In case you’re wondering, the World Boxing Organization’s international welterweight title belt will be on the line when Manny Pacquiao faces Brandon Rios on Saturday night in China.
OK, we know you weren’t actually wondering.
Rather than vying for a meaningless trinket few knew existed to begin with, the multi-division Filipino champion will be trying to resurrect a career that some claimed was in its final throes after his stunning knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last December in Las Vegas.
In Rios, a once-beaten former lightweight belt-holder, he meets a stylistic match many consider made to order. Rather than the obvious counterpunching danger presented by Marquez, Bam Bam’s main contribution is an aggressive approach and a thirst for confrontation.
The Kansas-born Californian—beaten by Mike Alvarado (UD 12) in his last fight eight months ago—confidently guaranteed an upset when interviewed during HBO’s recent fight card from Corpus Christi, Texas, stating he was “ready to go out there and retire Manny Pacquiao.”
Meanwhile, in the words of Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, Rios “is in a lot of trouble.”
Date: Saturday, November 23, 2013
Time: HBO pay-per-view starts at 9 p.m. ET; main event no earlier than 11 p.m. ET
Venue: The Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena, Macao, China
Odds: Pacquiao (-600), Rios (+400)
Note: Odds provided by bet365.com and correct as of 11/17/2013 at 5 p.m. ET; subject to change.
Anyone hoping for a cautious dance between two stylists was no doubt aghast by the initial 60 seconds of the opening round, when the two men dispensed with tactics and let fly with heavy leather with no apprehension.
Pacquiao landed the first clean power punch—a jolting left hand—in the first exchange, which, to the shock of no one, prompted a grin and an immediate response from Rios, who slapped his gloves together after absorbing the shot.
The most obvious takeaway of three minutes is that Pacquiao is clearly the quicker fighter.
Pacquiao is bouncing in and out while looking to both instigate and finish the engagements with Rios, whose face is already reddened. As it was in round one, the speed edge is a big factor, with the Californian either just missing or taking shots that interrupt his attempts.
Rios roughhouses in the clinches, however, and draws the ire of referee Genaro Rodriguez for slapping the back of Pacquiao’s head and his sides after the ref demands the fighters break.
Pacquiao hasn’t taken a lot of punches through six minutes, but he seems to be carrying no lingering baggage from the KO loss in his last fight.
It’s already lasted longer than Pacquiao’s destruction of Ricky Hatton four years ago, but it looks sort of familiar. The Filipino is getting off first every time he wants to, and while Rios is willing, he’s simply not been quick enough to dish out any sustained punishment.
Pacquiao appears confident and continues landing straight left hands while also delivering the shot with a looping arc around Rios’ gloves.
Blood trickles from Rios’ nose as the round ends, and Robert Garcia strides from the corner to lay into him as he returns to the stool.
Robert Garcia’s extended corner harangue gives Rios a spring in his step off the stool, and he immediately fires a combination to start off the round, landing little but looking better.
Pacquiao jabs and moves away as Rios attempts to grapple, landing another looping left to punctuate his escape.
A hard left to the body from Pacquiao in the final 30 seconds prompts a clinch from Rios and may be enough to take a close round.
After another tongue-lashing from Garcia in the corner, Rios looks frustrated to start the fifth and is noticeably less energetic than a round earlier.
He takes a hard jab and a straight left in the first 45 seconds, then eats another wide shot that skims his glove and clips him directly on the right ear, prompting a stiff-legged lurch into a clinch.
The crowd is as loud as it’s been all evening, and HBO’s Roy Jones Jr. claims that Rios appears mentally broken because of his inability to make the fight a more even brawl.
It’s a holiday miracle! Rios actually slips a left hand and replies with a stiff right hand of his own—probably his best shot of the night—but Pacquiao takes it well and continues his rhythm.
A flicking right jab is followed immediately by another in the night-long series of straight lefts to Rios’s chin, but this one appears to shake him more so than any of the others. He backs to the ropes and attempts to return fire but gets caught by two more lefts that snap his head back.
Pacquiao shakes loose from an attempted clinch and flurries again, and another clean left to the side of the head leaves Rios’ right side sagging into the ropes—prompting a perhaps slightly too-anxious Rodriguez to step between the fighters with an arm wave at 2:06.
Pacquiao TKO 6
And just that quickly, it’s as if Manny Pacquiao never left the boxing world’s consciousness.
He and Freddie Roach stand together in a long embrace after the fight is waved off, and the ring is quickly packed with supporters who’d made the 1,300-mile trip from his hometown at the southern end of the Philippines archipelago.
HBO’s Max Kellerman welcomes him back to the big stage in the post-fight interview, during which Pacquiao gives the usual “I’ll discuss it with my team” reply to the analyst’s “who’s next” line of questioning.
A rematch with Tim Bradley for the full-fledged WBO welterweight title is the first suggestion from promoter Bob Arum, who could also put his prize in with Russian grinder Ruslan Provodnikov in a contest of two fighters from whom Bradley has taken close decisions.
To the predictable suggestion that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the fight that fans have long wanted, Arum says bluntly, “Richard Schaefer has my number. Tell him to give me a call.”