Pacquiao vs. Rios HBO 24/7: Biggest Lessons from Episode 1

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Pacquiao vs. Rios HBO 24/7: Biggest Lessons from Episode 1
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Maybe he’ll provide a significant in-ring challenge. Maybe he won’t.

Either way, if there’s anyone out there who believes Brandon Rios is anything more than a familiar name on the marquee heading into his Chinese adventure with Manny Pacquiao later this month, the folks at HBO are doing their best to set you straight.

The Oxnard, Calif.-reared brawler has done and said all the right things as the match with PacMan has evolved from face-saving concept for Manny to actual overseas pay-per-view event, but the initial episode of 24/7 certainly showed which guy—in the words of onetime wrestling god Rob Van Dam—is the “whole f’ing show.”

And here’s a hint: his nickname ain’t “Bam Bam.”

HBO Loves It Some Manny

It’s hardly surprising that the “Network of Champions” would continue to align itself with the most prolific belt-gatherer of a generation, a guy who’s continually elevated its PPV events to must-see status, regardless of opponent or weight class.

And while the interest in the fight is not on the level of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Saul Alvarez extravaganza on another network two months ago, curiosity alone about Pacquiao’s acumen in the wake of a devastating sixth-round KO last year ought to drive numbers.

The 24/7 premiere seemed as much a Pacquiao promotional piece as an even-handed documentary about the two fighters, with a clear plurality of the 25-plus minutes devoted either to highlights, conversation about or conversation with the seven-division champion.

Rios had his share of face time as well, but the tone struck for much of it was less about how he deserved to share a ring with Pacquiao and more of reverence for the moment and his foe.

Rios Has a Potty Mouth

Some guys swear in order to sound grown up.

Others do it to appear cooler or more rugged in particular company.

Rios, it seems, pretty much does it because he likes it.

Feng Li/Getty Images

Though his overall role in the episode was comparatively small when laid alongside Pacquiao’s, the once-beaten ex-135-pound champ got his money’s worth when it came to crude language—whether by carpet-bombing nearby microphones with F bombs or likening his ardor for in-ring violence to the climactic satisfaction of, well…you know.

Of course, while such vulgarity might titillate the first time it’s heard, its impact is significantly diminished with each repeat beyond that—especially if there’s little other content to offer.

By the time it was over, there were 13 F bombs and another handful of sex references.

“It’s better than sex for me. I love it. It’s like my orgasm,” he said, referring to his best career win—the seventh-round stoppage of Mike Alvarado that was avenged by unanimous decision five months later. “I busted a nut, and a big one.”

A Bob the Builder Production

Most promoters, when assembling a match that’s designed specifically for the benefit of one of the two participants, will go to at least moderate lengths to cover their tracks.

Bob Arum, as anyone with a boxing pulse has long known, is not “most promoters.”

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Neither the Las Vegas muscle behind Top Rank nor Pacquiao’s own trainer/best friend, Freddie Roach, were against broadcasting the idea that Rios was selected as Manny’s comeback foil because he’s got precisely the ring style against which their man typically thrives.

“I’m not going to put Manny in a fight he can’t win,” Roach said. “I’m not going to put him in a fight he’s got a chance of getting hurt in.”

It’s a fight Arum envisioned two summers ago surrounded by significantly different circumstances, but one that remains sellable enough, even today, with both guys coming off losses.

“I looked around for fighters who would guarantee the fight would be sensationally exciting,” Arum said. “Brandon Rios is the closest thing to late Arturo Gatti that I’ve seen around.”

Rios’s style, along with a familiar name and has a resume that correctly labels him as credible, provides a perfect storm of marketing possibilities beyond the typical “big-time fighter is reviving his career against an opponent with zero chance of winning.”

While Rios' ability to provide anything beyond a three-round Nov. 23 slugfest is open for debate, the reality is that his lingering street cred. as a tough guy—even though he lost his last fight and holds no title belts—will recruit enough people with PPV money to burn to make it a success.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from HBO's 24/7 Pacquiao/Rios, which aired on Nov. 10, 2013.

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