And frankly it’s all a but farcical.
That’s not limited to the crude “brawl” between the pairs respective training staff but to the entire bout itself.
Yes, Pacquiao is coming off a brutal knockout loss. And yes there was another controversial loss before that. And yes, in all honesty he hadn’t looked that great in the two bouts before that. Considering his level of competition and the situation he’s in, he’s allowed to have a soft bout for his return.
But this soft? And for people (in the US at least) being expected to pay for it?
Rios tries hard. I guess we can give him that. He’s exciting, has a decent inside game and a solid chin.
But he’s a guy who lost his last bout. He’s a guy who’s coming into this contest off the back of two bouts frequently described as “career shortening wars”. He’s a guy who’s only had two bouts at 140lbs and none at 147lbs. He’s a guy who hasn’t really looked great in his last four bouts either. He’s a guy who’s already slurring his words at age 27.
People will ask what Pacquiao has left after being flattened by Marquez. But equally pertinent is what does Rios have left after his two wars with Alvarado? And while Manny has struggled in his last four bouts, those bouts were against guys who have almost no stylistic similarity to Rios. Two were against Marquez, a consummate counter puncher who had already had 24 rounds in the ring with Pacquiao to sort out his timing. One was against Bradley, one of the most versitile and well rounded boxers in the world today, a high level athlete with slick skills and a clever boxing brain. And while Pacquiao may have won virtually every round against Mosely he did find his offencw stymied by Mosely simply flicking a jab and taking half-steps backwards.
The issue is that Rios isn’t going to be flicking a jab and taking half-steps backwards, let alone counter punching with the skill of Marquez.
Instead the boxer in Pacquiao’s history Rios most resembles is Antonio Margarito. A man Pacquiao beat so brutally and punched so repeatedly that he literally disfigured him. And frankly, if you asked me who the better boxer was out of that version of Margarito and today’s Rios I’d be tempted to pick Margarito; if nothing else he was significantly bigger and carries more one-punch power.
People will describe Rios as “iron jawed” and they’re pretty much correct. Throughout his career Rios has shown the ability to take a good punch, often repeatedly. But that’s the thing. Think about what I just said. When people call someone “iron jawed” what they’re saying, consciously or subconsciously, is that they have poor defence. Mayweather’s shown a pretty great chin throughout his career, including taking clean bombs from Mosely without going down. Yet people rarely describe him as iron-chinned because it’s such a rarity to actually see his chin tested. It’s a rarity to not see Rios’ chin tested. And having poor defence is basically the cardinal sin when facing Pacquiao.
Expect to see Pacquiao move around a fair amount in this bout. Pacquaio’s technical footwork is fairly limited but he can make up for that with his sheer speed and Rios struggled with Alvarado’s rudimentary movement in their rematch. Rios is going to come forward and try as hard as he can… that’s what he does. But I struggle to see him tracking down Pacquiao and his aggression is likely to lead to him walking into Pacquiao’s punches. If I were in Manny’s corner I’d advise him to put in some significant body work in addition to his usual headshots and rely on in and out movement, darting in and tatooing Rios’ face and body with a combination or two before slipping away before Rios can fire anything significant back.
If this bout goes 12 rounds I think Pacquiao will win a one-sided decision. But I don’t see it going 12. Regardless of Rios’ chin and how strong it is, expecting him to take the number of punches that I think Pacquiao will land on him is a fool’s errand. I’m not exactly expecting a repeat of Manny’s one punch KO over Hatton, but I can certainly see Pacquiao break him down over a number of rounds in the same manner as he did David Diaz.
Pacquiao in eight… and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was quicker.
And that’s what’s disappointing about this bout.
When pound for pound superstar Roy Jones Jr (incidentally a man regularly accused of being highly selective with his opponents) needed a comeback opponent after being brutally stopped he picked Glen Johnson, a man who has been boxing at 175lbs for years and held a world title belt. When Morales returned from being brutally knocked out by Pacquiao he faced Pacquiao again… and when he was stopped in that bout he then went up in weight and boxed a world title holder. When Margarito had his eye virtually knocked out of his head against Pac he returned against Cotto. When Cotto was broken down by Pacquiao he went up a weight class and took on an undefeated world champion Yuri Foreman. When Paul Williams was splattered by Martinez he returned against Lara (albeit after having his first choice of opponent cancelled by HBO). Hell, when Oscar De la Hoya, a huge PPV star, wanted a soft-touch bout when coming off a loss and faced Forbes he at least had the decency to put it on normal HBO as opposed to PPV.
Pac has Rios.
Not even Alvarado, the man who beat Rios. Rios himself. Coming off a loss.
The bout will probably be fun to watch in the same way that public executions were probably fun to watch in times gone by until we decided they were barbaric and unnecessary. Because that’s basically what this bout is. Rios is so hopelessly outmatched on paper that if Pacquiao even struggles in a winning performance then real questions have to be asked about his in-ring future. Rios is there to take a beating and to make Pacquiao look good.
Even ignoring the morality issues of that in the light of what’s happened in boxing recently, it’s not something I can get behind or even muster that much excitement for.