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Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) will fight Brandon Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs) this Saturday for the WBO International welterweight title in Macao, China, in a contest scheduled for 12 rounds. Pac Man fights with a dual mandate of trying to bring some solace to all Filipinos with a victory after the devastation wrought on their nation by Typhoon Haiyan and ascertaining how much he has left in the tank after a glittering but grueling career.
Put simply, defeat—he is currently on a two-fight losing streak after a controversial split decision loss to Timothy Bradley and a devastating knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez—would spell the end of Pacquiao’s career.
The hard-punching all-action Rios, 27, was carefully selected by Top Rank Promotions because of his willingness to brawl and tendency to stand in front of his opponent and trade punches for however long his fights last. As “Bam Bam” said on 24/7, he gets off on getting hit and going mano-a-mano with his opponent. Rios, who started his career as a lightweight and fights for the first time as a welterweight this weekend, is a former world title holder who went 1-1 in all-out wars with Mike Alvarado, but when plan A of all-out battle doesn’t work, he hasn’t shown that he has other tactics to turn to. Pacquiao has dismantled talented fighters like Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito when they chose to stand and trade with him.
Rios has enjoyed his exposure to the shiny lights of main card Pay-Per-View attention, and going into fight week the promotion had little or no controversy or bad mouthing, which was a little surprising given Rios’ propensity not to mince his words when it comes to making his feelings known.
However, on Wednesday morning (Macao time) of fight week, both fighters’ trainers and entourages had a physical altercation in the training gym in the hotel they share. Team Rios, which includes former Wild Card Gym strength and conditioning trainer Alex Ariza, took exception to the way that Roach asked them to leave so that team Pacquiao could start training. Ugly words were exchanged and Ariza kicked Roach in the chest, and a good deal of shoving and squaring off ensued before order was restored.
There is a little history between the camps. Rios is trained by Robert Garcia, who also trained Antonio Margarito for his 2010 fight with Pacquiao. In the 24/7 series leading up to that fight, Rios joked about Roach’s Parkinson’s disease, and Garcia seemed to find it funny and did not call his fighter out on it. That, aligned with Ariza’s involvement in the opposing camp, may not be sitting well with Roach. (WARNING: NSFW language).
While the shemozzles and insult slinging between entourages created a distasteful sub plot that Top Rank had no problem spinning to promote the card, this fight itself will come down to how sharp Pacquiao is and how well Rios can take his shots.
In the past that, Pacquiao has delivered beatings on fighters who decided to be brave and trade with him all night long. But the question is now how much of that Pacquiao is left? With his political career as a congressman taking off and his iconic status in the Philippines cemented, does he still have that same hunger to fight in the squared circle? What effect will the typhoon have on his performance, will it spur him onto win for his country or will it take the fire out of him given the misery and suffering that has fallen on his compatriots? He seemed to be channeling the burden well during fight week:
Can Rios shock the eight-division world champion? The Mexican-American’s camp claims that Roach’s actions this week are of a man that is rattled by the thought of his fighter taking on this challenger. What do you guys think? A return to winning ways for Pacquiao or will Rios batter his way to another impressive win? Let us know what you think.