In a fight that will go a long way towards determining how the rest of his career will play out, Manny Pacquiao will get his first victory in his last three bouts and his first stoppage since 2009.
This Saturday at the Cotai Arena in Macao, China, Pac-Man will take on Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios for the WBO international welterweight title.
Rios (31-1-1, 23 KO) is a worthy opponent. As his 23 knockouts attest, he has the power to send Pacquiao to his second straight knockout defeat. However, Rios' penchant to look for the knockout is exactly the kind of opponent Pacquiao needed to face to get his career back on track.
In the below video, a blueprint for Rios to beat Pacquiao is laid out. Needless to say, I don't think he'll be able to follow it.
For the first time in his career, Pacquiao will enter this fight off of consecutive losses.
A third loss would likely be more than his career could withstand. In fact, his trainer Freddie Roach, is on record as saying that, should Pacquiao lose, retirement is a very real possibility.
The good news for Pacquiao fans, and boxing in general, is that Pacquiao is not going to lose. Not only will he not lose, but he will earn his first victory via a stoppage since 2009 when he beat Miguel Cotto with a 12th-round TKO.
Pacquiao won his four fights that followed his bout with Cotto, but the fearsome power that helped make him a legend was lacking. He was beginning to show signs of being a fighter whose skills were eroding, or simply wasn't taking his craft as seriously as before.
Even though Pacquiao has come up on the losing end of his last two fights, the concerns that he has lost the drive or ability to be great have lessened.
Pacquiao lost to Timothy Bradley via a very controversial split decision. Following that fight, this happened:
The huge shot by Juan Manuel Marquez that knocked out Manny Pacquiao pic.twitter.com/p9amAblY— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 9, 2012
It was shocking to see Pacquiao leveled, but after getting over the fact that he was knocked cold, it is possible to see that Pac-Man looked strong in the fight.
In fact, he looked faster and more powerful than he did in his last victory, which happened to be against Marquez and also came via a controversial decision (seriously, are there any other kind in boxing?).
Pacquiao won't have to sweat out the judges holding his fate in this one.
What's the outcome?
That knockout punch by Marquez? It came on a counterpunch, and Marquez is one of the all-time greats in this area. That fact is a big part of the reason that Pacquiao and JMM have had such classic bouts over the years.
The counterpunch is not going to be as big of a concern in this fight. Rios is a high-volume and active fighter. He has never displayed the patience or ability to wait for holes in an attack to exploit. He is going to try to outwork and out-brawl his opponent.
That is not the way to succeed against Pacquiao. Pacquiao is still loaded with power, and he knows how to brawl. He's done it against many of the best fighters of this generation.
Rios, on the other hand, has yet to face a fighter with anywhere near the talent of Pacquiao. "Bam Bam" cannot be prepared for the power that Pacquiao is going to bring.
I expect an exciting and fast-paced fight, but I don't see this one going past five rounds. I look for Pacquiao to get his first knockdown within the first three rounds and end this fight in the fifth.