Will Manny Pacquiao end his two-bout losing streak with a career-reviving performance against rising junior welterweight Brandon Rios, or will Rios come through on his vow to retire the eight-division titlewinner from the Philippines?
The speculation could end on Saturday on HBO Pay Per View, when Pacquiao and Rios meet in a scheduled 12-round welterweight bout. Both fighters are attempting to rebound from setbacks.
Pacquiao, who is turns 35 next month, is trying to rebound from a split-decision loss to Tim Bradley last June, as well as from a devastating sixth-round KO to Juan Manuel Marquez last December.
Rios, who will be in his 147-pound debut, dropped a unanimous decision to Mike Alvarado in March.
RingTV.com sought the opinions of 22 boxing insiders below as to their thoughts on what will transpire in Pacquiao-Rios.
Manny Pacquiao UD 12 Brandon Rios: By temperament, Manny Pacquiao is not cautious. But the savage knockout he suffered against Juan Manuel Marquez had to leave a mark, a lesson that will remind him that sometimes caution is the wise way to proceed.
It will be against the bigger Brandon Rios, who has a chance if he forces a brawl. Pacquiao won’t let him, with a measured, yet thorough implementation of his advantages.
He’ll confuse an impatient Rios with speed, angles and just enough power to keep him at a distance. In the end, a frustrated Rios will be left with lots of bruises and an overwhelming deficit on the scorecards.
Record: 24-9 [Last pick: Ward UD 12 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacquiao TKO 10 Brandon Rios: I don’t know how much Manny Pacquiao has left after the shocking face first loss to Juan Manuel Marquez. Nobody does. But we should all know soon enough.
My gut tells me that he’s going to be fine, and sometimes guts are what it takes to win. Brandon Rios has the guts to fight a legend in China after a revealing loss to Mike Alvarado. Manny has guts to get back in the ring after what happened to him against Marquez.
For all the bravado he sometimes projects, Rios looks and sounds a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of this global event. Pacquiao looks and sounds like Pacquiao. If that’s the case in the ring, he’ll win.
Because he’s good enough to exploit Rios’ porous defense and make “Bam Bam” miss often enough that the only one getting hit is Rios. When that goes on for too long, the fight will be stopped and some questions will hopefully be answered.
Record: 21-9 [Ward W 12 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacquiao KO 7 Brandon Rios: Manny Pacquiao must rebound from the shattering knockout loss he suffered at the hands of arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez in December, and this is the perfect matchup for him to do just that.
Brandon Rios is exciting, established at world level, and near the top of his game. Unfortunatelyf or “Bam Bam” he is also easy to catch, fights with his heart and is too proud, or brave, to change tactics.
Boxing is so fickle, and you’re only as good as your last fight. So skeptics have suggested that Pacquiao is facing the final curtain.
Still, it is worth remembering that the Marquez knockout was against the run of play, and Pacquiao, despite being floored, was performing extremely well, prior to running onto a terminal counter punch.
It appeared to me that Manny’s tactic in Fight IV was to attack Marquez with abandon, because he had not been dropped in 36 prior rounds. Manny will have learned his lesson from that defeat, and is unlikely to leave such attractive openings in this bout.
I think Pacquiao will box on the outside and bust up Rios with combination punching before stepping off to the sides, resetting himself, and starting again. The edge in speed of hand and foot is obvious before these guys step in the ring, and so is Pacquiao’s power.
Rios is one of the most courageous fighters I have ever seen. But this style confrontation is the stuff that nightmares are made of, and fans will be convinced the “Pac Man” is back to his best after a crushing stoppage re-establishes his credentials.
Record: 14-8 [Ward UD 12 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacquiao TKO 10 Brandon Rios: There are so many uncertainties with Manny Pacquiao that trying to nail down if and when this fight is going to end is rather difficult. I’m not certain whether or not Pacquiao can take a punch like he used to or if he’ll be the whirlwind of punches he once was.
But one thing is for sure, Pacquiao is far too fast for Brandon Rios. Lost in the shocking knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez is the fact that Pacquiao was completely shredding Marquez before running into the fight-ending counter.
Rios isn’t even close to the counter-puncher that Marquez is. With Pacquiao darting in and out, Rios is going to have to get lucky if he plans to catch Pacquiao clean coming in as Marquez did. My guess is that he won’t, and this will be a fun fight with Rios having a few moments, but Pacquiao dominating the action.
