By Jake Donovan
Brandon Rios hasn’t won a fight in more than a year. It’s been more than two years since Manny Pacquiao’s arm was raised in victory.
Yet there remains a genuine interest in their pay-per-view headliner, which takes place Saturday evening at the Cotai Arena in Macau (Sunday morning local time).
The scheduled 12-round welterweight clash has made the headlines for the right – and wrong – reasons over the course of the past couple of weeks. Fight Week festivities saw both camps at their worst, but both fighters have managed to rise above the ridiculousness and exude a level of class befitting of such a worldwide event.
Once regarded the best fighter in the world, Pacquiao now finds himself at a make-or-break point in his legendary career. The record-breaking collection of major titles he’s gathered over the past 15 years (belts in eight divisions, including a record five lineal world championships) seems like a distant memory in the wake of back-to-back defeats in 2012, which followed clear signs of slippage in an uneven 2011 campaign.
A split decision loss to Tim Bradley was disputed to the point of many hailing it the worst robbery of 2012 – and among the worst in boxing history. However, there was nothing debatable about his one-punch 6th round knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in their unforgettable fourth encounter last December, unless the debate is whether or not he can ever fully recover from the moment.
Saturday night may or may not provide those answers, depending on how serious Rios is regarded in a welterweight fight.
The outspoken former lightweight titlist fights at a career-heaviest weight as he moves up from a brief stay in the 140 lb. division. A pair of wars with Mike Alvarado saw the two hand each other the first loss of their respective careers, with Rios’ defeat coming in their rematch this past May. The 12-round decision loss came five months after Rios slugged his way to a 7th round stoppage in a 2012 Fight of the Year entrant surpassed only by that of Marquez-Pacquiao IV.
Both play center stage tonight because of their ability to entertain at will. However, a win is in tall order in both directions.
Who will it be and how will it occur? Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes tonight’s action will develop.
PREDICTIONS – MANNY PACQUIAO vs. BRANDON RIOS
“Rios will come forward and forward and run into something late, and Pacquiao will get back into the win column with a very entertaining win."
- Mitch Abramson (Pacquiao TKO9)
“I say Rios pulls it off.”
- Damien Acevedo (Rios SD)
"Pacquiao should shine in this fight but the question is will his chin be the same after the KO loss to Marquez."
- Ryan Burton (Pacquiao TKO6)
"As we get closer to fight night, I continue to wonder just how much Pacquiao has left. It has nothing to do with last December’s knockout loss; he hasn’t looked like “Pacquiao” in nearly three years. With that, I will subscribe to the theory that the fight resembles that of Pacquiao’s performance versus Rios’ old stablemate, Antonio Margarito who was a shell of his former self but still managed to absorb for 12 full rounds. Look for Rios to do the same here; competitive in spots, battered overall but strong enough to hear the final bell, only to come up way short on the cards.”
- Jake Donovan (Pacquaio UD)
"Rios is a nice name to add to the resume, but it's no accident that he's the guy Bob and Freddie chose for Manny's comeback. Pacquiao's quickness will prevent Brandon from dealing out the prolonged punishment that leads to his brand of KO wins. Instead, it says here that Rios will get hit too hard and too often and be gone by the halfway mark."
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Pacquiao TKO6)
“Though Brandon Rios has made a career of showing that he can absorb punishment in order to deliver it, that won't be a good strategy against Manny Pacquiao, who will be all too willing to oblige, and whose speed and power will still be more than enough to score a stoppage."
- David P. Greisman (Pacquiao by TKO)
"I went back and forth with this bout in my head for a while. Bottom line is Rios lacks the one-punch power to stop Pac in his tracks. Rios will definitely be game but the punishment will add up round after round forcing Robert Garcia to stop the fight."
- Timothy Kudgis (Pacquiao TKO10)
“What makes this fight intriguing now is whether or not Manny Pacquiao can still absorb a power shot and continue to function at a high level. I think we'll get that answer early. However, I'm wagering that while Pacquiao is past his prime, he still has something left in the tank. Also, Rios still needs to prove that his power will carry over to welterweight after a sojourn at 140 pounds. I think it will, but ultimately, I don't know if it will be enough against a man still deservedly among the top five or six pound-for-pound fighters in boxing.”
- Ryan Maquiñana (Pacquiao UD)
“I go back and forth on this one. Rios is a ball of fire when he's on and 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 but a bad knockout loss 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. Looking for Pacquiao to end matters after a thrilling first seven or eight rounds."
- Cliff Rold (Pacquiao by late TKO)
"Personally, I'll root for the Pacman just for Alex Ariza's mouth to shut up and also for everyone to see a disgusted look on his face. Priceless. But Pacquiao is also a huge favorite here - just because he has forgot more about boxing than Rios will ever learn (an old cliché but a true one): both in experience and skills. Rios' has the same measure of power and they are similar in size. The fight will see Pacquiao winning almost all rounds, troubling Rios and not giving away. Rios will fade later on but his chin will hold up for a decision loss rather than a knockout.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Pacquiao UD)
Manny Pacquiao 9
Brandon Rios 1
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox