One of the major things working to a veteran fighter’s advantage against a younger foe is an edge in “been there, done that” experience.
In the case of the Manny Pacquiao-Errol Spence Jr. contest on August 21, the 31-year-old Spence’s 27 professional fights and 6 world title fights pale in comparison to the 42-year-old Pacquiao’s 71 pro contests and 23 world title bouts. The Filipino icon also has nearly two decades in the limelight as one of the sport’s biggest stars. Heck, when Pacquiao began his pro career, 26 years ago, Spence was still in kindergarten.
So, while the experts can argue physical attributes and age, there’s no arguing about Pacquiao’s edge in experience.
And, hand in hand with experience, comes an edge in the psych wars that take place, to one extent or another, in every fight. This high-stakes bout is no different. As a matter of fact, in correlation with the perceived risk of this bout, Team Pacquiao has seemed more intent on getting into the head of the younger IBF/WBC welterweight champ.
“I think it’s the right fight for him now,” Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach told Boxingscene. “I think his last opponent [Thurman] is actually better than Spence. I’ve been studying [Spence’s] tapes and so forth and going through what he does well and what he doesn’t do well. And I think it’s a good fight for Manny. I like the fight a lot.”
Long-time Pacquiao coach Justin Fortune also had some words for the media, indirectly aimed at Manny’s 11-years-younger foe.
“It’s a good fight. Spence is a hell of a fighter, but Pacquiao is on a different level,” Fortune told Esnews. “[but]Pacquiao is a different animal.
“I don’t think he (Spence) is as strong as Pacquiao. He’s strong, but he’s not Manny-strong. And I’m sure as (expletive) he ain’t Manny-fast. Manny is  but he is still incredibly fast.
“[The fight] ends in a stoppage. It’s the volume of Pacquiao’s punches and the ferocity and the speed and the power. [Errol] won’t lay down but he’s going to take a beating. He’ll dish out as much as he gets. Pacquiao has been there before.”
Even Pacquiao, himself, got into the psych war game during the first Pacquiao-Spence press conference.
“Errol don’t need to have advice from Mayweather,” Pacquiao interjected when it came up that Floyd Mayweather had offered to tutor Spence for this upcoming bout. “I believe Errol is better than Mayweather. He’s a [better] fighter than Mayweather…He could teach Mayweather how to fight toe-to-toe.”
All of this is not as simple as just trainers and coaches and Manny speaking to media when asked about Spence and the fight. You can be sure that all of this has been specifically placed for the purpose of altering Spence’s state of mind.
The Desoto, Texas native is hardly a novice or newbie in the world of big-time boxing, but this upcoming Pacquiao clash will be his first true blockbuster. It’ll also be a pressure cooker of an event with huge implications for his career. An impressive win will take him to the next level of fame, respect, and future earning potential. A loss sets him back, big time.
So, with so much on the line, what better time to slip into Spence’s head?
Spence, however, is at least somewhat aware of Pacquiao’s underrated psych game.
“Manny Pacquiao is the kind of guy that can lull you to sleep,” Spence said at the first Pacquiao-Spence press conference. “He’ll give you a lot of compliments, gratitude and things like that. Then as soon as the bell rings, he’s jumping all on you.”
Does this mean that Spence is tuning all the peripheral stuff out when it comes to this fight or does it mean that Team Pacquiao is already in his head? We’ll find out for ourselves on August 21.