12 Manny Pacquiao Boxing Strategies every boxer can learn from

Inarguably the biggest name in boxing today. Labelled as ‘Fighter of the Decade’ for 2000s, PacMan became the first boxer to win 10 world titles across 8 divisions. He’s the only fighter in history of boxing to become an 8-division champion.

After starting his career in 1995, this Filipino legend rocketed through weight classes like never seen before. Stringent work ethic coupled with masterful footwork, Pacquiao very rightly became one of the most electrifying and highest-paid athletes in the world.

Now to electrify our own boxing game, we’re here with yet another detailed guide on how you can pick bits and pieces from Pacquiao’s boxing style and integrate it within your fighting style so you can become a world-beater like him one day.  

Manny Pacquiao’s straight left hand is one of the fiercest weapons in modern-day boxing. Known for his extremely efficient punches, Pacquiao demonstrates power and speed like no other boxer when it comes to the left hand. Before we dive deeper into the subject, I just wanted to share this tiny piece of information with you. With that said, let’s jump towards the various strategies and techniques that we should learn from Manny Pacquiao.

Splitting the Jab

Watch every tutorial on YouTube if you may, and as long as it has Pacquiao’s technique, this one will be the first on the list. Manny with his southpaw stance is revered to split his opponent’s jab, especially ones fighting in an orthodox stance.

Pacquiao’s success rate with the splitting jab is extremely high mainly because his straight left hand comes from a unique angle which makes it a great counter against an orthodox jab. By slipping the orthodox jab to the outside and simultaneously shooting the straight left hand,

Pacquiao makes his opponents punch themselves. Furthermore, by stepping to the right, Pacquiao thwarts is opponent’s tiny window of return firing and thus allows himself to remain defensively responsible.

In the clip above you can see Pacquiao slipping Oscar De La Hoya’s lazy jab and stepping over to his right. As stated earlier, Manny splits the jab of his orthodox opponents with seamless movements while maintaining his defensive guard. He is wise enough to understand that his opponent may try to return fire and thus he forces his opponent to turn before they can execute a punch. Simply put, he enters from one angle and exits from the other.

Just like stepping to his right to turn his opponent after he splits the jab, Pacquiao possesses the ability to step to his left so to mix it up and keep things unpredictable. Since stepping on the right side when facing an orthodox opponent is dangerous, Pacman rolls under the possible right-hand counter as he steps to his left. BRILLIANT DEMONSTRATION OF DEFENSIVE RESPONSIBILITY FROM PACQUIAO.

In the clip below we can see Pacquiao split Bradley’s jab and roll out to his left. Even though Timothy Bradley doesn’t throw a counter, Pacquiao is ready for it, just in case. He’s a clever fighter, though he doesn’t see a punch coming in his direction, still, he maintains his defensive sharpness to overcome any sort of return fire.

Pacquiao being the world-beater that he is, understands the importance of defense while attacking. His innate ability to step in either direction keeps his opponent guessing and thus reduces the chances of being countered. 

Changing the angles is a great tool in his arsenal, which he uses to enter and exit an exchange. This proves to be nightmarish for his opponent’s looking for an opening. Watch the clips below to witness the best jab splitting in present-day boxing.

Excellent Counterpunching

Neutrals often brand Pacquiao as a brawler. That’s a disrespectful term for a boxer so skilled and diverse when it comes to demonstrating punching techniques. Before we talk about Pacquiao’s counterpunching, let’s understand the windows of counterpunching. 

Essentially, you can counterpunch in either of these timeframes: Before your opponent’s punch, during your opponent’s punch or after your opponent’s punch. Pacquiao’s Splitting the Jab technique is an effective example of punching during an opponent’s punch.

Catch and Shoot

The first example of how he edges his opponent in counterpunching is by using this technique. This is done essentially through parrying or blocking your opponent’s punch and countering with your own punch. In the clip below, you can see Pacquiao parrying Algieri’s jab with his right glove. Notice how Manny doesn’t reach for Algieri’s jab. He parries the punch as close to its intended target as possible so that he isn’t susceptible to any attacks.

In the clip below, you can see how he parries Floyd’s jab and counters with a straight left hand. And similarly, in the next clip, you can see, how he sees Margarito’s right hand coming towards his body, so he catches his elbow and comes over it with his left hand.

In this clip below, you can see Pacquiao inviting a counter from his opponent, Timothy Bradley. As soon as Bradley bites the bait, Manny rolls under his punch and counter Bradley’s counter with his left hand. Absolutely genius boxing.

Transforming Counter into a Knockdown

Pacquiao is great at inciting an opponent and using their tools against them. In this clip below, he parries Timothy Bradley advances and then uses his arm as a shield to deflect his opponent’s punches and follows it up by countering a left hand down the middle.

Another fine example is the clip below where Pacquiao readjusts himself by pulling away from his opponent’s jab and returning with a straight left hand.

