by Cliff Rold
It’s not often a major pay-per-view event features two fighters coming in off a loss. When one fighter is Manny Pacquiao, loser of the 2012 Fight of the Year to Juan Manuel Marquez, and the other Brandon Rios coming off a split of Fight of the Year caliber wars with Mike Alvarado…
…well, there are exceptions.
Whether fans at home see this as one remains to be seen. Any Pacquiao fight is still going to do a considerable number. However, with an undercard that can best be described as “at least Bob Arum can’t stick us with Butterbean anymore,” a lot rides on the main event. We’ll see what sort of hit the Pacquiao brand may have taken in the Marquez loss, and the Bradley official loss before it that remains hotly disputed by many.
The styles are right to tempt a buy. Will the fight live up to the price tag (reports of nearly $70 for HD in some markets)?
Let’s go to the report card.
Current Titles: None
Previous Titles: Lineal/WBC World Flyweight 1998-99, 1 Defense; IBF Super Bantamweight 2001-03, 4 Defenses; Lineal/Ring World Featherweight 2003-05, 2 Defenses; Lineal/Ring/WBC World Jr. Lightweight 2008; WBC Lightweight 2008-09; Lineal/Ring World Jr. Welterweight 2009-10; WBC Light Middleweight 2010; WBO Welterweight, 2009-12, 3 Defenses
Height: 5’6 ½
Weight: 145 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 145.3 lbs.
Hails from: General Santos City, Cotabato del Sur, Philippines
Record: 54-5-2, 38 KO, 3 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #3 (BoxingScene, ESPN, Ring); #4 (TBRB, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 16-2-2, 11 KO, 1 KOBY (including Lineal title Fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 17 (Chatchai Sasakul KO8; Medgoen Singsurat TKO3; Lehlo Ledwaba KO6; Agapito Sanchez Tech. Draw 6; Jorge Eliecer Julio TKO2; Marco Antonio Barrera TKO11, UD12; Juan Manuel Marquez D12, SD12, MD12, KO by 6; Erik Morales L12, TKO10, KO3; Oscar Larios UD12; David Diaz TKO9; Oscar De La Hoya RTD8; Ricky Hatton KO2; Miguel Cotto TKO12; Joshua Clottey UD12; Antonio Margarito UD12; Shane Mosley UD12; Timothy Bradley L12)
Previous Title: WBA Lightweight (2011, 1 Defense)
Weight: 146.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 137.55 lbs.
Hails from: Oxnard, California
Record: 31-1-1, 23 KO
Rankings: At 140 - #4 (BoxingScene, ESPN); #6 (TBRB); #7 (Ring); At 147 - #11 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0 (2 KO); (2-1, 2 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 2 (Miguel Acosta TKO10; Richar Abril SD12; Mike Alvarado TKO7, L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Pacquiao A; Rios B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Pacquiao A; Rios B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Pacquiao B; Rios C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Pacquiao A; Rios B+
There have been some who favor Pacquiao strongly in this contest and draw a comparison between Rios and former Pacquiao foe Antonio Margarito. There can be two problems with that comparison. The first is the ongoing refusal to acknowledge just how tough the Margarito fight was for Pacquiao. Yes, he won decisively, but he took a lot of leather in the fight, some of it particularly vicious to the body. That was the last time anyone has seen the all-out offensive machine that Pacquiao was for a few years at absolute peak.
That was three years ago, a long time in boxing.
Pacquiao has had good performances since. He was sharp, if fighting in spots, against Bradley. He looked very good against Marquez after coming off the floor in the third, right up until the moment where he looked asleep. Against Margarito, and in pretty much every fight between the second battle with Marquez and the sloppy sparring session with Shane Mosley, Pacquiao was a whirlwind.
That doesn’t last forever.
That brings us to the second problem with the Margarito comparison. Like Margarito, Rios is relentless and he’s going to come at Pacquiao. However, what he lack in Margarito’s size he makes up for with superior technical skills. Sure, Rios isn’t hard to find and often fights in straight lines, but his punches are often straighter, his right hand over the top cleaner, all while being just as committed to the body.
