Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios: Expert Predictions for Main Event

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2013

Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios: Expert Predictions for Main Event

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    Kevin Lee/Getty Images

    By the time boxing fans hit the sack on Saturday night, they ought to know a lot more about Manny Pacquiao.

    The Filipino returns to the ring after an 11-month hiatus against Brandon Rios in Macau, China. He is the headliner of a Top Rank show that promoter Bob Arum assembled as a means of getting his highest-end client back to a familiar position of worldwide relevance.

    Of course, if you ask the underdog based in Oxnard, Calif., Macau will be his stage, not Pacquiao’s.

    Per, Rios had this to say at the pre-fight press conference: “Everyone that thinks I'm just a tune-up fight. I'm nobody's tune-up fight. I'm nobody's sparring partner. I'm nobody's punching bag. I'm not gonna stop for anything.”

    Pacquiao has displayed his typical gentlemanly confidence throughout the run-up, complimenting Rios on the resume he’s compiled but leaving no doubt that he feels ready to answer the question on many observers’ minds:

    Can he be the same after last December’s devastating KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez?

    “I feel like I can still compete at the highest level,” Pacquiao told Bleacher Report. “This will be a good way for me to prove that, fighting Brandon. He’s a great fighter. He will come ready. We will be fighting toe-to-toe. It will be entertaining. I respect people’s opinions, but I want to make sure at the end of the day they will be convinced that I am still the best.

    “I can still fight.”

    No less an authority than Teddy Atlas—former trainer of ex-heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Michael Moorer and a longtime ESPN analyst—isn’t so sure.

    “One thing I'm certain of is that Manny Pacquiao doesn't know if he's OK,” Atlas told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. “I don't care how many press conferences, how many 24/7's, how many times Bob Arum says he is fine, (Pacquiao) doesn't know. And he won't know until he gets in the ring.”

    We checked in with our staff of boxing experts to get their takes. Pacquiao or Rios?

    Let us know what you think in the comments.

Jonathan Snowden

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Who Wins the Fight? When and How?

    This fight is all about Manny Pacquiao. If he's anywhere near his prime, Rios doesn't stand a chance. He's not nearly quick or sophisticated enough to handle Pac-Man at his best.

    But—and the truth is sometimes hard to hear—Manny may no longer be Manny. After a brutal knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez, his days may be numbered. Rios might very well manage a win.

    Me? I'm not willing to throw in the towel just yet. I like Pacquiao by sixth-round knockout.

    The Moment We’ll Remember the Most Is...

    When someone gets knocked out. I predict Rios. But after the Marquez fight, I'm not taking the Pacquiao possibility off the table. Either way, someone is going down in this one. It won't go the distance.

    The Verdict on Macau Will Be...

    Premature. There will be the temptation to write China off as the home for major fights in the future because this bout never seemed to capture America's attention. But there's a good chance that has nothing to do with China and everything to do with this being a fight not quite worthy of pay-per-view.

    Whom Will Pacquiao Fight Next? When and Where?

    The dream is Floyd Mayweather in 2014 in Las Vegas. Until that dream comes true, I'll keep writing it down as if my words have magic power.

    Whom Will Rios Fight Next? When and Where?

    If he wins, why not Timothy Bradley? If he loses like I expect him to? A rubber match with Mike Alvarado, also coming off a loss, could fill a date for HBO in 2014. And why not a return trip to Colorado?

Kevin McRae

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Who Wins the Fight? When and How?

    When this fight was first announced, I was skeptical about the late 2013 version of Manny Pacquiao being able to handle a fighter with Brandon Rios' style. Had this fight taken place a few years back, it would've been an easy call to make, but given the uncertainty surrounding Manny after his knockout defeat to Juan Manuel Marquez, it will be closer than most expect.

    Pacquiao will win, but it'll come by a close unanimous decision rather than the compelling knockout most are expecting.

    The Moment We'll Remember the Most Is... 

