We can't predict what will happen Saturday in Las Vegas, but a review of several key fights in Manny Pacquiao's career may hint at how he'll match up against Shane Mosley.
1. Juan Manuel Marquez I
When: May 8, 2004, Las Vegas
What it means: Pacquiao's intense first fight with Marquez offers two distinct lessons for both Pacquiao and his opponents. Halfway through Round 1, Marquez landed a left hook that rattled Pacquiao, then stood back to admire the result. Pacquiao sprung back, feinted, threw a jab and decked Marquez with a left. Marquez came back proudly -- and got knocked down two more times within a minute. Lesson No. 1: Don't rush in on Pacquiao. No. 2: Don't sleep on him for a moment.
Then Marquez smartened up. By Round 3, he was ducking under Pacquiao's furious left and countering brilliantly with overhand rights and left hooks. The fight went back and forth after that. Marquez cracked Pacquiao with a lead right to the chin in the sixth. Pacquiao hammered Marquez with lefts in the ninth. It ended as a draw. A lesson for Pacquiao: What works in Round 1 might not work later against a veteran fighter (like Mosley). And another for Manny's opponents: Yes, you can be blasted to bits by Pacquiao, get up and live to tell about it.
2. Erik Morales I
When: March 19, 2005, Las Vegas
Result: Morales by decision in 12
What it means: Morales is the only man ever to beat Pacquiao by decision, and video of this war is must-see TV for Mosley, just as Morales himself had studied tape of Pacquiao's fights with Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera. Morales saw something and decided on a strategy of returning Pacquiao's firebombs immediately, like email sent to a bad address.
So the fight played out like a series of alternating waves: Pacquiao would rush in, driving Morales to the ropes, and Morales would return the favor, punching Pacquiao back to where he started. Morales managed to be fearless without being reckless. By Round 5, Pacquiao was taking it worse and was cut badly. By Round 6, it already seemed he needed a knockout. Morales was huge in the 11th. Pacquiao took an epic 12th, but it was too late. The judges all had it 115-113 for Morales. This fight provides a blueprint for future Pacquiao challengers. Whether a 39-year-old Mosley can channel a 28-year-old Morales to execute it is another question.
3. Ricky Hatton
When: May 2, 2009, Las Vegas
Result: Pacquiao by KO in 2
What it means: Here is a cautionary tale for all Pacquiao opponents, not only in that it was a failure to start out right but also showed a failure to adapt. Hatton was simply doing what had always worked for him before -- bulling forward, grabbing, trying to rip body shots. Not this time. He was floored twice in Round 1 as he waded into scalding water without carefully testing the temperature first. The first knockdown was on a heat-seeking Pacquiao right hook to which Hatton left himself wide open, standing there thinking about cocking his arm for his own left hook.
By the end of the first round, Hatton was blitzed more badly than Marquez had been by Pacquiao in their first three minutes. Unlike Marquez, though, Hatton didn't adjust. He didn't start moving his head or ducking or working from angles. He did what he knew. He bulled forward more and traded shots. With less than 10 seconds remaining in Round 2, Pacquiao fired a straight left to Hatton's chin that spun him quickly to the canvas, flat on his back and out for good. He hasn't fought since.
There wasn't much for Pacquiao to learn from this short exercise, but opponents got an eyeful of exactly how not to behave with Pacquiao across the ring. Mosley needs to do everything he can to avoid being such an easy target.
4. Miguel Cotto
When: Nov. 14, 2009, Las Vegas
Result:Pacquiao by TKO in 12
What it means: When two fighters are about to meet, it can be useful to examine common opponents. Pacquiao and Mosley have three. They both thrashed Antonio Margarito, so that's a wash. Their experiences against Oscar De La Hoya aren't very comparable. Pacquiao got a 35-year-old Oscar in his final fight, while Mosley first fought a hearty 27-year-old De La Hoya.
That leaves Cotto, who fought Mosley and Pacquiao within a two-year span. In the interim, Cotto had been softened up -- pummeled by the possibly plaster-handed Margarito -- so Pacquiao likely got an easier version, and did better. But Cotto may be the closest thing to Mosley that Pacquiao has fought and the closest thing to Pacquiao that Mosley has fought, so the comparison is worth a closer look.
Cotto's early strategy against Pacquiao was a winning one, however briefly it lasted. Cotto came out with his hands up and disciplined, moving his head and body and jabbing rigorously. (Cotto landed more jabs in the fight than Pacquiao.) Then it was Pacquiao who adjusted. He started moving, flashing his speed and attacking Cotto from angles. In Round 3, he floored Cotto with a chopping flurry. Cotto drove Pacquiao's back to the ropes in Round 4, but Pacquiao sprung back to knock down Cotto, and his speed and power soon took control en route to a final-round TKO.
It's hard to imagine anyone running such circles around Mosley, who has never been stopped. But here we saw Pacquiao, after years with trainer Freddie Roach, showing new maturity, adapting to overwhelm a game champion -- one who had outpointed Mosley -- who had a plan. Their respective results versus Cotto are as good a forecast for the upcoming fight as anything out there.
Don Steinberg, a winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America's award for best column in 2005, covers boxing for The Philadelphia Inquirer.