Now that we’ve seen Pacquiao countering his opponent’s whilst their throwing punches, it’s time we take a look at how he counters before they’re throwing the punches. Sometimes, Pacquiao’s straight left counters are so quick that it appears as though he is leading. In an example below, you can see how he shoots the straight left at Miguel Cotto when he senses Cotto’s intention of the straight right hand.

Cutting the ring counter

The clip below is a fascinating demonstration of how impressive Pacquiao’s skillsets are. It’s one of the finest setups for a straight left hand you’ll ever see. The amount of skills required to pull this off successfully is beyond fathomable. Most of the people watching this fight live wouldn’t even have been able to understand what was happening there.

You can’t really gather too much from the crowd and the commentary. However, what you can take from Pacquiao’s movement is beyond priceless. So, in this clip above, Pacquiao is being cornered by Rios’. Now knowing the situation that he is in, he tries to circle to his left i.e. towards Rios’ right hand, though it goes against the conventional wisdom of not moving towards an Orthodox opponent’s right, Pacquiao uses it as a trap to invite Rios to cut the ring. Simply MIND-BOGGLING STUFF.

Having successfully baited Rios to cut off the ring. Pacquiao continues to circle out to his left to get off the ropes. Knowing this, Pacquiao unexpectedly stops circling out when Rios moves too far to his right. You can see how Rios’ foot is still in the air as he’s stepping to cut off the ring. Here’s where Pacquiao’s trap gets completed. He springs the trap by taking the outside angle, allowing an opening for his straight left hand to land. FROM A DEFENSIVE POSITION TO AN OFFENSIVE ONE in no time. Simply brilliant boxing.

Changing the trajectory

Pacquiao’s left hand is a dangerous weapon, primarily, due to his ability to change or alter the trajectory midway through the punch. Not many boxers can do that in present times. He often loops the punch when you expect the straight and shoots the straight when you expect him to loop the punch. Can it get any more unpredictable?

In the clip below, you can see Manny looping the straight left hand around the defense by changing the trajectory of the punch. One of Pacquiao’s major strength is his ability to land that left hand from positions you cannot expect a punch from. Not only does he land it, but he also does so with great power and accuracy.

Working Angles and Combinations

Second most popular element in Pacquiao’s boxing after his left hand is his combination punching. His combination punching is effective largely due to his use of angles. His inhuman use of angles enables him to utilize his key skills from unpredictable positions. He sets these angles by using his own footwork along with his opponents’. He uses it to create openings and close down defensive gaps on his end.

In the clip above, you can see Manny toin’ with his opponent. He changes his positions to force his opponent into changing theirs. This gives him a split-second edge to control the next second. It’s all possible due to lighting quick movements and excellent ring knowledge.

In the clip below, you can see him launching his combination of the opponent. And soon after he’s done, he steps out towards his opponent’s right to change the angle and throws yet another combination as his opponent turns.

In the clip below, you can see Pacquiao stepping to the outside of Cotto and pivots around him, constantly changing the angles and creating new openings to land his combinations from. Before we move further, let’s brush up through the basics. Your lead foot is used to establish your position and the line of attack. Thus, it should be aimed at your opponent’s central mass. 

Contrastingly, your trailing foot should be used to establish the angle of your attack. While Pacquiao’s lead foot is already position to attack, by pivoting with his trailing foot, he is able to change the direction of his attacks. This establishes a new angle of attack and Cotto must make a positional adjustment to defend himself.

Another noteworthy thing is that by changing the angle, Pacquiao doesn’t allow Cotto to punch back because he simply isn’t in front of him anymore. Thus, Cotto is forced to turn and Pacquiao unleashes hell on him with quick flurry combination whilst he tries to catch up the pace. Watch everything in the clip below. Simply excellent!

Using the changing of angles as an automatic defense

Manny’s constant movement and change of angles spell nightmare for his opponents because everything they try turns ineffective. For instance, though the high guard is designed to block punches coming towards you, by stepping over to the side and changing angles, the punches are coming from all over the place. Thus, the high guard which so-called defensive shield is rendered ineffective in Pacquiao’s case. With his incredible hand speed, Pacquiao is able to break down his opponent’s high guard (which is the best defensive option his opponents have).

Using backward movement to trap your opponent

This one’s a signature Pacquiao move which involves Pacquiao landing a quick flurry on his opponents on the ropes. However, he doesn’t stop there. He often sets a trap for his opponent to fall into which allows him to cause more damage, in case, if his opponent chose to attack. 

Usually, Manny’s opponent immediately wants to get him back for the flurry wanting to create an opening. However, Manny being an intelligent fighter backs off and looks to land a devastating counter as his opponent tries to fight back. (Simply outstanding mindset! Impeccable reading of opponents)

In this clip above, you can see Manny tagging Cotto all along the ropes. He lands a couple of flurries and Cotto wants him to get back right away. Pacquiao obliges and pushes off giving his opponent the space he needs which makes his opponent become impatient and then he follows it up with a fatal blow as we saw above. That’s simply reading your opponent’s mind. Attacking till they’re out, give them a second to recollect and as soon as they get back, catch them with a devastating blow. Simply fascinating stuff from Pacquiao.