    When Brandon Rios lands his first big punch of the fight. It'll happen; we just don't know when. But when it does, it'll answer a lot of questions about whether or not Marquez's missile right hand did any permanent damage to the Filipino icon. The effects of that type of knockout can linger, and we won't know about Pacquiao's ability to take a big punch until he eats one.

    The Verdict on Macau Will Be... 

    Incomplete. It's the first pay-per-view fight held in China, so it'll receive a lot of media attention and scrutiny. By all accounts, the venue is beautiful, and they're ready to go. But to capitalize on the American TV market, the fights will begin at around 10 a.m. local time. Are many fighters going to want to go through the time changes and early morning starts to fight there?

    That remains to be seen—especially given that Manny Pacquiao is largely doing it for tax purposes.

    Whom Will Pacquiao Fight Next? When and Where?

    Floyd Mayweather. No, sorry. But now that I have your attention, he'll fight Ruslan Provodnikov right in this same venue in April. The Russian has a hot name right now—after making Mike Alvarado quit in his hometown—and their styles would generate one hell of a fight.

    Whom Will Rios Fight Next? When and Where?

    Brandon Rios should be just fine, even in defeat, as long as he doesn't get outclassed. There's still a lingering bit of bad blood between him and Mike Alvarado after their two-fight series. Rios felt he got an undeserved loss in the rematch, and with both guys presumably coming off a loss, it would be a good time to settle the argument.

    Rios vs. Alvarado III will take place in March at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.

Kelsey McCarson

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Who Wins the Fight? When and How?

    Manny Pacquiao is going to wreck Brandon Rios. He's too fast, strong and skilled to do otherwise. Rios will have his moments in the fight, but only when Pacquiao is taking a rest. Pacquiao's left hand will hit Rios too many times for Rios' trainer Robert Garcia to stomach, and he'll stop the fight in Round 8.

    Pacquiao wins by TKO.

    The Moment We’ll Remember the Most Is... 

    Pacquiao's back! His dominant performance against Rios will bring back memories of his prime, circa 2009. Rios is made-to-order for Pacquiao, and that's exactly why he got the gig. Pacquiao will look better than he has in years against the slow-handed brawler, performing like he did against Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto all those years ago.

    The Verdict on Macau Will Be...

    Macau will be a big win for Top Rank. It opens up revenue options around the globe and gives it a chance to sign more international stars. American fight fans won't care where the fight is so long as the TV time slot stays in its normal spot, and boxing's reach will grow.

    The only thing that will take getting used to is the way that fans on that side of the world seem to stay eerily quiet during fights.

    Whom Will Pacquiao Fight Next? When and Where?

    Pacquiao will face Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in May 2014. It will be a rematch of Bradley's outrageous decision win over Pacquiao and give both fighters an opportunity to prove themselves.

    Pacquiao will want to show he's still one of the top fighters in the sport. Bradley will want to prove the first win wasn't a fluke. It's probably the most lucrative fight for each fighter and sets up the winner nicely for another megafight.   

    Whom Will Rios Fight Next? When and Where?

    Rios has nothing to lose against Pacquiao, so after he gets bludgeoned and outclassed by Pac-Man, he'll still have plenty of options to choose from. His style is enjoyable to watch, and he can be matched up with just about anyone in Top Rank's stable and make a good fight.

    After some rumors involving him and Juan Manuel Marquez stir for a spell, Rios will sign to fight Ruslan Provodnikov in a bout that's sure to be an action-packed affair. The bout will take place in March at Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas.

Briggs Seekins

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    Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    Who Wins the Fight? When and How?

    Brandon Rios will show up prepared to turn in the performance of his career and will make it into a very exciting and memorable fight. But Manny Pacquiao has too much variety in his arsenal and will land too many heavy shots on Rios over the course of the fight.

    Rios is a tough, stubborn fighter with a ton of heart, so I wouldn't rule out him making it to the final bell, but either the doctor, the referee or even his own corner will call things after Round 9.

