It'll be Rios or Alvarado for Pacquiao in November.
With the entirety of the boxing world's attention focused on this past Saturday's welterweight showdown between Floyd Mayweather and Robert Guerrero, it's easy to see how another piece of news got lost in the shuffle.
But the man who for years was linked to Mayweather in a type of superfight dance that never came to fruition, Manny Pacquiao, has finalized a date for his planned return to the ring. The Filipino icon will return on Nov. 24 (Nov. 23 in the United States) and will be fighting in Asia for the first time since 2006, when he easily decisioned Oscar Larios.
The fight will take place in Macau, China, against an undetermined opponent. Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, who split their recent two-fight series, have been mentioned as the most likely opponents to get the shot at Pacquiao (per Boxing Scene), but nothing has been finalized at this point.
Both Rios and Alvarado could present intriguing matchups for the Pac-Man, as he hopes to get his career back on track after suffering back-to-back losses in 2012. Whomever lands the fight will bring both pros and cons to the table. So let's look at some of them.
Rios is tough, gutsy and loves to fight.
Rios Comes to Fight
If we learned anything from his two-fight series with Mike Alvarado, particularly in the first fight, it's that Brandon Rios is an all-action warrior who is willing to eat shots in order to land his own. He's established himself as one of the sport's best young brawlers and that could make for an intriguing fight with Manny Pacquiao.
Stylistically he's the perfect type of foil for Pacquiao to show he's returned to form. Unlike Marquez, Rios isn't the type of fighter to sit back and allow you to make the fight. He's going to come right at you and that's just the type of fight the Pac-Man wants.
Whether or not the Filipino icon still has that in him, however, remains to be seen.
The Lotto Ticket Effect
Rios is a former junior welterweight champion who was undefeated in 30 fights until he faced Alvarado in the rematch of their 2012 Fight of the Year. He's no slouch by any means but lacks the type of career-defining win that would make him a star.
The first Alvarado fight certainly built his profile, but he still remains something of an unknown outside those who follow the sport intently. A fight and win over Manny Pacquiao, or even just a good performance, would certainly launch him to a new level.
Rios is also the younger fighter, is coming off a loss he hotly disputed and feels there is something to prove. That's a good mix for any fighter coming into the biggest fight of his life.
Rios is much more dangerous.
Rios Can Punch
The enduring image of Pacquiao vs. Marquez IV was that of Manny Pacquiao laying flat on the mat, motionless and unconscious. It was a scary scene and one that the Pac-Man certainly doesn't want to see repeated.
The problem is that Brandon Rios can hit and he can hit very hard. It might not be the wisest course to test out a suddenly suspect chin against a fighter with Rios power and with a style that leaves him willing to swallow a few in order to get a good one on his opponent's chin.
And we won't know whether Manny's whiskers are still there until he eats a solid shot. Brandon Rios can check his chin early and give us our answer. Good for fans—possibly bad for Manny Pacquiao.
He's Not a Welterweight
Brandon Rios has spent his entire career at 140 pounds and below. He has never fought at 147 and fills out well one weight class below at junior welterweight.
Much of the criticism of Manny Pacquiao throughout his career has been that he's fought guys outside of their natural weight classes and utilized this to his advantage. That will likely rear its head again should he choose Rios as his opponent.
Lost in that discussion though would be the potential for this being a truly exciting fight.
Alvarado has the momentum.
Alvarado is coming off the biggest win of his career, a narrow points victory over Rios, in a rematch of their 2012 Fight of the Year. He has momentum now and should be primed to cash-in on his big win last March.
Some may feel this is unfair, especially since Rios defeated Alvarado in much more dramatic and spectacular fashion in their first bout, but that's just the reality of boxing.
Many felt that Alvarado was also on the verge of winning the first bout before getting caught and stopped in the seventh round. By righting that loss, he has earned himself a chance to make some good money in a huge pay-per-view event.
He's Less of a Threat than Rios
Over their two-fight series, and granted each man won one fight, it was probably Rios who was more impressive than Alvarado. He won the first bout by knockout and has a legitimate gripe about winning the second one too.
Alvarado is also a somewhat more limited fighter, is slower and doesn't have quite as much power as Rios, which could make him a more attractive option for both Pacquiao and his promoter, Bob Arum.
Alvarado has also shown that he can be hurt and stopped. Rios has not shown the same thing in the past and that makes "Mile High" Mike more of a managed risk.
Mighty Mike doesn't have the name recognition to sell the fight.
Risk is Still Risk
For years, Manny Pacquiao has been the undisputed cash cow of Bob Arum's Top Rank Promotions. Even if he's diminished, there is still plenty of money to be made on his name if he's matched up correctly. That could even lead to a Floyd Mayweather clash—cue the applause—if the money is still there.
Great fighters lose and there is no shame in the Marquez defeat. But this is a risky fight and one that certainly puts Pacquiao in some danger of a third-straight loss. That could kill his remaining marketability.
This risk would be tempered a bit by the fact that a win would make Alvarado a star in his own right, but he's no Manny Pacquiao. Even as less of a risk than Rios, Alvarado is still no walk in the park.
Alvarado will have a harder time selling to the mainstream public than Rios will. Granted, the fight will be sold on the Pacquiao name regardless of who he fights, but even in his heyday, he was no Floyd Mayweather when it comes to pay-per-view revenues.
Pacquiao is an international star and he's capable of selling his share of fights on pay-per-view. But he's not Mayweather, capable of nabbing millions of buys for fighting just about anybody.
He need somebody to share the bill with him, like Marquez, that will draw in some additional buys, and Mike Alvarado just doesn't provide that.
Mike Alvarado will get the fight.
There are a lot of factors that go into putting together a big fight. You have to weigh all the relative pros and cons of each fighter and what they bring, or don't bring, to the table.
If you were making this fight just based on excitement and potential fireworks, the clear-cut choice would be Brandon Rios. He's a warrior in the true sense of the word, a throwback who is willing to eat as many punches as necessary in order to get off his own.
But his biggest problem is that he has a better chance of winning the fight than Mike Alvarado does. And at this stage of his career, and particularly for this his comeback fight, it's all about rebuilding the Manny Pacquiao brand.
A loss here could signal the end of Pacquiao's run and the end of Top Rank's money train. A win and it could be on to potentially more lucrative rematches with Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez. There's even a possibility of reigniting the Floyd Mayweather discussion.
Mike Alvarado is a good fighter. He's tough, determined and coming off a big win. But he still doesn't provide the level of risk that you'd see from Brandon Rios.
Granted, Pacquiao would be the favorite against each guy and both provide different levels of risk. But Alvarado provides slightly less, and that's why he will land this fight.