Art of Pacquiao Feinting

We have studied feinting before, in our Lomachenko and Mayweather case studies. Feel free to check them out. With Pacquiao, feinting is quite different as compared to those other two case studies. Manny’s use of feints is unique. And he doesn’t only use his gloves to feint his opponents but he uses his shoulders, head, torso, and even footwork to feint. 

His constant movement keeps his opponents confused and makes it hard for them to guess whether he’s in the punching ranging or not. Floyd measured it correctly when he kept his lead hand out, measuring Pacquiao all the way. But not everyone’s Floyd and sure as hell not everyone’s as defensively sharp and accurate as Floyd.

Feinting as a technique is quintessential in boxing to help maintain unpredictability. By utilizing feints, you can bait your opponent to counter punches and land devastating blows. It allows you to gauge your opponent’s reaction to situation thereby presenting you with an opportunity to capitalize on them. See this video clip below to learn more.

In the clip above, you can see Pacquiao feinting Timothy Bradley with his right hand. He knows that Bradley will try to counter him with his right hand. Look how he bamboozles Bradley by feinting that left hand after he parries the initial effort. 

He makes Bradley think that he has already committed his hand which leads him to commit his right towards Pacquiao which effectively misses out as Pacquiao is standing still. Using feinting is a great way to make your opponent miss their punch and get them tired as the rounds progress.

Using feint to end a bout. Using the classic combination of jab and a feint, Pacquiao ends the bout in this clip below. However, before the end, you can see Pacquiao using a feint to manipulate Mosley’s guard. Through this, he is able to find an opening for himself. With subtle feints and level changing, he creeps in on Mosley.

Overall, Pacquiao finds a lot of success by manipulating his opponent’s defense with his signature feint. By breaking his rhythm with a feint to the body. His opponent tries to defend a punch to the body. However, as they do it, Pacquiao shoots his 1,2 combinations targeting the chin of his opponent.

Effective Distance Management

Conventional boxing wisdom for a smaller fighter to beat a bigger fighter is by getting into a close-range where shorter limbs are more effective. However, Pacquiao begs to differ as his strategy is different from the conventional wisdom. He doesn’t work too hard on the inside, prevents his energy from draining and gauges his opponent using distance to perfect measure. That goes to show how Pacquiao is in a league of his own. He maintains distance from long fighters, causing them to over-extend and negate his own reach advantage.

As you can see in the clip below, see how Floyd, who has longer reach than Pacquiao cannot reach him at this position. As learned earlier, Mayweather likes to measure his opponent’s distance with his lead hand, thus Pacquiao keeps himself even more distant from his range, leaving it unpredictable for Mayweather.

Using Southpaw lead hand to great effect

Having seen counters, feints, defense, it’s time to check the lead hand usage. In this area, we can learn about how Pacquiao effectively controls, sets up his left hand and his right hook.

In the clip below, you can see how Pacquiao jabs and keeps his lead hand extended to control Bradley’s head causing him to miss a wild uppercut. Followed by that, he lands a right hook, and Bradley ducks down to avoid the left hand. Instead of retracting the left hand that missed and allowing Bradley to chin check him, Pacquiao grabs Bradley’s head closing any door there is for a counter. This is a fine specimen of how controlling your opponents can prevent counters. 

The best fighters commit mistakes but what makes them stand apart is their ability to cover their mistakes by closing the openings for their opponents.

Pacquiao’s Right Hook

This weapon is Manny’s arsenal is as lethal as it gets in present-day boxing. He can lead with it to catch an opponent coming in, use it as a counter to his opponent’s jab and even catch opponents moving away from his straight left hand. He can also sneak his destructive weapon into his combinations. Pacquiao’s right hook is extremely versatile.

In the clip below, you can see Pacquiao countering the orthodox jab by slipping to the inside and coming over the top of the jab. The reason why right hook works wonders for southpaw is that it loops around the same side as that of the orthodox opponent’s jabbing hand. Thus, it carries a multipurpose, either to attack or to counter.

Pacquiao’s ultimate secret weapon is his ability to sneak in a right-hand post the 1-2 combination. He’s able to generate power on the last right hand because he performs a Dempsey shift into the punch. By shifting, he continues his forward momentum and catches opponents off guard by the distance he’s able to cover with this combination.


Many of Pacquiao’s previous opponent humorously suggest that they felt as if they were fighting 2-3 Pacquiao’s at the same time. Manny’s lightning movements coupled with his innate gift of changing angles and working his opponents can gas out anyone in the boxing world. 

Pacquiao brings such high punch volumes to the ring that most of his opponents enter the high guard for a major portion of the fight. And when they do so, he simply catches their body. This goes to show how phenomenal he is inside the squared circle. I hope you learned some valuable lessons from his case study. Sure, I might not have been able to encapsulate each detail, but I tried my best to cover the points I thought would help you improve your boxing.

Learn Boxing Strategies from the best

Learn Boxing Theories