Rios’ heart is too big and chin too tough to be knocked out, which is why either the doctor or the corner will stop this fight late after Rios’ face is a swollen mess of blood and cuts.
Record: 10-1 [Ward UD 12 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacquiao TKO9 Brandon Rios: Manny Pacquiao hasn’t fought in 11 months, is coming off a devastating knockout defeat and the tragedy in the Philippines admittedly distracted Pacquiao toward the end of his training camp.
While that’s a disconcerting combination, Pacquiao’s speed, power and combination punching probably will be too much for a slower, defensively deficient Brandon Rios.
The game Rios’ aggression and chin will make the fight interesting early, but Pacquiao should have enough left to win his comeback bout by stopping Rios in the later rounds.
Record: 19-6 [Ward UD 12 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacquiao KO 9 Brandon Rios: This fight is swirling with collateral human interest stories with the typhoon and the fact that the fighters visited the Great Wall, among other things.
Manny has the heart of a whale, countrymen are suffering. Is this motivation or a distraction? Cab he recover from the knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez?
On the other hand, Brandon Rios never has seen a media blitz as massive as the one he is encountering. I think that Rios can win even more fans with a valiant effort, but I also believe that Pacquiao will cut him, hurt him and force the referee or the doctor to stop the fight late.
Record: 1-2 [Marquez KO Bradley]
Shane Kelly, guest/fan, Perth, Australia
Manny Pacquiao KO 6 Brandon Rios: As much as I love Brandon Rios’ style of fighting, I think we will see a one-sided affair against Manny Pacquiao. Rios will continuously come forward much they same as Ricky Hatton, but the end will also be similar
I think we will see an even better, more determined Pacquiao than before, and not the older fighter others are expecting to show up. Pacquiao knows that if he dominates and destroys Rios, he is right back in the mix for that shot at Floyd Mayweather.
Rios will try to establish his jab and try to lure Pacquiao into a fire fight. On the other hand, Pacquiao’s speed, jab, different angles and power will be far too much for the young Mexican-American.
I predict a complete demolition of Rios at the hands of Pacquiao, with the straight left hand doing all the damage.
Manny Pacquiao W12 Brandon Rios: If you asked me this question at any point before Dec. 8, 2012, the answer unequivocally would have been Manny Pacquiao by early knockout.
But since that point, Pacquiao was not only blasted by Juan Manuel Marquez, he is now mired in a six-bout streak where he has failed to stop a foe on the strength of his signature perpetual displays of power, speed and aggression.
Thus, what makes this fight with Brandon Rios intriguing now is whether or not Pacquiao can still absorb a power shot and continue to function at a high level. I think we’ll get that answer early. However, I’m wagering that while Pacquiao is past his prime, that he still has something left in the tank.
Also, there’s another variable in play. Rios still needs to prove that his power will carry over to welterweight after a sojourn at 140 pounds. I think it will, but ultimately, I don’t know if it will be enough against a man still deservedly among the top five or six pound-for-pound fighters in boxing.
Record: 17-8 [Garcia TKO 8 Martinez]
Manny Pacquaio UD 12 Brandon Rios: I do not expect this to be a walkover. I never hold Brandon Rios’ chances lightly. Brandon is coming to fight, and that is what we are going to get….a fight.
Despite having been around a long time, there are serious question marks regarding Manny Pacquaio in this fight. Has his focus been lessened by the horrifying typhoon that hit the Phillipines? How will he come back from such a violent knockout suffered at the hands of Marquez? Are his skills in fact deteriorating?
Brandon will come out pretty much whaling away, and may take some early rounds. You know what you are going to get from Rios, relentless pressure. However, Pacquaio will show him things he’s never seen before, especially angles.
Manny can you hit an opponent from the wildest angles imaginable and he does so with power and speed of hand. He is going to be beating Rios to the punch and the accumulation of fast, hard punches will take their toll. I think it’s a distance fight, with Pacquaio taking seven or eight rounds on the way to a tough decision victory in a very hard-fought bout.
Record: 21-11 [Ward TKO 9 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacquiao TKO 11 Brandon Rios: Brandon Rios is an exceptionally dangerous opponent for a man who, when last we saw him in a ring, was taking a lengthy and involuntary nap. My out-of-the-gate prediction was that he would prove too strong for a diminished Manny Pacquiao.
