By Chris Robinson
It can often be a mistake to take things at face value in the sport of boxing, but there are signs pointing to an April clash between former lightweight champion Brandon Rios and eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao taking place.
On Saturday night in Carson, California, Rios overcame a spirited effort from contender Mike Alvarado on his way towards carving out a 7th round TKO victory in one of the best fights in recent memory. In his first official bout at 140 pounds, Rios showcased a rock chin, deadly combinations on the inside, and the same kind of blunt power that allowed him to bully foes in the lightweight class.
For veteran HBO analyst Larry Merchant, he got exactly what he expected from Rios this past weekend.
“Going in, I’ve been telling people this was Gatti-Ward IV,” Merchant told me on Sunday night, referencing one of the sport’s more memorable trilogies. “I think everyone saw that. There were very high expectations that it would be a great brawl, and it was. Which was terrific. I thought Rios was a little too good for him, a little bit more athletic. But I thought that Alvarado put up a game battle.”
Before even being asked, Merchant mentioned the possibility of Rios facing off with Pacquiao, who is eyeing a December 8th fourth meeting with Mexico City’s Juan Manuel Marquez.
“A younger brawler against Pacquiao I think would be a fight everybody in boxing and people beyond boxing would like to see,” Merchant claimed, showing his fondness towards the matchup.
The buzz on Rios is high at the moment following his triumph over Alvarado, yet he would be considered a sizeable underdog if a fight with Pacquiao were to come off. Logic says that Pacquiao’s unconventional yet deadly attack would prove to be a handful but Merchant points towards Rios’ brute strength and willingness to lay everything on the line reasons enough to make the fight happen.
“I’ve been saying for a while, that Pacquiao needs a fighter who will come to him and fight him.” Merchant continued. “But it’s also the kind of young, tough guy who you might not want to see in your face all night long. You don’t get the answers until you see the fight, I’ll just leave it at that. I think he’d be a great opponent for Pacquiao and vice versa.”