Rios fight is make or break for Pacquiao

Carlos Cinco

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Nearing the twilight of his career, it's make or break now for Manny Pacquiao.

MAKE OR BREAK. Pacquiao is treading dangerous waters in this stage of his career. Photo by EPA/Arnelito Ramirez.

SINGAPORE – When you think of Brandon Rios, the word “technical” doesn’t come to mind. He’s a come-forward fighter who leads with his chin and is known for his willingness to take a hit just to get a few punches in.

Rios is the ultimate definition of a blood and guts warrior which is the exact reason why he’s tailor made for a guy like Manny Pacquiao.

A little over 8 weeks before they climb up the apron, Pacquiao will begin his training camp, in perhaps the most important juncture in his storied career.

Pacquiao’s decline

Before dropping a controversial split decision (SD12) loss to Timothy Bradley and being rendered senseless by a Juan Manuel Marquez right hand last year, Pacquiao was considered an absolute beast in the ring. In many aspects, he still is, though he has slowed down considerably.

But don’t tell Freddie Roach that. Pacquiao’s Hall-of-Fame trainer doesn’t buy into the idea that Manny has lost a step.

“None whatsoever, and I’d tell you if I did,” said Roach, about Pacquiao’s widely talked about decline. “The thing is, people look at the losses and they think the reason is that he’s getting old. That’s not the case, not from what I see,” Roach added.

“Look, we all thought he beat Bradley, so throw that out. And in the Marquez fight, I thought he was doing well and was looking like he was going to win by knockout when he made a mistake and ran into a shot,” explained Roach. “That happens. That’s boxing. It didn’t happen because his skills aren’t the same as they used to be. It happened because he made a mistake. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can make a mistake.”

Even with Pacquiao’s recent punch output saying otherwise, and with Rios having the advantage of youth on his side, Roach has confidence in his fighter.

More to lose

Rios is just what the doctor ordered for Pacquiao, who looks to get back to his winning ways. Pacquiao and Rios are scheduled to meet each other in the ring on the 23rd of November, at the Venetian Resort in Macau, China.

All indications point to a slam bang affair as both fighters are known for their offense, but who has more to lose?

Both Pacquiao and Rios are coming off losses, with Rios recently conceding a 12-round decision to Mike Alvarado in an all-out war just a few months ago.

At first glance, Rios may not belong on the same plane as Pacquiao. Conventional wisdom points to Rios getting cut up, bloodied and bruised by the faster, harder punching Filipino within 12-rounds.

But Rios’ propensity to stand tall through adversity gives him an almost Margarito-esque durability, which means he’ll be right in front of Pacquiao, firing back at every opportunity.

With two knockout punchers wailing shots at each other in the middle of the ring, anything can happen. And as Pacquiao himself showed us last December, boxing is indeed the theatre of the unexpected.

Contrary to Roach’s assessment of where his fighter is at in his career, Father Time has definitely knocked on Pacquiao’s door a little bit, as evidenced by his lackluster performance in his last two outings. This could give Rios the opportunity to sneak in a few more punches than he normally would if Pacquiao were in his prime – and it could just very well be the difference.

YOUNG BLOOD. Rios could spell the end of Pacquiao's career. Photo by EPA/Larry Smith.

Time to retire

If Pacquiao ends up being knocked out by Rios, which would be a complete shocker by all means, Roach will tell him to hang the gloves up for good.

“It’s over, 100 percent,” Roach said. “We have a deal. When I tell him it’s over, he’ll say it’s over and that’s it. He’s pretty loyal with his words and if that happens (Pacquiao getting knocked out by Rios), it will be the end,” Roach explained.

“The minute I think he doesn’t have it, when I see that he’s not the Manny Pacquiao of old, I’ll tell him that’s it. I don’t think he’s at that point, and I think you’ll see him look good in this one, but this is a very important fight for him.”

A few years ago, Pacquiao and Roach made an agreement that when the latter would tell the former that it was time to retire, that he’d do as his esteemed trainer wished. Though beaming with confidence in his fighter, Roach agrees Pacquiao needs to step it up a bit.

Critical point

“Manny needs to show me a little more, “ said Roach. “That’s why I think a tremendous performance at this point will help a lot. We’re at a critical point in his career. I don’t see that he looks like he’s getting too old. His work ethic remains great. I’m his friend more than I am his coach, and I’m not going to let anything happen.”

A loss for Pacquiao would be devastating and will spell the end of his career as a professional boxer. Pacquiao, turning 35 this December, has been in countless ring wars whose effects are just now starting to take their toll on his worn out body.

On the other hand, a loss for Rios, who’s barely 27 years old, wouldn’t mean much in the grander scheme of things. He’ll always be a marketable action star willing to get in the ring with absolutely anyone, and his concussive punching power and non-stop aggression will keep him in fights no matter how many rounds he loses on the score cards.

Brandon Rios is dangerous to the end.

If Pacquiao can’t get past Rios, then there’s really no point in prolonging the agony with a few more defeats but if he can decimate Rios like everyone knows he is capable of doing, the beat goes on.

Fans of the Filipino superstar can only hope they get ‘the Manny Pacquiao of old’ – and not an old Manny Pacquiao. –

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