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Why this version of Manny Pacquiao could be the best we’ve seen in years

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Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

While it’s tantalizing to be swayed by the overall track record of one fighter or another, any honest analysis of a match-up such as this weekend’s Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao clash must be based more on recent form. The Manny Pacquiao we’ve seen in the past few years is not the dynamo of 2009; neither is this latest incarnation of Floyd Mayweather the boxer-puncher of his youth.

The relative difference between the two and how far they’ve come, or how far they’ve fallen, is the major reason why most experts are siding with “Money” on fight night. Yet, additional circumstances must be sometimes be weighed as well.

In this case, it’s important to keep in mind that the version of Manny Pacquiao we see at the MGM Grand on May 2nd is likely to be the very best we’ve seen in years.

It’s no secret that Pacquiao’s full attention hasn’t always been kept strictly on the sweet science. It’s something that trainer Freddie Roach has lamented for so long that you’re probably more used to hearing the opposite, as in, “This time, Manny showed up to camp the best he’s been in years. No really, I swear it this time.” It’s been a common refrain from Roach as of late, and it followed the common refrain of well geez, it’d be nice if Pacquiao was a bit more full-time into this.

For this fight though, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that politics, personal interests and who knows what else have been cast aside as much as possible by Pacquiao. That leaves room for a potential marked improvement in Pacquiao’s performance.

Not to mention that any wavering that we’ve seen in Pacquiao’s killer instinct must be abolished for his mindset in this match. Mr. Nice Guy is absolutely out to prove a point to Mayweather, to fans, to himself, to everyone.

Compare that to Mayweather, who’s largely built his career and legacy and reputation on always being at his physical best, always at his most focused. The entourage and distractions and everything else have all always been there for Mayweather, but he still managed to work at full speed in and out of the gym. He walks around at his fighting weight, he goes on his late night runs — “Hard work, dedication” — we get it.

While that admirable year-round, two-decade-long focus from Mayweather is what has gotten him here, it also lets us know exactly what we’ll see when he climbs through those ropes. There’s not room for a better Mayweather, because we’ve been seeing him each time out already.

Therefore, while the impression any reasonable spectator must have heading into this event is that Mayweather is simply the better fighter, right now, a question mark or an asterisk emerges from the captivating potential that Pacquiao has taken a leap forward with his own form. Or perhaps even more tantalizingly intriguing, a step back, to the destructive whirlwind we watched dispose of Miguel Cotto in 2009, starting the Mayweather-Pacquiao frenzy to begin with all of those years ago.

That’s something which should have Pacquiao fans feeling at least a bit optimistic as the final days of waiting for this mega-fight tick away.

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