Manny Pacquiao vs Kostya Tszyu: An Expert Trainer's Analysis
Manny Pacquiao vs Kostya Tszyu: Throughout boxing's rich history, the idea of mythical match-ups and retired heroes of different eras facing each other at their respective best has always captured the imagination of the die-hard fight fan.
For decades, fans of the Sweet Science have been passionately debating whose favorites would ultimately be victorious in a seemingly never ending barber-shop type of discussion.
These fervent disagreements are only part of what makes the sport of boxing so special in relation to all other national and global pastimes. The fabled fights of legends past always will excite the minds of the most loyal and rabid fight fans.
In current times, these hypothetical fight arguments are taking place on internet forums rather than the popular "gentlemen" establishments of yesteryear. Although the venues have changed, the disputes and debates remain consistent.
How would two of the more dominant fighters of their respective eras and weight classes, which just missed a monumental match-up of epic proportions by a couple of years, have ultimately sized up in the squared circle?
Who would eventually win if former "King" of the Junior Welterweight division and 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Kostya Tszyu faced current eight division world champion and pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao in a mythical "prime versus prime" dream fight?
Expert trainer and experienced boxing mentor James Gogue attempts to shed some light on this tremendous head to head pairing.
"This is a great virtual match-up, which feature two of the best closers of their respective eras," states the 29 year veteran coach. "If either Manny or Kostya have their opponents hurt, they are taking them out...end of story. Two brutal punchers and mentally strong combatants like Pacquiao and Tszyu would have been an explosive and awe inspiring fight."
To begin sizing up the two legendary fighters, Gogue takes a look at the brief history and ring attributes of "King" Kostya Tszyu.
"In his prime, Kostya Tszyu was a stone-cold killer and one of the hardest 'pound for pound' punchers of his era. He was an ex-soldier for the Soviet Union and a very hardened man physically and mentally."
"In 1991, at the World Amateur Championships in Sydney, Australia, Tszyu became a star by winning the tournament and defeating the late, great Vernon Forrest in the finals of the men's 140 pound weight division. After becoming the best Junior Welterweight amateur in the world, he caught the eye of the greatest promoter in the history of Australian boxing, the late Bill Mordey."
"Shortly after signing a promotional agreement with Mordey, he relocated to Australia and became a citizen, while beginning a very lucrative and successful professional fight career down under."
"Tszyu had crunching force in both fists and was blessed with world class power. He was a true killer in the ring and had a merciless mean streak when putting away his opponents. His right hand was a neutralizer and a game changer. King Kostya could put any opponent's lights out with the crack of one straight right hand at anytime during a fight. He maintained his power throughout the entire bout and always posed a knock-out threat in any round while facing any opponent."
Pictured: Kostya Tszyu
"Kostya fought in the ex-Soviet straight-up style; and if any opponent would stand directly in his line of fire, he would get stopped with the right hand...without question. He was a solid physical fighter who had all the weapons to destroy his opponents; devastating left hook to the body, left hook to the jaw, followed by that straight right hand missile."
"Tszyu also had great instincts. He was very intelligent and would set up the right hand with craft and deception. He never wasted punches and would use a brilliant touch jab to occupy his opponent while setting up his powerful right hand. As soon as he had his opponent's attention with the touch jab and the left hook to the body, he would crack them with the straight right hand and they would instantaneously be hurt...badly."
"When he had his opponents hurt, he would stay calm and composed to set up his final blow masterfully. He always fought with an impressive economy of punches and knew how to close on an opponent without swarming and wasting energy. He was a calculated machine that was very difficult to rattle throughout the course of the fight."
"Although Kostya Tszyu had all of the offensive ability to win in any fight, he had defensive deficiencies due to his straight up posture in the ring. Just like most fighters who use the Eastern European fight style, Tszyu did not use enough head movement and did not like to fight backing up."
"His defensive vulnerability was exposed on May 31st, 1997, when he faced a very strong mental ring veteran in Vince Phillips. Trained by veteran trainer Kenny Adams, the Florida native marched forward and pushed Tzsyu back throughout the entire championship bout. Phillips never backed up and was the first man to stand up to Kostya Tszyu's ferocious power. The American brawler stood in the pocket and destroyed Tszyu by cracking him with his own big right hand."
Pictured: Kostya Tszyu
"Although Tszyu had the offensive prowess to put any fighter's lights out, it is hard to ignore his dependency on pressing the bout and his lack of head movement which always placed him the line of fire of an opposing fighter's punch."
While Gogue impressively sizes up the "Thunder from Down Under", the expert fight trainer states that his mythical opponent needs no introduction to the active die-hard and casual fight fans.
"Manny Pacquiao is a global phenomenon and the biggest star in boxing," states James Gogue. "People who aren't even fans of the sport know who the Pac-Man is. So any contest that Pacquiao is involved with is going to be a huge event, regardless of who his opponent is."
"But, Manny Pacquiao didn't become the cultural icon that he is today until he expanded his talents through the tutelage of trainer Freddie Roach and began dominating much larger fighters. Because it's difficult to say which version of Pacquiao is actually his 'prime', for argument's sake we will use the version of Manny Pacquiao who fought at 140 pounds and faced the only mutual opponent between the two fighters; British fan favorite Ricky Hatton."
"Manny Pacquiao did an unbelievable job of dismantling Hatton on May 2nd, 2009, and Freddie Roach did a marvelous job of improving three vital aspects of the Filipino icon's fight game to prepare him for that significant fight."
"The area in which Manny improved most was his overall footwork. Pacquiao now has the ability to quickly go in and out of an opponent's defense at angles, and he shifts laterally so quickly after the fires off a 3 or 4 punch combination that his opponent can't fire off a counter effectively."
