Can Rios Handle the Heat in his Baptism of Fire?
By Robbie Bannatyne: Top Rank’s rich vein of form for producing Fight of the Year candidates in 2013 looks certain to continue with the announcement that Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios will face off – in what is sure to be an explosive encounter – on the 23rd November, in Macau, China.
Stylistically – and financially – speaking the fight makes perfect sense, as the collision of these two forces of nature will surely attract more than the 1 million plus pay-per-viewers that usually tune in to see the “Fighting Pride of the Philippines”. The bout will provide the perfect platform for both men to release their inner warriors and engage in the type of give-and-take battle that has defined their careers.
Manny’s advisor, Michael Koncz mused to Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports “He’s going to come to fight. He’ll move straight forward and try to brawl with Manny, and that’s the kind of fight that will be very entertaining for the fans. Anyone who knows these two guys knows there’s really no other way for them to fight.”
Although Rios’ style may play into Pacquiao’s hands, the old master, who has long since cemented his reputation as a fearless brawler, will still face a formidable challenge in Rios, the young apprentice, who is currently carving out a similarly fearsome reputation in his relatively short, but action packed, career at Championship level.
For some, the fact that both fighters are coming off the back of losses makes the contest less compelling, for others it simply adds to the intrigue.
History may state that Pacquaio has suffered consecutive defeats, but Timothy Bradley barely won a round in their battle and seemed to have been beaten convincingly by Pacman. What followed was nothing short of a shameful judging decision as Pacquiao was robbed of his WBO Welterweight title. Although the result in the Marquez fight was the same, the defeat couldn’t have been any less contentious: Pacquiao was laid out like a cold buffet by one of the most perfectly timed and executed counter punches ever thrown in the sport.
The stunning nature of the knockout seemed to induce a type of amnesia on the boxing world which has yet to subside.
Everyone seems to have forgotten that, up until the fatal blow, Pacquiao had buzzed around the ring with all the precocious energy of a child with ADHD after overdosing on e-numbers, whilst he looked as dangerous, offensively, as he had done since the massacre of Miguel Cotto in 2009.
Even so, there is still credence in the conviction that Manny Pacquiao, at 34 years old and in pursuit of a political career, is nowhere near his prime.
Yet he still possesses the lightning hand speed and punching power that could make Rios’ ‘no surrender, no chance of retreat’ style seem suicidal, regardless of how game and granite-chinned he is.
Don’t be thinking this is going to be a walkover though, because Rios can box.
He proved this in the rematch with Alvarado, albeit very sporadically. Unfortunately, he has also proved, consistently, that he simply cannot suppress his insatiable desire to go to war with his opponent, especially when he gets rocked, which is exactly what will happen during his bloody exchanges with Pacquiao.
For this reason, it’s seem certain that Bam Bam’s ability to box will be suppressed by his blood lust and he will embark on a seek and destroy mission, trying to unload his relentless offensive arsenal on the Filipino.
Rios may be able to fashion an unlikely victory if he denies Pacquiao the space and leverage he needs to generate the explosive power in his left hand shots. Marquez utilised this to great effect against Pacquiao, especially in their 1st fight, just as Rios did when he emerged victorious over Alvarado in their maiden duel. If he was to achieve this feat, and claim a victory against an all time great then he would transform into a genuine superstar, touted for title shots against the cream of the welterweight divisions.
If Rios loses, Bob Arum will still be content to throw his charge into as many high-octane fire fights as possible until his flame eventually burns out. In contrast, a loss for Pacquiao would put the lights out on his legendary career.
But, while he may not be the raging inferno of old, Brandon Rios may soon find out that you can still be badly burnt by the dying embers of the Filipino’s fire.
Irrespective of the outcome, it will be fascinating to see how both men handle the heat come November 23rd.