By: William Holmes
On Saturday night in Macau boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao will look to rebound from back to back losses when he takes on Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios in the welterweight division. Added pressure will be placed on Pacquaio since the Philippines is recovering from the devastating Typhoon Haiyan and he has decided to dedicate this fight to his countrymen.
Chris Farina/Top Rank
The undercard isn’t stacked, but it does feature an IBF Featherweight title match as well as a flyweight match with Olympic Gold Medalist Zou Shiming.
The following is a preview of Saturday’s card.
Zou Shiming (2-0) vs. Juan Toscano (4-0); Flyweights
It was recently announced that Zou Shiming will be making $500,000 for his fight with Toscano, but that should come as no surprise to boxing fans.
Even though Pacquiao is an Asian sensation, Shiming is the main reason for Top Rank putting on a card in Macau instead of Las Vegas. He’s a two time Olympic Gold Medalist and won three world titles as an amateur. He’s also perhaps the best boxing prospect to ever come out of China.
Not much is known about his opponent Juan Tozcano. He only has one stoppage victory on his record and all of his opponents in his short career have had very unimpressive records. His last four opponents have a combined record of 2-21-5.
Does Toscano have a chance at derailing Shiming’s career? No.
Fellow Top Rank stable mate and former Olympic Gold Medalist Vasyl Lomachenko is taking on former world champion Orlando Salido in just his second professional fight while Shiming fights another unknown fighter in friendly territory. This should give you an idea of the career trajectory of Zou Shiming.
Shiming will remain undefeated on Saturday but if he wants to gain more US fans he needs to win by knockout.
Andy Ruiz (20-0) vs. Tor Hamer (21-2); Heavyweights
Realistically, neither Ruiz or Hamer seem have the potential to unseat current heavyweight kingpin Wladimir Klitschko. However, both have the ability to make waves in the heavyweight division and on paper this has the looks of a potentially exciting fight.
Andy Ruiz represented Mexico in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and had an outstanding amateur career. He trains with Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym. As an amateur he also won two Mexican National Junior Olympics Gold Medals.
Ruiz is only twenty four years old and has been fighting professionally since 2009. He has been brought along carefully so far in his career. Fourteen of his victories have come by stoppage including his last six bouts. He has fought three times in 2012 and three times so far in 2013.
He has been kept busy, but he is also untested. His biggest victory to date was a fourth round TKO over the then undefeated Joe Hanks in Macau.
Tor Hamer has comparable power to Ruiz. He has also stopped fourteen of his opponents and three of his last five opponents. Hamer won the prizefighter tournament in 2012 in London, England and that helped get him higher profile bout against Vyacheslav Glazkov at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
He quit in his corner after the fourth round. Hamer’s other loss came to Kelvin Price in 2010 by split decision.
Overall, Hamer has fought better competition than Ruiz but he does not possess the deep amateur background. Hamer could surprise Ruiz and win by a stoppage, but it is more likely that Ruiz will outbox and outmaneuver Hamer.
Evgeny Gradovich (17-0) vs. Billy Dib (36-2); IBF Featherweight Title
The co-main event of the night is also the night’s only world title fight. Evgeny Gradovich and the 50 Cent promoted Billy Dib already fought in March of 2013. At that time Dib was the IBF Featherweight division and he suffered a mild upset to Gradovich who simply wore him down and outworked him to a decision victory.
Very little has changed since their first encounter except for that Gradovich is now a better known fighter.
They are both similar in age, height, and reach. Dib has stopped twenty one of his opponents while Gradovich has only stopped eight. They both have a deep amateur background but neither Dib or Gradovich competed in the Olympics.
Dib was clearly Gradovich’s biggest victory to date. He has defended his title once, in July of 2013, against Mauricio Javier Munoz which he won by a wide decision.
Billy Dib first won the IBF Featherweight Title with a decision victory over Jorge Lacierva in July of 2011 and went on to defend it three times before losing the belt to Evgeny Gradovich. Dib has also fought once since his bout with Gradovich. However, he was unimpressive and looked lackadaisical in a majority decision victory over Mike Oliver.
The rematch will likely play out like the first fight with Gradovich raising his arms in victory.
Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2) vs. Brandon Rios (31-1); Welterweights
At the age of thirty four Pacquiao is clearly at the tail end of his career. He is coming off back to back losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez. Granted, his loss to Bradley was highly controversial but there is no doubt about his loss to Marquez. He was brutally knocked out. It was the type of knockout that many fighters are unable to come back from.
After taking a year off the question becomes can he?
Pacquiao has thirty eight stoppages on his record but he has not stopped a fighter since Miguel Cotto in 2009. He still has the speed and the desire, but his chin is now questionable and Rios will find a way to test it early.
Rios is a pressure fighter who has been campaigning for most of his career as a lightweight. After struggling to make the lightweight division he has jumped up to the junior welterweight and now the welterweight divisions. He has twenty three stoppages on his record including three of his last five bouts.
Rios is also coming off a loss. He fought Mike Alvarado twice, he stopped him in the seventh round in their first bout and lost his second bout by a close decision. “Bam Bam” likes to bang and he is not afraid to take a punch in order to give a punch.
Many people will assume that Pacquiao will be the bigger fighter since he has been campaigning as a welterweight for a longer time than Rios. That assumption is wrong. Pacquiao has never had to cut weight to make the welterweight limit and will be giving up height and reach to Rios. In pre fight photos it is easy to see that Rios is the bigger fighter.
The one good thing working for Pacquiao is that he has taken a year off since his last fight and should be close to fully recuperated from his devastating knockout loss. Pacquiao also has a history of doing better against fighters who come forward than against crisp counter punchers. Rios is a fighter who likes to come forward.
If Pacquiao’s chin can hold up he should win on Saturday, but Rios will make it a brutal fight.
At Macau, China (HBO PPV): Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios, 12 rounds, welterweights;Evgeny Gradovich vs. Billy Dib, rematch, 12 rounds, for Gradovich’s IBF featherweight title; Andy Ruiz vs. Tor Hamer, 10 rounds, heavyweights; Zou Shiming vs. Juan Toscano, 6 rounds, flyweights;