"In his fight against Hatton, Manny showed amazing footwork. His ability to change directions during that bout so quickly was uncanny. He also seemingly had the ability to multi-task on the inside and duck out of harm's way while firing off his own arsenal of punches."
"The second variable that was most improved in Manny's fight game was the overall strength in Manny Pacquiao's lead right hand. Ten years ago, Pacquiao didn't work behind an effective jab or throw a lead right hook. He was solely dependent upon his straight left hand to win fights."
"Against Hatton, Manny Pacquiao used a solid jab and implemented a masterful counter right hook many times throughout that bout. He also threw lethal right hooks to the body as well as beautiful right uppercuts which ultimately set up the left hand bomb that put Ricky's lights out at the end of the second round. He never saw the left hand coming."
"The third area which was most improved was his punch arsenal and combination punching on the inside. It used to be that Pacquaio only had one punch or the straight one-two at best. During the fight with Hatton, he threw a wide variety of combination punches that kept Ricky off balance."
"Lead left hand, right hook, left uppercut, and then Manny will pivot while shoving his opponent with his last punch off to the side to keep him out of position to counter effectively. His combinations are so creative and they come at opponents from such odd angles. He mixes his arsenal up extremely well and isn't just doing the same thing all the time. It's almost impossible to anticipate."
Even though the experienced fight trainer views a prime Manny Pacquiao as an almost insurmountable task for any fighter, James Gogue recognizes that a fighter with the power of Kostya Tszyu is always in any fight.
"For Kostya Tszyu to win this mythical match-up, he would have to move his upper body more often and couldn't simply leave himself in Pacquiao's line of fire," professes the elite level trainer. "If he doesn't use head movement while fighting at angles, he would eventually get knocked out like he did against Ricky Hatton and Vince Phillips."
"One thing Tszyu would have to do is cut off the ring effectively to neutralize Manny's lateral movement. He would have to use a lot of touch jabs to control distance and also control the Filipino speedster's movement. If he doesn't use the touch jab or utilize head movement, Tszyu could walk in naked and get destroyed coming in with Manny's various arsenal of explosive combinations."
"He should intelligently work his way inside and throw his short, explosive right hands. Set up the straight right with intelligent left hooks to the body and his beautiful touch jabs from the outside to mid-range. When Pacquiao is in range, explode with his straight right hand bomb and follow it up with his murderous left hook."
"Also, Manny Pacquiao would definitely have the speed advantage in this match-up; so when Manny commits to throwing his punches, Tszyu would not be able to match speed with the Pac-man and would be forced to throw with him...just like JMM did in his previous third fight with Manny. When Pac throws punches, he's in Tszyu's range as well. So Tszyu would be forced to stand in the pocket and let his right hand go while Manny was moving in and letting his hands go."
Pictured: Manny Pacquiao vs Miguel Cotto Fight Poster
"Tszyu was the consummate 'home run hitter' in boxing. If he could time Manny Pacquiao effectively and catch him with one big shot while he's coming in, he could hurt him and possibly end the fight."
"Bottom line is that Kostya Tszyu's power is a game changer and even if Manny was controlling the fight and winning the early to mid rounds, Tszyu always possessed the power to knock anyone out and end the fight with one brilliant right hand missile. He was one of the best closers in the fight game during his era and could put Manny's lights out if he connected with just one crushing right hand."
While the veteran fight trainer specifically outlines the dangers in fighting an offensive force like King Kostya, Gogue wants to remind fans of the Aussie terror how explosive and powerful Pacquiao truly is
"For Manny Pacquiao to win this amazing fight, Manny would have to fight a flawless bout and not have any mental or physical lapses throughout the contest. He would have to fight with great footwork and fight Tszyu at angles effectively. Pacquiao would have to get in and get out while firing off combinations and then stepping to the side to leave Tszyu out of position to counter effectively."
"If Pacquiao can use effective lateral movement while staying away from Tszyu's powerful right hand and consistently make Kostya fire his right hand across his body while leaving him out of position and susceptible for a right hook, straight left combination, Manny Pacquiao could win the fight and possibly stop Kostya Tszyu in the mid to late rounds."
"But, Pacquiao would have to be supremely conditioned in this fight and could not lie on the ropes as he did against Ricky Hatton during the early parts of the fight. Manny would have to continue moving throughout the entire bout and would only be able to remain stationary when he was firing off shots from angles, and that would have to be for a split second."
"Kostya Tszyu had a great chin, but Manny Pacquiao also has devastating power with his speed and precision punching. He too can put anyone's lights out with one big punch, as he displayed against Junior Welterweight Ricky Hatton."
As James Gogue has described, both fighters have world class power and can easily turn this mythical bout with one big punch. But, the experienced fight strategist sees a clear cut victor standing at the end of this true clash of titans.
"This would be a great, great fight of epic proportions," claims James Gogue. "But, the biggest difference between the two fighters is the punch volume and footwork. Pacquiao has the advantages when analyzing those two crucial variables and I believe would ultimately prove to be too much for Kostya Tszyu."
"I truly believe that the version of Manny Pacquiao who stopped Ricky Hatton in two rounds would eventually stop the rendition of Kostya Tszyu who brutally KO'd Sharmba Mitchell and Zab Judah in dramatic fashion."
"It would be a brilliant but brutal chess match. Although Pac-man would have to dig deep and keep his composure for three minutes of every round, I believe that Manny Pacquiao would knock out Kostya Tszyu in the tenth or eleventh round of their epic battle.