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Analysis: As these two prepare to actually face each other it’s important to note the different mindsets in handicapping this fight now, as opposed to what would have happened at 130. Pacquiao’s level of improvement from his junior lightweight days has been phenomenal. Can the same be said for Mayweather? Maybe to some degree, but 130 may represent his apex as a fighter. Not that he slipped, but it was when he was at his most breathtaking. He was in his most dominant and spectacular form and more importantly; he was tested against the best in his division. For those who now criticize Mayweather, it is because they are juxtaposing him against what he was at 130—not only a prodigious talent but also one who took on the best.

With that said, Pacquiao would still represent his most robust challenge at 130. Mayweather never fought anyone at 130 or since with Manny’s combination of skills. Even at that point, Manny had developed into a force that no junior lightweight could have an easy night’s work with. Mayweather would have his hands full and then some.

The same reasons that Mayweather backers use to justify him beating Manny at welterweight are the same things that would be at play at 130, just on a more pronounced level. I’m not so sure that right now Mayweather’s speed, mastery of angles, defense and ring IQ are enough to fend off Manny. Frankly, I have my doubts that it is. But at 130, I think it would be enough. This is the same version of Manny that lost to a post-peak Erik Morales, an almost unfathomable outcome against that caliber of opponent at this point in Manny’s career.

Pacquiao has become a study in positioning and two-handed fury. At 130, these areas had not yet been refined, as opposed to Mayweather who was already the total package. In a close bout, I see Mayweather’s advanced guile and slickness giving a younger Manny major problems. At that point in his career, Manny may have been ill-equipped to deal with not only the speed of Floyd, but his boxing skills and defense as well. Throw in the component that Floyd was also a very hard-hitting junior lightweight, and I think the evidence tips this fight into Floyd’s favor.

Manny would not be without hope in a junior lightweight clash with Mayweather, however. Knowing what he’d be up against, Manny wouldn’t come into the ring with the same mindset he had against the likes of Jorge Solis and Oscar Larios. He would be extremely focused and fired-up, and could conceivably bridge the gap in skills with pure aggression and energy. I think to some degree he would, and this bout would be an absolute classic in terms of skills and thrills.

At 130, Mayweather was already fully tapping into his deep reservoir of greatness, while Manny was still defining the parameters of his.

Result: Floyd Mayweather by majority decision.

Final Thoughts: I feel Pacquiao’s recent run has nudged him just ahead of Alexis Arguello on the All-Time Greats List. Therefore, this places him ahead of everyone on this list historically, including Mayweather. However, historical standing does not override the fact that fighters’ careers should be judged on a continuum, not as a whole. At 126 and 130, Manny was excellent and worthy of all-time placement, but hardly a shoo-in to beat the best ever at those weights.

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