But the more I think about it, the more I have reverted to the orthodoxy. I do believe that Pacquiao has been slipping over the past couple of years, but that slippage has been magnified by the fact that he has faced opponents who did not want to engage (Shane Mosley and Tim Bradley) or are his lifetime nemesis (Juan Manuel Marquez).
For the first time in four years, Pacquiao will be facing a guy roughly his own size who will stand and trade with him. Prior to his knockout loss against Marquez, Pacquiao was looking sharp and fast, with good angles and fast hands.
Though that fight ended poorly for Pacquiao, and we should not underestimate the impact of a knockout loss, Rios has put himself through the wringer as well over the last several years, struggling with weight and fighting one barn burner after another.
If that KO loss took a lot out of Pacquiao, then Rios could well bring Pac Man’s glorious career to an end. But, after due consideration, it says here that Pacquiao will have enough left against the perfect opponent so that, for at least one more night, he will emerge an exciting winner.
It will be a tough, tough fight – fights with Rios always are – but Pacquiao’s footwork and angles make the difference as he builds an early lead. Rios starts to come on strong in the later rounds, but in doing so walks into a Filipino buzz saw and is on his feet when the contest is stopped.
Record: 5-2 [Golovkin KO 6 Stevens]
Manny Pacquiao TKO 9 Brandon Rios: Manny Pacquiao is coming off of two defeats, the most recent being a humbling knockout loss at the hands of longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez. It will be interesting to see if his usually high-powered offense will be affected as a result of that.
My best guess is with an opponent who is moving up in weight in Brandon Rios, Pacquiao will stick to what made him the enigma he became over the last decade. Whether it will work hinges on a number of things.
Rios is the typical come-forward slugger who relies on pressure to break opponents down. Rios was never a one punch knockout guy, even at the 135-pound division. Now in the 147-pound division, it will be key for Rios to carry his legendary chin up the scales with him if he has any chance of winning.
There’s no question that Rios will be taking flush punches from the light years quicker-handed Pacquiao. The question will be in how he handles it. With all great Terminator-style fighters who eat your best Sunday punch and smile, it eventually comes to an end.
The two Mike Alvarado wars put a dent in Rios’ chin, and my prediction is that Manny Pacquiao will finish it once and for all.
Record: 15-3 [Garcia W 12 Martinez]
Manny Pacquiao TKO 11 Brandon Rios: Manny Pacquiao is desperate to show the boxing world that he’s still one of the best fighters on the planet.
Brandon Rios despised losing to Mike Alvarado a few months ago. He’s determined to prove the naysayers wrong.
Pacquiao is the quicker fighter in every conceivable way. He’ll sting Rios early in the bout with hard combinations. Rios will fight as hard as he can, but I see Pacquiao stopping him in Round 11.
Record: 12-5 [Ward TKO 11 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacquiao KO 8 Brandon Rios: Unless Manny Pacquiao is totally, completely finished, he should win this fight.
It probably won’t be easy –when is it easy against Brandon Rios? But even this diminished version of Pacquiao should be enough to catch and stop Rios in a fun fight.
Record: 23-9 [Ward UD 12 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacquiao KO Brandon Rios: I go back and forth on this one. Brandon Rios is a ball of fire when he’s on and he’s got youth on his side and a moment as big as any he could ask for. Rios has also got one of the greats looking to prove he’s not done.
Pacquiao, given his style and already long career — it’s 15 years since his first world title — is past his best. But a bad knockout loss doesn’t mean he’s done.
Assuming Pacquiao still has a formidable A-game, the pick is for him to overcome some tough moments and land too much back for Rios to overcome. Looking for Pacquiao to end matters after a thrilling first seven or eight rounds.
Record: 22-9 [Ward W 12 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacauiao KO 9 Brandon Rios: I think that Manny Pacquiao demonstrated against Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez (before the knockout) that he has more than enough left to handle an opponent as limited as Brandon Rios.
Rios is strong and tough and will never stop attacking, which will lead to his demise. Pacquiao will pick him apart until the fight is stopped in the late rounds.
Record: 17-7 [Golovkin KO 7 Stevens]
Manny Pacquiao KO 9 Brandon Rios: Manny Pacquiao will be too inspired at home in front of his countrymen. Brandon Rios will find out he’s fighting that night a deity to his people.
Record: 25-5 [Garcia KO 9 Martinez]
Manny Pacquiao UD 12 Brandon Rios: I might be going against the grain on this one. Many are counting Manny Pacquiao out now.
