Peyton Manning was the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. LeBron James made "The Decision" to play for the Miami Heat. Tiger Woods had 14 majors to his name. And after two years of back-and-forth discussions, we were finally going to find out who the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer was when Floyd Mayweather fought Manny Pacquiao.
Sometimes things change like they did for Manning and James, sometimes they stay the same, as they did for Woods, and sometimes they take just a little bit longer, give or take five years, in the case of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. We're finally on the cusp of seeing the mega-fight between the two biggest boxers in the sport. Mayweather is the betting favorite while Pacquiao is the crowd favorite. That probably wouldn't have changed in 2010, but what would have happened inside the ring?
While Mayweather was in retirement after his wins over Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, Pacquiao took on the same challenges in 2008 and 2009. Pacquiao ran through De La Hoya as he quit on the stool after the eighth round and then pounded Hatton around the ring for two rounds before a one-punch knockout put the Brit down and out on the mat. Pacquiao landed 73 of 127 punches (57 percent), according to CompuBox.
Mayweather came out of retirement to fight Juan Manuel Marquez on Sept. 19, 2009 at the MGM Grand, and there was no ring rust. After 12 rounds, the judges scored a unanimous decision for Mayweather (120-107, 119-108, 118-109). According to CompuBox, Mayweather landed 290 punches, which is the most landed by him in any of his fights tracked by CompuBox. In the fight, Mayweather worked the left side of Marquez's head and body, landing 222 of 290 punches there (76.6 percent), according to ESPN Stats and Information. Mayweather also employed a strategy not seen in the Hatton and De La Hoya fights: the use of his jab. Of Mayweather's 493 total punches thrown, 316 were jabs (64 percent). According to CompuBox, Mayweather averaged 15 jabs landed per round, including double digits in 11 of 12 rounds.
Less than a month later, Pacquiao fought Miguel Cotto for the WBO welterweight title in November 2009. The bout was even over the first couple of rounds before Pacquiao landed a right hook that sent Cotto to the mat in the third round. One round later, Cotto went down again from a left hand. From that point on, Pacquiao dominated the remainder of the fight, averaging 29 landed punches per round (24 power) in Rounds 4-12 to keep Cotto out of the fight. According to CompuBox, Pacquiao landed 43 percent of the total punches (336 of 780) and 49 percent of the power punches (276 of 560) in the fight en route to a TKO victory in the 12th and final round to win the WBO welterweight title for the first time.
The negotiations began for a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in late 2009 and into 2010, but the fight did not become a reality due to Mayweather's strict desire to have Olympic style drug testing before the fight. With no deal in place, both fighters moved on to new opponents: Pacquiao would fight Joshua Clottey in March 2010 and Mayweather would fight Shane Mosley in May 2010.
Due to Clottey's style, Pacquiao increased his punch output with a career-high 1,231 punches thrown, including seven rounds in which he threw over 100 punches according to CompuBox. Pacquiao also attacked his opponent to the body, landing 108 of 246 (44 percent) punches, according to ESPN Stats and Information. After 12 rounds, Pacquiao landed just 20 percent of his punches according to CompuBox, but he landed the more effective punches and had more output than Clottey to win a unanimous decision (120-108, 119-109, 119-109).
In the Mayweather-Mosley fight, "Money" faced a fighter that many thought had the speed and power to compete. Over the first two rounds, Mosley outlanded Mayweather 29-18 and won Round 2 on the judges' scorecards. But Mayweather adapted and made Mosley miss for the remainder of the fight. According to CompuBox, Mosley landed double-digit punches in just one more round of the fight and finished 92 of 452 (20.4 percent) while Mayweather landed 208 of 477 (43.6 percent), according to CompuBox, in winning a unanimous decision (119-109, 119-109, 118-110). Throughout the rest of 2010, fans and boxing pundits clamored for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight to finally happen, but due to failed contract negotiations, we now have the fight in 2015 and are left to wonder what would've happened.
For Pacquiao, he landed an average of 25.9 punches per round based on his CompuBox numbers from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, Pacquiao's career high in punches thrown came in the Clottey fight, and in his next fight against Antonio Margarito, he also threw more than 1,000 punches. He landed an average of 350 punches for both of those fights. For Mayweather, he faced two fighters that just couldn't hit him. According to CompuBox, Marquez landed only 12 percent of punches against Mayweather, while Mosley was slightly better at 20 percent. Both fighters landed fewer than 100 punches (69 for Marquez, 92 for Mosley).
Which begs the question: Would we have seen the same fight in 2010 that we are going to see on Saturday? According to the numbers, it would be the hard-punching, high-output style of Pacquiao trying to hit the ever-elusive, counterpunching Mayweather. They may be older, but there's no doubt we're seeing the two best fighters on the planet just like we would've seen in 2010.