With EA Sports rolling out a "Fight Night" video simulation featuring Manny Pacquiao against a pound-for-pound great each day this week, we asked a panel of ESPN boxing experts to weigh in on the results. Here's what they had to say:
Manny Pacquiao versus Roberto Duran
Dan Rafael: I get asked a lot by the Fight Freaks which fantasy fight in boxing history I would want to see most. One of them is certainly Manny Pacquiao-Roberto Duran, be it at lightweight or welterweight.
Duran, widely considered the greatest lightweight champion in history, later in his career jumped up to welterweight, had a few fights and then defeated Sugar Ray Leonard to win the title in their first meeting. He was a hard-charging fighter who could box, brawl and wanted to rip off the head of his opponent. He was the baddest of the bad. Pacquiao's stay at lightweight was brief -- just one fight in 2008 against David Diaz, when PacMan cherry-picked a belt. After that, Pacquiao, another ultra-exciting fighter, moved up to welterweight, where he currently holds a title.
Whatever might happen in a fight between Pacquiao and Duran, you can take one thing to the bank: It would be a hellacious war for as long as it lasted. Duran is a great puncher. Pacquiao is also a hard hitter. They are both fast. They both disdain defense to a degree. The lightweight (and even heavier) version of Pacquiao used both hands. I think, eventually, Duran's relentless pressure, power and great chin would carry the day and he would stop Pacquiao late, or win a close decision in an all-time great fight between two all-time greats. I know one other thing: I would really enjoy matching them on the video game.
Kieran Mulvaney: Nobody ever bounced Roberto Duran off the canvas over and over the way Pacquiao does against Duran in the sim. Not until his 83rd fight was Duran knocked out, and that was by Thomas Hearns at junior middleweight.
At lightweight, though, Duran was a beast. He lost only once in his first 73 contests, and that defeat was emphatically avenged. This fight would be a war: Duran would be there for Pacquiao to hit, but he'd keep coming, keep marching through Pacquiao's bombs, and he would hit Manny everywhere he could be hit, legally or otherwise. Pacquiao would become gradually discouraged and beaten down, and Duran would win a late TKO.
Joe Tessitore: It's a sensational matchup. By far the most realistic pairing of stars from different eras. A prime 1970s Duran as a lightweight versus a prime Pacquiao at or around 135 pounds is a dream fight with one common thread: relentless attacks. It would be an even fight, with Duran giving Manny a heavy dose of his own style and perhaps outboxing him in between the brutal exchanges.
Physically, Pacquiao is faster than Duran, but Duran was stronger and sturdier. I think either guy could win a close decision in what would be a violent, furious full-distance fight.
Brian Kenny: As much as I love Pacquaio, the only guy near his own size in the simulation is Duran. That fight would be a war, but I think we get caught up in "no mas" too much. I say it's a close decision either way.
Pacquiao versus Bernard Hopkins (Thursday)
Pacquiao versus Shane Mosley (Friday)
Manny Pacquiao versus Bernard Hopkins
Rafael: Obviously the size difference between Manny Pacquiao and Bernard Hopkins, a career middleweight and light heavyweigh, is vast. But if you can imagine Hopkins as a welterweight against pound-for-pound king Pacquiao, it's a fascinating fight.
Pacquiao has the speed and power. Hopkins would be the more polished, technical fighter and a guy with perhaps just a tad more ring smarts. Hopkins is at his best when he controls the pace of the fight. For years, Hopkins has fought only in spurts, just long enough to steal rounds away in many cases. His lack of punch output, however, is what cost him the middleweight title against Jermain Taylor and was a big part of his losing the light heavyweight crown to Joe Calzaghe.
Pacquiao, however, is all about pressure, relentlessness and volume punching. If they ever fought, I could see Hopkins boxing and moving and trying to slow down the pace of the fight in the early going and perhaps putting some rounds in the bank. But Pacquiao never slows down. His punch output is ridiculous, as is his speed. I think Pacquiao would simply be busier and flashier with his punches -- and that would resonate with the judges. Hopkins has an all-time great chin, so I don't see Pacquiao taking him out. I'll call it Pacquiao by decision in a fight that Hopkins would try to make tactical while Pacquiao kept the pressure on.
Mulvaney: Hopkins is tall for a middleweight; Pacquiao is small for a welterweight. Pacquiao loves to fight coming forward; Hopkins loves opponents who fight coming forward. Hopkins also has an uncanny ability to hypnotize opponents, slowing them down to his pace and steering them into positions that suit him. Let's be generous and assume this is the older, slower Hopkins who fights for, at most, one minute of every round; even so, Hopkins is just too big and multi-faceted. After starting slowly while he sizes up his opponent and falling behind to Pacquiao's early energy, the canny veteran draws the sting from the Filipino's tail, smothering and neutralizing him and ultimately beating him up over the final two-thirds of the contest to coast to a unanimous decision.
Tessitore: I agree that PacMan would end up on the canvas at some point against Hopkins. A prime Hopkins is too big and too physical for Manny. Pacquiao wouldn't find Hopkins to be as available as other elite fighters he has been in the ring with. Hopkins would really have a field day muscling Manny on the inside and against the ropes. He would win a comfortable, workmanlike decision and deny Manny's fiery rallies.
Kenny: Pacquiao is too small to hurt B-Hop. He loses that fight.
Manny Pacquiao versus Shane Mosley
Rafael: OK, so Pacquiao and Mosley are fighting on May 7 for Pacquiao's welterweight title. This version of Mosley is 39, near the end of his career and coming off two horrible performances. Mosley is a proud fighter who still possesses heart, a great chin and good power (in his one moment of note against Floyd Mayweather Jr., he almost knocked him out in the second round). It is not inconceivable that he can land a punch on Pacquiao, who gets hit quite a bit, the way he did against Mayweather and change the fight. But this version of Mosley is slower and simply can't pull the trigger with authority on his punches.
Now, if we're talking about the prime welterweight Mosley of around 2000, or even the supreme lightweight champion Mosley of the late 1990s -- who had concussive power (eight knockouts in eight defenses) and insane speed (hands and feet) -- it would undoubtedly be a different, and far more competitive, fight. I could see the lightweight version of Mosley or the Mosley who outfought a prime Oscar De La Hoya for the welterweight title in 2000 having a great chance to defeat Pacquiao, be it by knockout or decision. That would be one helluva fight to watch.
Mulvaney: Mosley does a lot of things very, very well. He doesn't do any of them better than Pacquiao -- with the possible exception of carrying greater one-punch power. He has a longer reach, but he fails to utilize it effectively, deploying a jab that is little more than a range-finder and loading up on big right hands. Those right hands loop in from the side instead of coming straight down the middle, where they would be more effective against Pacquiao's high guard. Pacquiao will see them coming, slide to his right, duck under them and unleash his left. It'll be close and exciting for a few rounds until Pacquiao takes over, pounding Mosley down the stretch en route to a unanimous decision.
Tessitore: Pacquaio is faster than this older edition of Shane Mosley. He's viper-like with his quick-striking left cross and right hook. He will land with ease against Mosley. There will be moments when Shane makes Manny think about his ability to mix it up with him, and he could even hurt PacMan with a body shot or uppercut. In the end, I see very few scenarios that include Mosley pulling off the upset. Pacquiao by late TKO.
Kenny: Against Mosley in his prime? I'll say it would be Pacquaio by decision. Unfortunately, Manny isn't even facing a prime Mosley this spring.