Pacquiao is on a streak of five victories against larger opponents: a ninth-round TKO of David Diaz for the lightweight title in June 2008; an emphatic ninth-round stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya in December 2008 that sent the Golden Boy into retirement; an awesome second-round starching of Ricky Hatton for the junior welterweight crown in May 2009; a TKO of Miguel Cotto in the most lucrative fight of 2009; and a shutout decision against an uncooperative Josh Clottey last March. With each successive outing, the Filipino seems to be getting better and better. He's not just bringing his punch up with him, but he's also absorbing opponents' shots more effectively.
Margarito is more of a plodding fighter -- slowish even by welterweight standards -- who stalks his opponent around the ring while throwing a high volume of punches. Many observers believe he's tailor-made for the speed-based assault of the ambidextrous Pacquiao, who fires punches from impossible angles and blurs the line between offense and defense so effectively. But Margarito has proved tenacious and durable throughout his career. His ability to press his natural size advantage -- an area where Cotto, Clottey and others have failed -- is the key to the Mexican's chances. The bottom line: Pacquiao has never faced anyone as big and strong as Margarito. For Pacquiao, this latest cross-divisional climb may be a step too far.
Freddie Roach, a four-time Trainer of the Year, is one of the game's best corner men whose teaming with Pacquiao is becoming one of boxing's historic fighter-trainer partnerships. Margarito has been working with Robert Garcia, one of the sport's up-and-coming trainers, having split with Javier Capetillo (the fall guy in the loaded gloves episode). Advantage, Pacquiao.
Intangibly, you have to wonder about Pacquiao's motivation, and whether the confidence from his string of recent victories can slip toward hubris. Distractions have been everywhere from Baguiao to Hollywood -- an angle that's been played heavily on HBO's 24/7 reality series -- but Pacquiao's team insists he's focused and prepared after a two-month training camp.