Two boxers at the crossroads of their respective careers will clash on Nov. 23 in Macau, China, when Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios go toe-to-toe for the vacant WBO International Welterweight Championship.
While Pacquiao appears to be near the end of his boxing career, Rios is trying to prove that he belongs in the elite company of the world's other top fighters. Let's take a look at some keys for both "Pac-Man" and "Bam Bam" heading into the big pay-per-view bout.
Pacquiao Must Maintain Focus, Fitness
Pacquiao will enter this fight with a heavy heart following Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated his native Philippines earlier this month. The Filipino icon recently told reporters he would dedicate the fight to the victims of the typhoon, but that he would hold off on visiting the affected areas to offer help in order to focus on training.
A victory for the immensely popular Pacquiao could do wonders for the morale of his fellow countrymen, which he cited as a reason for his continued training. With his 35th birthday coming up in December, most wonder if he will have the same speed, strength and durability that he possessed in recent years.
Legendary trainer Freddie Roach is literally in Pacquiao's corner for this fight, so take his comments with a grain of salt, but he voiced his confidence in the boxing superstar in a recent media conference call, per BoxingNewsOnline.net.
"If I see he is slowing down and slipping in the fight I will be the first one to tell him," Roach said. "We have an agreement that I will tell him that and he will retire. I don’t see him slipping in the gym at this moment and he’s doing really well."
But talk is cheap, and the clock is counting down on Pacquiao's career. With a win, we could possibly see the long-awaited matchup against Floyd Mayweather Jr. take shape. With a loss, it could be the end of Pacquiao's illustrious career.
Rios Can't Abandon Aggressive Style
What's made Bam Bam so successful is the 27-year-old's in-your-face approach. According to CompuBox.com, Rios throws an average of 74 punches a round and lands 25 of them. That's a lot of flurries coming from the boxer.
With Pacquiao pushing 35 years old, Rios needs to use his youth to his advantage and keep the same mentality that made him undefeated through the first 33 fights of his career. But he needs to be wary, as Pacquiao is still capable of being tough to hit and responding with a quick answer.
Per a report from ABS-CBNNews.com, Rios won't be making any dramatic changes to his approach after suffering the first loss of his career. He said, "I’m going to fight the way I always fight. The only difference is, I have to train in a smarter way."
That sounds like the right kind of mentality for him entering this career-defining bout.
Both Fighters Need to Stay Confident
This is a high-profile fight that features two boxers coming off losses.
Pacquiao (54-5-2) has lost his last two bouts: a split-decision defeat against Timothy Bradley in June 2012 and a knockout loss against Juan Manuel Marquez last December. Rios (31-1-1) lost his last fight against Mike Alvarado in March, in a 12-round bout that was decided by a unanimous decision.
It's paramount that both fighters maintain their confidence despite their disappointing recent results.
Pacquiao is used to the big spotlight and faced a similar situation heading into his last bout, but this is a whole new ballgame for Rios. It will be interesting to see how he performs on boxing's biggest stage.