By Kirk Jackson
2012 was a horrific year for Manny Pacquiao. From all the rumors of turmoil within his marriage, pressures of orchestrating his political campaign, the pressure of living up to being the spokesperson and hero of his native country the Philippines, all along with taking on some tough opponents inside the boxing ring, things did not mix well together as planned.
All of these ingredients resulted in a toxic combination, more catastrophic than the congregation of the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers.
A controversial split decision defeat against Timothy Bradley in May of 2012, to go along with a brutal 6th round KO loss against longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez in December of 2012, perhaps signified the end of the Filipino congressmen, at least when it comes to politics inside the ring.
Is it truly the end? Maybe the hardcore Pacquiao fans will not recognize that his reign as one of the sport’s top fighters is indeed over.
One sure way to find out is by getting in the ring.
The inability to be cleared to fight legally in the United States does raise a question about Pacquiao’s overall health and ability to continue a career in boxing.
One way to prolong a fighter’s career, heck even start and maintain a fighter’s career is to have clever match making. The past five plus years or so Pacquiao has had the best match maker in the business with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum running the ship.
Pacquiao is slated to return to action November 23rd at the Cotai Arena, Venetian Resort, Macao, Macao S.A.R., China against Brandon Rios 31(23 KO’s)-1-1.
Rios is an aggressive, power punching pressure fighter, willing to take several punches in order to deliver some punishment. Rios is like a miniature version of Antonio Margarito, which is fitting because he looked up to and trained with the Tijuana Tornado.
He is the younger fighter and definitely looking for the opportunity to propel himself into superstardom. But Rios is coming off a classic 12 round unanimous decision defeat to Mike Alvarado back in March of this year.
Stylistically on paper, this looks like a match-up that should work in Pacquiao’s favor. Rios comes forward with somewhat of a reckless abandon or disregard of defense, which creates exciting fights. But this leaves him vulnerable for the power punching for Pacquiao.
Pacquiao has fought at the bigger weight for a longer period time as this will be Rios’ first fight at welterweight. Pacquiao also has the experience and speed.
And he’s desperate. He’s a proud champion with a ton of pride. He wants to show the world he is still an elite fighter, that the year of 2012 was just a blip on the radar.
As reported by Ronnie Nathanielsz from Boxingscene.com, Rios’ trainer Robert Garcia feels this may be Pacquiao’s last opportunity to show he can still compete at a high level.
“It is a make or break fight for him and if he loses he may retire,” said Garcia to Boxingscene.com/Manila Standard.
“That’s why we know he’ll have the best preparation ever. We know Manny Pacquiao is a superstar and he’ll be better than ever.”
Rios is going to prepare like he is fighting the prime version of Manny Pacquiao. If Pacquiao still has some resemblance of that is what we will find out when they step in the ring in November.
What lies in the future for the congressman if he can get a victory over Rios?
That depends on how he looks inside the ring. Pacquiao is a fast starter, has blazing hand speed, power, all of that. If he looks like the Manny of old and runs through Rios, who could potentially be next?
There are still many fans who want to see that elusive fight against Floyd Mayweather. Maybe Pacquiao can exact revenge against Marquez in a fifth fight.
The likelihood of a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight is highly unlikely; there will probably not be a rematch with Timothy Bradley and other than those three fighters there may not be many other options out there.
Maybe it’s about having pride and finishing his career out on a winning note.
With most top level fighters, once the weakness is exposed and the invincible aura has faded, the fighter is no longer the same. We witnessed it with Mike Tyson late in his career as an example.
And that’s not to say Rios doesn’t have a shot to win. Although Pacquiao looks to be the better fighter on paper and based on comparative resumes and career accomplishments, fighters still have to fight the fight.
Anything can happen; Rios is good at cutting off the ring, is a big guy and has punching power. We are not certain on how durable Pacquiao’s chin is coming off the KO loss against Marquez.
If Pacquiao is to lose to Rios in their upcoming fight and if by KO, it should be time for Pacquiao to hang up the gloves.