SAN DIEGO, November 23, 2013 – Eight division boxing champion Manny Pacquiao is one of the most famous athletes in the world, a national hero in his native Philippines. His place in the Boxing Hall of Fame is assured.
Former lightweight champion Brandon Rios of California has risen in prominence among fans due to his crowd-pleasing aggressive style in the ring and his super-sized personality outside the ring. He’s a fighter who hits and likes to get hit, with the skills to back it up.
Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) is an overwhelming favorite to win over Rios (31-1-1, 22 KOs) in their matchup Saturday night from Macau, China. The fight will be televised by HBO as a pay-per-view event. Communities Digital News will host a live online chat starting with the televised undercards at 7 p.m. ET.
There are ways Rios can win, but it depends on which version of Manny Pacquiao steps in the ring on what will be Sunday morning in Macau.
Pacquiao, age 34, was once the undisputed pound for pound best fighter in the world. He suffered a controversial split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley Jr., although most fans believe Pacquiao was robbed. Then came his stunning knockout loss a year ago to Juan Manuel Marquez. Most fans can still see the punch dropping Pacquiao to the canvas in their minds.
The humiliating defeat by Marquez may have shaken Pacquiao’s confidence in a way that will be perceptible on Saturday. The slightest doubt in the ring can hobble a fighter, making him second-guess and overthink his actions, letting his defensive reflexes take over. A fighter as aggressive as Brandon Rios will put on the pressure if he sees the tiniest bit of hesitation, and if he’s going to land a perfect lucky punch like Marquez did, this will be one of the ways he can do it.
Speed has always been Pacquiao’s best friend. You can’t defend something you never see coming. Pacquiao is aided by the ability to throw a punch from any angle, even when his feet aren’t really under him. He doesn’t need to come straight at his opponent, as Rios does. If Pacquiao is in classic form, he can move in and do damage to Rios without subjecting himself to much damage in return. Even if we are seeing Pacquiao’s skills declining, his speed and power plus his experience are still far superior to Rios.
Rios, age 27, is a tough customer. He simply walks straight into punches and he is willing to take a tremendous amount of damage without flinching as a tradeoff for getting inside on his opponents to inflict his own damage. He recovers well between rounds, buoyed by the encouragement of his trainer, Robert Garcia.
Several unique qualities to this fight could play key roles, including:
Location of the fight: Taking place in Macau, China, the schedule was designed to accommodate an American audience. Pacquiao and Rios will step into the ring at about 10 a.m. Sunday in Macau, not the usual time for a championship prize fight. In several similar championship events throughout history, early morning fights overseas have produced upsets like Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson in Tokyo, Japan.
Training Camp: For the first time in many years, Pacquiao trained at home in General Santos City in the Philippines. He took leave from Congress and started training several months earlier than normal. He closed workouts instead of allowing throngs of followers to wander into the gym as he would in Los Angeles.
Time Between Fights: Pacquiao hasn’t been in the ring for a year, the longest layoff of his career. He wanted to fight in March, but Roach advised him to hold off. The veteran isn’t likely to have any ring rust. Pacquiao should be hungry and motivated after the break.
Typhoon Haiyan: Pacquiao’s training camp wasn’t affected by the super typhoon, but millions of his fellow citizens were left homeless, with as many as 10,000 feared killed. As an elected Congressman from his home province of Sarangani, Pacquiao feels an obligation to assist with relief. He told the Associated Press “I really want to visit the area and personally do what I can to help our countrymen who have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy, but I’m in deep training for a crucial fight so I regret I cannot go.” Will this distract Pacquiao, or motivate him to fight on behalf of his hurting nation?
Roach vs. Garcia: The dustup earlier in the week over gym time between trainers Freddie Roach and Robert Garcia was ugly, full of racist comments and crude insults. Garcia has apologized and Roach has brushed off the spat as nothing of consequence. Will residual bad feelings provide extra motivation?
Who’s Got the Most to Lose? Pacquiao finds himself in a “must win” situation if he intends to fight a few more big name fights before he calls it a career. A loss for Brandon Rios would not be career ending. As long as he acquits himself well, the fans will always be happy to see Rios step into the ring.
Assuming both fighters bring their best game into the ring, Pacquiao will be hard to beat. Rios must lure Pacquiao into a brawl to have a chance to win. If this bout becomes a street fight, Rios can take charge. If Pacquiao plays it smart and sticks with boxing versus brawling as Mike Alvarado did against Rios in their last bout, he should be able to inflict damage on Rios without taking too much punishment.
My prediction: Unlike many of my colleagues, I see this fight going nearly the distance, with Pacquiao winning by TKO after the tenth round. Rios will withstand Pacquiao’s punishment until someone pulls him out of the fight and saves him from himself.
Communities Digital News will bring you all the action tonight in Live Online Chat starting with the televised undercard fights starting at 7 p.m. ET We provide blow by blow live commentary and real-time photos and invite you to share your reaction to all the action. See you ringside!
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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