By Cliff Rold
All the king’s fall eventually. Whether it’s age, interest, or a well-placed bomb, no one stays around the top forever.
Some of them can come back after a fall.
Most do not.
This weekend, the most popular action fighter of his time makes a return to the ring after almost a year away. Last time he was seen, it was face first and drilled into the floor. Are we at the brink of a new chapter or an epilogue?
These are the picks of the week.
Pick It: Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios (Saturday, HBO PPV, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST)
Can Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KO) rebound from being left on his face by archrival Juan Manuel Marquez last December? He picked one tough way to find out. Brandon Rios (31-1-1, 23 KO) may be moving up in weight but he won’t be at a size disadvantage here. Pacquiao isn’t a big Welterweight. He isn’t a young one either. Pacquiao has been at the world title level for some fifteen years now. Rios, a former Lightweight titlist, is still looking for the chance to break beyond the ranks of hardcore darlings. He’s shown before he’s willing to suffer to win and he’ll keep coming as long as the fight lasts. If he draws Pacquiao into a dogfight, can he win? There’s enough of a chance that this fight will wash away what is a weak undercard in a year when many big shows brought their A game.
Pick Awe: Carl Froch-George Groves (Saturday, AWE, 3 PM EST/12 PM PST)
Well before Pacquiao hits the air, the fight of the day may already be over. Froch (31-2, 22 KO) will defend his belts at 168 lbs. and, as is his fashion, he won’t be taking a soft touch. Seriously, Froch’s only gimme’ going all the way back to his first title win over Jean Pascal was Yusaf Mack. Mack is a good, solid foe for most guys. Froch is challenged here by a Groves (19-0, 15 KO) whose resume says he’s not ready but whose talents indicate he could be a serious threat. Groves lone standout win was over former Olympic Gold Medalist James DeGale…a better win than anything Froch had before he got his big shot. The fact is, no one has a resume until they build one and resumes are reading material. They don’t win fights. Froch is one of the toughest outs in the world. We’ll see if Groves is up to the task.
Pick Comeback: Antonio Tarver vs. Mike Sheppard (Monday, Fox Sports1, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST)
The former Light Heavyweight titlist Tarver (29-6, 20 KO) seemed to have a good thing going. His seat at ringside as a commentator for Showtime appeared secure and he had developed into a fine analyst. A bad drug test after his fight with Lateef Kayode cost him dearly and now, at 45, he’s back in the ring. It’s been almost a decade since he upset Roy Jones Jr. to carve his place in boxing lore. A win over Sheppard (21-15-1, 9 KO) just prolongs the obvious. That was a long time ago.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com