In other words, if we’re comparing Rios to Margarito, it’s important to note that Rios isn’t fighting the same Pacquiao Margarito had to. And Rios is the younger man here, the one with everything to prove and nothing really to lose. A defeat simply puts Rios in a box as a dependable action fighter a notch below one of the game’s proven best. He can go back to, say, a third fight with Alvarado and remain a presence.
Win and he changes his whole life. The money gets better, the stage stays bigger, and Rios puts the Alvarado loss behind him with a made for TV personality and style. He’s fighting for something.
Pacquiao is fighting against something.
He’s fighting against the inevitable.
No one stays on top forever. Defensive fighters may last longer but almost every fighter in history, regardless of style, found their mid-30s a tough place to be. Evander Holyfield had some great wins but was also consistently inconsistent past a certain age. Roberto Duran rebounded from the Thomas Hearns knockout with an Iran Barkley win, but that was years later and he was up and down in between.
Then, of course, there was Roy Jones. He went from defeating John Ruiz, to struggling to defeat Antonio Tarver, to consecutive drillings at the hands of Tarver and Glen Johnson. There have also been comparisons this week between the sorts of threat Johnson was to what Rios presents.
If there is a difference, and we’ll know more in the ring, it is in how Pacquiao was managed versus how Jones was. Jones came right back from Tarver to face a Johnson few gave a chance. There were a few (Doug Fischer, then of MaxBoxing and now of Ring) who picked Johnson to win; they saw the momentum Johnson had gathered and his development sooner than some. Pacquiao took a year off, giving himself time to heal and think.
Another difference with Jones is that Pacquiao looked good against Marquez in the loss. Jones looked like he lost a step in the first Tarver fight and that bore fruit; there was also the issue of weight loss and what affect it may have had after the move back down the scale from Heavyweight to Light Heavyweight.
There is no weight issue for Pacquiao.
Going on the form he showed before Marquez finished him, Pacquiao still looked like more than enough to handle Rios. Assuming he hasn’t considerably declined since, he’ll be the faster man and throw the shorter shots. His footwork and angles are superior to Rios. Unlike Marquez, Rios doesn’t have the benefit of three previous rounds to solve the timing factor with Pacquiao nor does he have the same technical acumen anyways.
For Rios to win, he has to come forward and land shots no matter the return fire. He has to be ready to keep throwing after a Pacquiao combination lands. He has to make youth and want matter more than speed, power, and experience edges on the other side.
It’s a tall order. We know Rios will try like hell and that’s what makes this an attractive fight.
This is a fight where, being critical, it’s easy to go back and forth. Rios is a ball of fire when he's on. He's got youth on his side and a moment as big as any he could ask for. He's also got one of the greats looking to prove he's not done. Pacquiao, given his style and already long career (it's 15 years since his first world title), is past his best. A bad knockout loss to Marquez doesn't mean he's done. Assuming Pacquiao still has a formidable A-game, the pick is for him to overcome some tough moments and land too much back for Rios to overcome. Look for Pacquiao to end matters after a thrilling first seven or eight rounds.
Report Card Picks 2013: 50-24
Pacquiao-Rios isn’t the only big fight on tap Saturday. They’ll be rocking in Manchester, England as well…Fans of a certain age will fondly recall the round robin of events in the late 80s and early 90s between Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Michael Watson, and Steve Collins. The four of them were part of a remarkably deep era at 160 and 168 lbs. and carved a unique corner of that universe…The battle between 36-year old WBA/IBF 168 lb. titlist Carl Froch (31-2, 22 KO) of Nottingham and 25-year old challenger George Groves (19-0, 15 KO) of London is rekindling memories…This could be a really good fight. Froch has asked as much of himself in terms of opposition as anyone in the game and mostly won. Groves is largely untested but young and with excellent fundamentals. The experience of the veteran should snare the close rounds but if Froch is beginning to slip at all, Groves will be ready to pounce…The pick is Froch by tough decision in a fight that makes Groves better in the long run.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]