It’s been almost a year since Manny Pacquiao last taped up his gloves and passed through the ropes, but the boxing superstar returns to the ring to take on Brandon Rios in Macau, China on Saturday November 23.
Pacquiao hasn’t fought since his sixth round knockout defeat against Juan Manuel Marquez on December 8 2012 in Las Vegas, his second back-to-back loss. Looking to get back to the form that not too long ago saw him widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, the 34-year-old will line up against the lead-fisted Rios at the Venetian Hotel in HBO’s latest big pay-per-view offering.
The Filipino fighter will be carrying the weight of a nation this weekend following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in his homeland, and will certainly want to give something back to the country in which he is worshiped. But it’s not been plain sailing for him in the build up. A bust-up in the camp between trainer Freddie Roach and his own former assistant, who now works in the Rios camp, has added a new twist to the saga, whilst many already believe Pacquiao is way past his best.
Following the brutal knockout by Marquez and controversial points loss at the hands of Timothy Bradley, it’s been circulating that the Pac-Man has lost his cutting-edge and Rios may prove just too fast for the fighter who was once renowned for his lighting quick hands. The Fighting Pride of the Philippines however doesn’t believe this for a second and will no doubt still be dreaming of a showdown with his long-term rival Floyd Mayweather Jr.
His trainer Roach, still believes Manny has the hunger, but whether his age will see him through the 12 rounds, it’s unknown, especially being out of the ring for so long.
Brandon Rios, is also coming through the ropes on a loss. The first in his career and will have to consider his options carefully if he is to lose to an ageing Pacquiao. Heading over to the South-East Asia far from a fan favourite, the 27-year-old Texan believes he needs to win big if he’s going to claim victory.
He said, “I’ve got to go in there and beat him convincingly.
“If it’s a close fight, they could just give it to him.”
The Filipino is by far the most difficult opponent Rios has faced, but with nobody quite sure of how he’ll bounce back it could be the perfect time for Bam Bam to take him on and take a real prize scalp in what will be his biggest pay-day to date. His aggressive, come-forward orthodox style will trouble the Southpaw, and he boasts a 70% knockout ratio which may send to the 2000’s Fighter of the Decade to the canvas.
It would be a huge statement if he does. Pacquiao remains the favourite for Saturday night. Despite a vicious shot laying him out in his last outing, he still looked fit and should have the extra power of a fighter seven years his junior.
Rios relies on building pressure, and could struggle to get his powerful shots way should Manny rediscover his most devastating rhythm, meaning a second half stoppage could be the most likely outcome.