Already mired in the longest losing streak of his career, Manny Pacquiao will stop the stretch from worsening by obtaining victory over Brandon Rios on Saturday night.
For most athletes, two consecutive losses are hardly a blip on the radar. That's when slight concern starts to bubble, but a win erases those fears before they can fully materialize. That luxury, however, does not exist for a famed boxer.
Not only are two defeats monumental for a man who entered those successive shortcomings with an outstanding 55-3-2 record, but two full years have eclipsed since an official last raised Pac-Man's battered arm high in the air.
Since defeating Juan Manuel Marquez on Nov. 12, 2011 in Las Vegas, Pacquiao has not tasted the sweet nectar of triumph. He appeared to have notched another win to his belt, but the only two observers who felt Timothy Bradley was the better man (other than perhaps Bradley himself and his family) happened to have held seats on the scorers' table.
But there was no controversy involved last December, when Marquez returned the favor from their past meeting by landing a knockout victory during the sixth round.
Following that blow heard around the boxing world, Pacquiao took a year off to rest and regain his energy. Now the 34-year-old will look to exude a second wind against Rios in Macau, China. Save the swan songs for later as Pacquiao will prove he is far from finished.
Who will win?
For starters, neither loss that created the thick layer of doubt was terribly egregious. If C.J. Ross and Duane Ford took a quick peek at CompuBox's fight stats, they'd realize their blunder in awarding Bradley the victory over the Pac-Man. Pacquiao landed 253 total punches to Bradley's 159 and converted a higher percentage of his strikes in all but one of the mis-judged 12 rounds.
Due to boxing's absurd nature of letting three people arbitrarily decide the winner, seemingly without using the unbiased and telling data, Pacquiao has to answer questions about his decline when he really only erred once.
Even in the loss to Marquez, Pacquiao performed well before the show-stopping knockout. Going back to CompuBox, Pacquiao's 94 punches edged out his opponent's 52. While Marquez certainly found a crack in Pacquiao's armor, it was hardly an embarrassing effort on the loser's part.
Rios is a decorated fighter at 31-1-1, but he's one Pac-Man can handle. In fact, the 27-year-old's aggressive style tailors perfectly for Pacquiao, whose slower step won't be exposed in the ring. Here's how Pacquiao described his upcoming opponent to The Miami Herald's Santos A. Perez.
“That’s what I want, his style of fighting,” Pacquiao said. “He likes to come inside and I like that style. I don’t like to chase and I’m pretty sure I won’t have to chase him.”
Rios, who is also coming off a loss after falling to Mike Alvarado, has never faced an adversary of Pacquiao's stature, both physically and figuratively. He has never boxed above the 140-pound weight clash, and this bout will draw more significantly more eyeballs than any of his previous matchups.
Even if Pac-Man is no longer at his peak, Rios is not yet ready for such a monuments challenge. Pacquiao will exploit his ill-prepared foe on the path to reestablishing his star reputation.