By Sean Crose
You’ve heard it a million times by now – Manny Pacquiao is finished. Washed up. A fighter on the way down. Thing is, some of us aren’t so sure…at least not yet. While watching the Filipino legend being interviewed in the lead-up to his his battle with Brandon Rios, it pays to listen carefully.
Sure, Pacquiao’s lost his last two fights – but one was arguably the biggest ripoff since the 1919 World Series. As for the other, well, Pacquiao argues he was doing great up until the very end. And he’s right. Check it out again On Demand or on YouTube. PacMan looked terrific.
Until, of course, the punch landed. That punch. Didn’t see it until they showed it in slow motion, did you? I know I didn’t. Let’s face it, though, we really don’t know what kind of long term effect that punch had on the head it landed on…at least not yet.
That’s why it pays to listen to Pacquiao in those interviews. He sounds confident, non-nonchalant, actually. Not unfocused, just unperturbed about his last two fights. That’s a good thing for boxing fans. An untroubled, prime Pacquiao is simply good for the sport. Scratch that. It’s great for the sport.
Still we won’t know where the man’s mind is until he steps into the ring with Brandon Rios in Macau on November 24th. If Pacquiao looks sharp, though, we can expect a complete one-eighty from many who are currently writing the Filipino off. Sports writers, like entertainment writers, can be a fickle bunch.
Yet Pacquiao has to do more than just win against Rios. He has to win big. No one’s giving his opponent a chance here, so a good showing by the ferocious (if one dimensional) Rios will serve as another nail in the coffin of Pacquiao’s reputation. What’s more, this fight might not be as one sided as it’s being made out to be.
Rios, after all, harkens all the way back to John L. Sullivan. He sees boxing as an act of manhood, tends to knock his opponents out, and isn’t afraid to come across like a jerk. Sullivan got knocked out himself in his biggest fight. Will Rios? Freddy Roach and company hope so. And so do lots of fight fans. For a Pacquiao KO would ring in a fresh chorus of Pacquiao-Mayweather cries.
But knocking out Rios will be a pretty tall order. Just ask Mike Alvarado. He would have loved to have knocked Rios out. In fact, he hit Rios hard – really hard – again and again over the course of two fights. When the dust cleared, however, Alvarado was left with one decision victory and one bruising defeat.
The lesson to be learned here? That Rios doesn’t go out quietly. Not ever. He didn’t against Alvardo and he certainly won’t against Pacquiao, who’s pretty much his ticket to a bright future. This is going to be a brawl, plain and simple. Someone like Timothy Bradley might try to outfox Rios. Pacquiao’s just going to try to beat him up.
That means the bout will make for good viewing. Will it make for memorable viewing, however? There’s reason to believe it will. Pacquiao knows he needs to look good this time out. Count on it. Freddy Roach is reminding him of this fact over and over again. A great fighter’s reputation is at stake here – and great fighter’s take their reputations very seriously.
One more thing to consider: Pacquiao isn’t just fighting for himself against Rios. He’s fighting for his homeland, a country recently beset by a terrible natural tragedy. Pacquiao’s people, who he has literally represented as a politician, need hope right now.
There’s no way in the world the man won’t try to deliver.