Out of vision for the past year, Manny Pacquiao's prolonged sabbatical from the ring will help him return with a spark against Brandon Rios this weekend.
The last time Pacquiao competed, he suffered a sixth-round knockout against Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8, 2012. Following a controversial ruling that cost him a victory against Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao thus suffered his first-ever string of consecutive shortcomings.
The knockout also marked the first of such an ending since 1999, when the then up-and-coming 21-year-old suffered a third-round TKO to Medgoen Singsurat. Given the lack of precedent for his recent struggles, it's understandable that Pacquiao decided to wait nearly a year before returning to the ring.
Even longer than his layoff is the time since his last victory. ESPN Stats & Info shows us just how many days have passed since "Pac Man's" last win.
Naturally, concerns of ring rust will materialize due to his lengthy absence. At 34, Pacquiao is hardly at his boxing peak either. Although taking that much time to recuperate is risky for a fighter who may not have many fights left in the tank, Pacquiao will reemerge with a victory in Macau, China.
The time off will help Pac Man recover, both physically and mentally, from his latest losses. After falling against Marquez in dramatic fashion, he has used the time off to recharge and evaluate every aspect of his game. Pacquiao exuded an aroma of confidence in a conference call, per The Miami Herald's Santos A. Perez.
“The year off has been good and I am very excited to get back in the ring and fight and to do it for the fans,” Pacquiao said in a recent conference call. “I feel very fresh, strong and fast.”
That's all generic stuff, but even more encouraging for him finding the win column again is Rios, whose aggressive tactics play right into Pacquiao's hand. The elder-statesman does not boast the same feline quickness from previous years, but he's confident Rios will err in bringing the fight to him. Pac Man said as much during the press conference (also via 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.”
Trainer Freddie Roach reiterated those sentiments to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix.
"The more I see of Rios in the tapes, the better I feel," Roach said. "He's just a tough guy and tough guys don't win fights. Manny can outbox him and he can do it with ease."
Pacquiao's camp located an opponent whose take-two, give-one approach will make Pacquiao look better. It provides the perfect opportunity for the esteemed boxer to return in grand fashion, putting on a show that places his recent defeats behind him.
After fighting 61 professional fights over the course of his storied career, fatigue kicked in and slowed the former champion down. Hitting the pause button on his career prevented his slump from snowballing even further, and the move ensures that Pacquiao will last a bit longer than he would have otherwise.
A refreshed Pacquiao will prove to everyone that he's far from finished by beating Rios in Macau.