The Pacman has seen both sides of the coin better than most. In his 2009 two-round devastation of Ricky Hatton, Pacquiao became the most popular and imposing pugilist on the planet.
Yet just four short years later, just when it seemed the popular Filipino was about to finally overwhelm his arch-nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez in the sixth round of their fourth and maybe final battle, Pacquiao was clobbered down to the cold, hard reality of the unforgiving canvas by a single, beautiful, savage right hand.
With one punch, Pacquiao’s career came crashing down around him to depths he had never seen before. Now he doesn’t just need a quick win on the books to get back on track. He needs a full-scale reclamation project.
Luckily (or perhaps by design) Pacquiao is tied to just the promotional company to do the job. Bob Arum and Top Rank make stars. And remake them, too.
Pacquiao is 34, but he doesn’t appear to be at the point of no return yet. Against Timothy Bradley last June, only the three blind mice at ringside saw anything but a dominant Pacquiao victory. In fact, Comcast’s Ryan Maquiñana collected scores from over 53 boxing media experts that night. The result? Almost 95 percent called it for Pacquiao in a landslide victory, according to Comcast SportsNet.
Even against Marquez, before Marquez's right hand slammed into his cheekbone, Pacquiao appeared to be on his way to victory.
Pacquiao needs his groove back.
He needs an opponent who appears dangerous but is really one-dimensional. He needs a tough slugger who will stand there and not move his head that much—someone whose feet and hands are slower and more predictable than his own.
He needs someone like Brandon Rios, which is probably why Top Rank chose him to help them get their cash cow Pacquiao back on track. And Top Rank will be good either way.
Let’s face it: If Pacquiao loses to a guy like Rios, he’s done as a top-shelf draw, and it would make Rios all the more marketable for his promotional company—which is, you guessed it, Top Rank. And if Pacquiao wins, he’ll be back in line for a crack at the division’s best.
Pacquiao won’t lose to Rios. He’ll look sensational against him, and the interest in Pacquiao against either Marquez or Bradley will be as big as ever.
Rebuilding a legacy, though, isn’t just about a quick win. He’ll need multiple wins against name opponents, so after disposing of Rios, Pacquiao will likely go after the winner of October’s Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Timothy Bradley showdown.
If it’s Marquez, Pacquiao will have a chance to prove to the world (and to himself) that Marquez’s KO win over him in December was nothing but a fluke, a lucky punch. If it’s Bradley, Pacquiao would have the chance to avenge a bogus loss and be the first fighter to hand Bradley a defeat (well, officially).
No matter which opponent it turns out to be, Pacquiao’s legacy will be bolstered by a win, and it would set him up to the face the loser of Marquez vs. Bradley, assuming the defeated opponent has rebounded with his own win.
If Pacquiao were to do all that, his legacy would be more secure for some time to come. Regardless of what any other fighter of his era has done, Pacquiao has proved already to be an all-time great fighter. In fact, he’ll go down in history as one of the most impressive and popular champions who ever lived.
And a run of consecutive wins over the likes of Rios, Marquez and Bradley would add credence to him being the best fighter of his era. Period.