When Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2) starts his camp in preparation for his fight against Brandon Rios (31-1-1) at the Venetian Macao in Macau, China, the focus of the former champion’s training must be on his defensive skill set.
As seen in Pacquiao’s knockout loss against Juan Manuel Marquez, his offensive attack is almost unstoppable, but the way he defends leaves a lot to be desired. Add in the loss to Timothy Bradley, and it is clear that Pac-Man allowed Bradley the chances to land punches and steal the decision win.
Pacquiao’s attack was relentless over his last two losses, but it was the openings that he left that were capitalized on by his opponents. With Rios fighting an aggressive style and bringing the battle to his opponent, Pac-Man has to be sharp defensively.
After seeing the struggle from Pacquiao over the last year, Rios told Lem Satterfield of The Ring Boxing about his preparation for the bout and how he is ready to bring the fight to his challenger:
I'm moving up in weight, so I don't have to kill myself. I'll have better muscle tone and better everything. But you know what? I'm going to be ready. Pacquiao is no joke. I'm getting ready for the best Pacquiao ever. But like I've been telling everybody, it's my time. I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. I've been promised Pacquiao or Marquez, Marquez or Pacquiao for the longest time. Now, I've got Pacquiao, and I'm going to take this opportunity to go out and to dominate in every way that I can to come out victorious.
The problem is that Pac-Man is not the same fighter he was earlier in his career. While he is only 34 years old, the former champion has lost some of the elite speed and quickness that made him so dangerous.
Pacquiao still has the hand speed to attack at a relentless pace, but it expels more energy to do so now, and that limits how fast he can react to avoid counterpunches.
Just like Anderson Silva in MMA, it’s now possible to land punches on the once untouchable superstar.
Rios knows his limitations as the slower fighter, but he is strong and aggressive. While the American won’t land the sheer amount of punches Pacquiao will, the total power in Rios' shots will do serious damage over the course of the fight.
Unless Pac-Man improves his defensive fighting style to counteract the forward-moving nature of Rios, this will be a much tougher bout than he may expect.