MACAU – With one of the year’s biggest fights just one day away, Rappler puts together a cheat sheet for the Clash in Cotai, which pits Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao against young Mexican-American fighter Brandon Rios.
A day before the fight, both fighters made weight, with Pacquiao tipping the scales at 145 lbs, and Rios at 146.5 lbs. The fight’s weight limit is 147.
The two are fighting for the vacant WBO International Welterweight title.
1) TALE OF THE TAPE
Age: 34 years old
Record: 54-5-2, 38 KO’s
Record: 31-1-1, 23 KO’s
2) WHY IS THE FIGHT IMPORTANT?
Pacquiao is coming off two consecutive losses. He has not won a fight in the past two years, nor knocked anyone out since 2009. Known for his exciting fighting style and for his thrilling knock outs — the reason for his meteoric rise to the top of the sport — his performance in recent years has set tongues wagging. Critics say Pacquiao is past his peak and is now on the decline.
While Pacquiao’s split decision loss to Timothy Bradley in June 2012 was highly controversial and widely regarded as a judging mistake, Pacquiao’s December 2012 loss to his bitter arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez was devastating. Pacquiao dropped to the canvas after being dealt a massive knockout blow by Marquez with a second left on the 6th round.
This fight is crucial for Pacquiao who wants to prove he still has what it takes to be regarded among the sport’s elite. He knows a win won’t be enough to silence the critics, and that he must dispose of Rios convincingly — ideally via knockout — to make the world believe the old Pacquiao is back. It is also the only way Pacquiao could again be considered to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr, who is regarded by many as the best in the sport right now.
A loss on the other hand could spell the end of Pacquiao’s storied boxing career. His trainer Freddie Roach said he himself would ask his fighter to consider retirement if he were to lose this bout.
This is the biggest fight of Rios’ life. He has waited long for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to face off with one of boxing’s best. Rios relishes being an underdog. The chance to be the one to force Pacquiao into early retirement is enough motivation for the determined fighter to win this bout. Rios knows that a victory over one of the sport’s biggest names will catapult his career and get the world to take notice of him.
Rios too is looking to make a comeback. He was dealt the first loss of his career by American slugger Mike Alvarado earlier this year, in March. His unanimous decision loss was especially painful since he had knocked out Alvarado in the 7th round just 5 months earlier. A win over Pacquiao will be all the redemption he needs.
3) WHAT IS THEIR FIGHTING STYLE?
Aside from what’s at stake, this fight is exciting because both fighters are relentless. Both fighters are loved for their aggressive styles. They like to attack and won’t back away from a slugfest. Both like to initiate the action.
Pacquiao is a southpaw, the normal stance used by a left-handed boxer. Pacquiao is known for his devastating left hand that has knocked out many past opponents. Rios is right-handed and fights using the orthodox stance. This is the perfect match-up to make Pacquiao look impressive since southpaw fighters are difficult for orthodox boxers to catch — especially when they’re fast. As a southpaw, Pacquiao has had most trouble against counterpunchers such as Marquez, which Rios is not.
4) WHAT WILL MAKE EACH FIGHTER WIN?
Pacquiao has more experience than his younger opponent and knows the perfect opportunity to attack — unlike his eager opponent who is known to come in, and willing to take punches. Pacquiao also employs a lot of feints, which can catch an unexperienced Rios off-balance, and tire him out. His experience also means he is used to fighting 12 rounds at this level, having faced off with among the sport’s best. Roach says Rios has never fought anyone of Pacquiao’s level, and this will be his “first time feeling the speed and power of Manny Pacquiao.”
Speed is another trademark of the 8-division world champion. Pacquiao often catches his opponents off guard because of his fast hands and fast feet. He is able to throw combinations and move away quickly — making him hard to hit. Roach said this is the strategy they will employ: not trade punches with Rios, but to outbox him by weaving in and out. The Filipino fighter’s speed also allows him to throw punches from different angles that his opponents don’t see coming. Combine his unexpected movement with the power in hands, and Pacquiao is able to land punches that do some damage.
Additionally, Pacquiao is fighting at his natural weight for this fight and is highly comfortable at welterweight, while this is Rios’ first time to fight at 147 lbs. His motivation for this fight also cannot be ignored: to lift the spirits of typhoon victims in his country.
Rios is a young and hungry boxer who has repeatedly said his youth will help him win. The fighter, who is 7 years Pacquiao’s junior, is also bigger than Pacquiao. He may use his size to his advantage to bully Pacquiao. Robert Garcia, Rios’ trainer, said their strategy is to force Pacquiao to engage into a brawl. If Rios is able to get Pacquiao against the ropes, he may be able to force Pacquiao to trade punches.
Rios is known for his iron chin. The Mexican-American can take a punch. In fact, Rios is open to throwing punches if it means he can engage his opponent into a slugfest and throw his own. Rios loves a good exchange especially from close range. The 27-year-old slugger has a right hand that has hurt his opponents in the past. If Rios can catch Pacquiao with his right, he may hurt him.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Rios may be more bold and aggressive which could help him, especially in executing his game plan and in breaking down the confidence of Pacquiao — who may recall the brutal blow dealt to him by Marquez.
For more, read: Pacquiao-Rios: Keys to the fight.
Most sportswriters and analysts are picking Pacquiao over Rios, with some predicting a TKO win for Pacquiao in mid to later rounds — assuming the old Pacquiao is back. – Rappler.com
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