    The Moment We'll Remember the Most Is...

    After falling behind in the first third of the fight, Rios will keep pressing harder in the middle rounds and start to have some success in forcing Pacquiao to stand in range and exchange.

    Rios will make his last stand in the eighth, going for the knockdown and dragging Pacquiao into a dogfight. Unfortunately for Rios, Pacquiao has quicker hands and footwork, so he's going to get the better of these exchanges the majority of the time.

    A bloodied and swollen Rios going for broke in Round 8.

    The Verdict on Macau Will Be...

    Macau is very likely to be a disaster. For one thing, I don't know if HBO is going to sell enough pay-per-views to make it seem worth the money to go all the way to China. I grew up in the '70s and '80s, when big international boxing events were fairly common and ABC's Wide World of Sports and CBS would sometimes broadcast fights from all over the globe on a weekend afternoon on free television. But we just don't live in that world anymore.

    HBO has been very hesitant to send crews anywhere foreign in recent years, and this fight week has already suffered from the lack of boxing media that are attending on location. There has already been what I would regard as one complete nightmare scenario involving conflicts over gym space, which is amateurish in logistical preparation for a fight of this magnitude.

    I know some people with a pro wrestling mentality will say it's great because it will boost sales, but I just find it embarrassing for the sport.

    Whom Will Pacquiao Fight Next? When and Where?

    Bob Arum is floating Ruslan Provodnikov as Pacquiao's next fight, and that's honestly not a bad one, although I wonder where the Russian would go to train since he would have to leave Freddie Roach. More likely, Pacquiao is going to fight Timothy Bradley in a rematch, probably in Vegas in early June. Both men want it.

    Whom Will Rios Fight Next? When and Where?

    Rios' next fight is the rubber match with Mike Alvarado. It will definitely be the fight he'll want most coming out of this bout. I could see him fighting Provodnikov, but we get the trilogy instead. Alvarado just took a lot of punishment against Provodnikov, and Rios will take a shellacking this weekend, so hopefully they both take the first half of the year off and fight in Vegas in August 2014.

Lyle Fitzsimmons

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Who Wins the Fight? When and How?

    I have no problem with Brandon Rios as an opponent—especially after an 11-month layoff and a significant KO loss—but it's no coincidence that the Manny Pacquiao brain trust chose him. His come-ahead style is made for what Pacquiao does best, and he's too slow to deliver the sustained punishment that typically leads to his wins. The precise and frequent volleys will become too much for Rios and lead to a stoppage in Round 6.

    The Moment We’ll Remember the Most Is...

    The inevitable moment when, following a Pacquiao win, he's asked whether he wants a Mayweather fight. He will deliver his usual "I fight who my promoter tells me to fight" mantra, but Arum will take the PR lead when he instructs Max Kellerman to "tell Richard Schaefer to give me a call."

    A close second is the hug exchanged by Freddie Roach and Robert Garcia in the ring afterward and the curious post-fight absence of Alex Ariza.

    The Verdict on Macau Will Be... 

    Positive. The excitement generated by Pacquiao's appearance will keep Arum coming back with shows that involve either the Filipino or some other big name from the stable alongside Chinese star Zou Shiming.

    Whom Will Pacquiao Fight Next? When and Where?

    For once, the answer is not a rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez. Instead, look for Arum to put his top man in with tough Russian Ruslan Provodnikov in the springtime, with the winner to get a return with WBO champ Timothy Bradley, who's "beaten" both of them.

    If not back in China, expect Top Rank to break new ground in the Middle East.

    Whom Will Rios Fight Next? When and Where?

    Arum has options at welterweight and junior welterweight, depending on where Rios prefers to fight and how impressive he looks with Pacquiao. If it's the one-sided loss that's being forecast, expect it to be at the 140-pound level, perhaps against Alvarado again in Denver. He could also meet IBO champion Khabib Allakhverdiev in Carson, Calif., probably in the first few months of 2014.