Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios are both hoping to get back on track with a spotlight victory after recent losses. Alas, only one of the fighters will emerge from the The Venetian Macao with that much-needed triumph and the WBO International Welterweight title.
Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KO) is on the first two-fight losing streak of his career. He lost a controversial decision to Timothy Bradley last June and was knocked out by rival Juan Manuel Marquez. The losses have led to banter about how much the eight-division champion has left in the tank.
Rios (31-1-1, 23 KO) knocked out Mike Alvarado in their first meeting, but Alvarado won the rematch by unanimous decision. "Bam Bam" has been waiting for his shot at one of the biggest names in the sport, but the loss raised questions about his ability to complete with "Pac-Man."
Who will win the marquee title bout?
All told, it's a crucial bout for both fighters as they look to shift the conversation back in a positive direction following those recent setbacks. So let's take a look at the key information for their clash, followed by a preview and prediction.
Where: The Venetian Macao in Macau, China
When: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. ET
Watch: HBO PPV
Stream: Replay on HBO GO
Tale of the Tape
|Category||Manny Pacquiao||Brandon Rios|
|Height||5' 6.5''||5' 8''|
The Book on Pacquiao
At his best, Pacquiao was able to use his outstanding combination of power and quickness to systematically wear down opponents. He would glide around the ring searching for the right angles, attack with effective strikes, especially with his left, and move away before an opponent could counter.
Some troublesome signs have started to develop in recent years, though.
After scoring a high rate of knockouts early in his career, Pacquiao has gone six straight fights without one. He has four decision victories and two losses over that span, with his last knockout coming all the way back in 2009 against Miguel Cotto.
While the lack of knockouts would suggest fading power, Pac-Man's quickness and experience allowed him to keep winning fights. In his losses to Bradley and Marquez, however, he didn't show the same type of ring speed, either.
Even though the dips in power and speed are limited, that's all it takes for top opponents to close the gap and Bradley and Marquez did exactly that. After an extended layoff by his standards, the task for Pacquiao is showing he's back in top form.
To win, he must rely heavily on his movement to avoid the big shots Rios is going to spend a lot of time trying to deliver. If he can wear down the American with relentless shots to the body, it should sap Rios' power for the latter rounds and put Pacquiao in command.
The Book on Rios
If there's one fact that illustrates Rios, it's that he hasn't scored a unanimous decision win since a 2006 battle with Humberto Tapia. He holds a terrific 17-1-1 record since that bout, but if he can't score the knockout, the scorecards are usually a toss-up.
As he found out in the rematch with Alvarado, letting the judges decide close fights is eventually going to result in a loss.
With more experience against top-end opponents, he should begin to further understand the importance of winning individual rounds as opposed always seeking the knockout. Being too aggressive opens the door to counterattacks and lets foes steal rounds late.
That said, power is Rios' biggest asset and he can't afford to completely change his approach for the matchup with Pacquiao. As Marquez illustrated, there are opportunities against the eight-division champion for a well-timed haymaker.
The biggest key for Rios is his defense. He's gone through two straight brawls with Alvarado, which is the type of fight he prefers, even though he dropped the rematch. Pacquiao is going to use a more methodical approach, which will force Bam Bam to utilize patience.
Ultimately, it's a fight he definitely has an opportunity to win. Pacquiao hasn't been at his best in recent bouts and this is the type of win Rios needs to take that next step. He just can't try to do too much early on and have nothing left for the later rounds.
The fight should be pretty even for about the first six rounds. Pacquiao should be able to win early as Rios settles in. Then the underdog should settle in and start using that power to level things out heading into the second half of the bout.
From there, Pacquiao's big-fight experience should prove vital. He knows how to pace himself to go the distance while Rios is going to use a lot of energy looking for the knockout. Pac-Man should take advantage of that to score a late KO of his own.
Pacquiao by ninth-round knockout.