiao offsets the years of wear on his body by coming into each fight in impeccable physical condition and with extreme motivation.
Despite being in great shape for a 42-year-old fighter, he’s still 42 and carries with him the realities of 26 years as a pro who’s been in many, many battles.
A somewhat slowed-down Manny has done less counter-striking at frustrated foes in recent years. No longer 100% confident in his ability to get in, get off, and get out without taking return fire, he now stays on the outside more and rarely takes the risk of planting his feet for something big. His awkwardness and the remains of his natural athletic ability have been enough to see him past all but Floyd Mayweather in recent years and smart matchmaking has also been to his benefit.
Spence is a physically strong, technically-sound southpaw with an offensive mindset and supreme confidence in his abilities.
He establishes pace and space in his bouts with a thudding left jab that also works to set up a heavy right hook and follow-up left. He also works the body especially well. His nearly flawless technique and his ability to get leverage on every shot in his repertoire, combined with his confidence and focus, make him an outstanding offensive fighter.
“The Truth” has shown some vulnerability to those who pressure him, rush him, and make him fight outside of his comfort zone. Against those challenges, he has sometimes gone slightly off-script to beat them at their own game.
There’s also the concern whether his horrific car crash in the fall of 2019 and just one fight since then have put him in a spot where he’ll never quite be at his best again.
On paper, Spence has most of the physical advantages and one could argue that career momentum is 100% in his favor. But Pacquiao is the type of fighter who could throw Spence off his game and expose some of his few weaknesses.
If Manny can use his legs, potshot from varying angles, and generally keep Spence from getting too comfortable, he has a solid chance of picking apart the younger fighter and taking the win.
Spence’s jab and raw strength will be hard for a past-prime Pacquiao to deal with, though. The Desoto, Texas native is bolder and stronger than Keith Thurman, who Pacquiao outpointed in his last fight, and will press Manny like nobody has in recent years.
There is a path to victory for Pacquiao, but he’s going to have to walk through considerable fire to get there. The question is whether he can take what Spence will dish out. Most are assuming that he can’t.