In a fight that serves as a crossroads for Manny Pacquiao's career, the prolific 34-year-old boxer will knock out Brandon Rios in Saturday's bout in Macau, China.
Although Pacquiao has lost his past two fights, the first of those defeats came with a fair share of controversy to Timothy Bradley in a split decision. However, the second one came at the hands of Pacquiao's archrival, Juan Manuel Marquez.
After not losing to Marquez in three previous fights, Pac-Man was dropped to the canvas for good by "Dinamita" in the sixth round. It marked the first time that Pacquiao had been knocked out in the new millennium.
It may be irresponsible to daisy-chain bouts together at times, but Bradley did just defeat Marquez to retain his WBO welterweight title.
That at least hints that Pacquiao was in the wrong position at the wrong time—and to Marquez's credit—got smacked on the chin at just the right moment. Vulnerability is rarely associated with Pacquiao in the ring, but ever since that KO, it appears to be an appropriate theme.
As documented by BoxingNewsOnline.net, trainer Freddie Roach believes Pac-Man will outbox Rios and end things early. However, he implies retirement as a strong possibility if Pacquiao shows signs of declining skills:
I think Manny will outbox this guy and end the fight early – he has more speed and power but that all depends on how the fight goes. If Manny boxes a good fight and does well and he gets a bad decision then we’d have to sit down and talk about it. But it’s really hard to say until we see the fight. If I see he is slowing down and slipping in the fight I will be the first one to tell him. We have an agreement that I will tell him that and he will retire.
Rios is just as aggressive as Pacquiao. He has a relentless mindset and pours forth frequent flurries without much regard for defense or the consequences of such bold tactics.
That's what cost him against Marquez, so it's likely he will be more methodical than Rios in feeling out how to exploit his foe's lesser experience and innate abilities.
The 27-year-old American isn't short on confidence, as documented by BoxingInsider.com's official Twitter:
That will wind up falling under the "be careful what you wish for" category by the time this 31-1-1 fighter's evening is over in China.
Pacquiao is quicker than Rios and will assert his will first, but it won't be surprising to see him stymie "Bam Bam's" bid for the upset by not attacking him with immediacy in the beginning.
However, as the third and fourth rounds arrive, Pacquiao will have an idea of what he's up against and begin to reveal his superiority by devastating Rios with lightning-fast combinations.
Dealing with a southpaw in Pacquiao will be difficult enough as it is for Rios, but by the sixth or seventh round, the underdog will be wishing he could take his fighting words back from before the WBO International Welterweight Championship clash:
Once Rios falls in the ring, it will launch Pacquiao back into the upper stratosphere, revitalize the prospective dream matchup with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and resuscitate the Congressman's athletic career.
Prediction: Pacquiao knocks out Rios in Round 7.