But I’m going to say I think he will come back well from that bad knockout loss. His trainer, Freddie Roach, will have a proper game plan in place and Rios’ aggressiveness will work against him here.
Pac has that sharp power, and I think his countering skills will be on full display in this fight on the way to a pretty solid unanimous decision victory.
Record: 18-6 [Garcia W 12 Martinez]
Manny Pacquiao KO 8 Brandon Rios: I spent two weeks in Manny Pacquiao’s camp in General Santos City, the whole time looking for signs of deterioration in Pacquiao. I didn’t see any. Instead I saw a fighter who is still great training as hard as he could to regain his past glory.
I figure that Pacquiao would have to be shot to lose this fight, and I didn’t see any signs of that in him during training camp. Assuming that Brandon Rios is still Brandon Rios, there are just some styles that Pacquiao will always shine against, and that style is personified in Rios.
Rios will be keyed up for the biggest opportunity of his life, and I suspect will be dangerous early as Pacquiao gets comfortable in the ring. By the time the fight levels out, I expect that Pacquiao’s speed and combination punching from mid-range will take over the fight. I think Pacquiao stops Rios some time around the eighth round, possibly on cuts or referee’s stoppage.
Record: 13-4 [Garcia KO 10 Martinez]
Manny Pacquiao KO 6 Brandon Rios: I believe that Manny Pacquiao is going for a little redemption in this bout, and Brandon Rios unfortunately drew the ticket.
Pacquiao is coming off of a highly-disputed and controversial decision loss to Timothy Bradley as well as knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez that was the result of his making a huge mistake during a fight in which he appeared to be at the top of his game.
I think Pacquiao has recovered mentally from the knockout, because that’s what champs do. Pacquiao looks to be in top shape for the bout, and I expect to see the results come the Nov. 23.
Record: 0-1 [Matthysse KO 6 Garcia]
Bob Velin, USA TODAY Sports
Pacquiao unanimous decision against Rios: The fighters with arguably the two best trainers in the sport will give boxing fans the exciting, all-action fight they’re hoping for. Rios, of course, will come forward and attack. It’s how he fights, and he won’t make the mistake of trying to knock Pacquiao out with one punch. He’s a volume puncher and will throw in bunches, not one at a time as he did in Rios-Alvarado II. Expect his defense to be better, too. Pacquiao will counter, and throw from many different angles. It will be interesting to see how Pacquiao responds to a big punch that lands flush. I think he will get through it and win by simply outworking Rios.
Manny Pacquiao TKO 10 Brandon Rios: Manny Pacquiao was knocked out in brutal fashion in the sixth round at the hands of a great counter-puncher in Juan Manuel Marquez. But here’s the thing: Pacquiao wasn’t battered from post-to-post in his defeat. In fact, he was dominating the fight until that quintessential right hand made its mark.
Brandon Rios coming off his own loss, is no counter-puncher and has less patience than Marquez. Rios is a come-forward fighter with underrated boxing skills. He’s effective to the body and has a sturdy jab to measure his opponents for the heavy hay-makers.
So who is the more invigorated fighter of the two? It would seem to be Rios, the younger robust fighter who has never been stopped. It would seem that Pacquiao has fallen from grace, the mental aspect of his game, absent, and that he is no longer the spirited warrior with the energetic forceful prowess he once had.
Rios, however, enjoys consuming a few punches to get in his own. Pacquiao, meanwhile, will more likely dart in and out in an attempt to place his shots, demonstrating to the world that he’s far from done.
The fight ends with Rios’ trainer, Robert Garcia, waving off the bought in round 10 after watching his fighter absorb an accumulation of punches. Pacquiao, his hands raised, is back. For now.
Record: 3-2 [Ward KO 11 Rodriguez]
Manny Pacquiao TKO 6 Brandon Rios: There is a reason Brandon Rios was selected for Manny Pacquiao’s return: He’s aggressive and likes to go to war. Both make him, in general, dangerous.
But you have to figure that in this case he’s made for Pacquiao. I suspect Rios will take the initiative early on and maybe have a few successes. But Pacquiao will work his way into the fight after a couple of rounds.
As brave and as good a chin as Rios has, he’s never been hit by someone like Pacquiao. I believe that Pacquiao will force the stoppage by the mid rounds.
Record: 13-7 [Ward W 12 Rodriguez]
By a one-sided 22-0, the experts have Manny Pacquiao defeating Brandon Rios in their non-title welterweight bout.
Photos / Chris Farina-Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com.