When Manny Pacquiao takes on Brandon Rios in Macau on Saturday, Nov. 23, he must come away with a victory in order to save his legacy.
Who wins this fight?
Let's be honest. Even if Pac-Man loses, he will still have a very good record. He enters the bout at 54-5-2, which is a very good mark over an 18-year career. However, this fight would stain Pacquiao's legacy if he were to lose.
Although Rios (31-1-1) is a worthy opponent, all of the pressure is on Pacquiao. The 34-year-old Pacquiao has lost two consecutive fights, including a sixth-round knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao had been 2-0-1 against Marquez, so it was a little surprising to see him go down early.
Now, everyone wants to know if Pacquiao still has what it takes to be an elite fighter or if he's done.
It has been more than 11 months since Pac-Man stepped into the ring, so he has had plenty of time to train. In his two defeats, he had gotten away from what used to make him unbeatable—speed and footwork.
Pacquiao has to get back to those two assets if he wants to beat the younger Rios, who is aggressive, but that is something which can be neutralized by good footwork.
It would go a long way towards restoring Pacquiao's reputation if Rios lost via a knockout. Pac-Man hasn't knocked out an opponent in more than three years. He has been more technically sound in his recent victories, but this match means a lot to his legacy.
Pacquiao is one of the greatest fighters ever. There is no debate about that, but if he loses this match, will it force him to consider retirement with his third defeat in a row?
Trainer Freddie Roach, told Mike Dawes of the Daily Mail that Pacquiao has mentioned retirement as a possibility if this fight doesn't go well:
If it does not go well, we will seriously talk about his retirement and possibly going to politics. It's really hard to say until we see the fight, but I will be the first one to tell him to retire, and we have an agreement that as soon as I tell him that, he will retire.
The Filipino star has to come out with a plan and stick to it. He has to establish his dominance in the fight and win impressively. A poor showing, even in a victory, would signal that he may be near the end of a great career.
A solid victory would signal that Pacquiao is still great and could set up future clashes against major opponents.
There is no reason to doubt Pacquiao. Yes, he's lost two in a row, but he has had nearly a year since his last bout to train and should be able to get back to his dominant form.
Defeating Rios is a must if Pac-Man wants to save his legacy. A third straight loss would leave a blemish on his career as it winds down. Regardless of the outcome, however, this bout will have a lasting impact on Pacquiao's legacy.