COMMENTARY | The other mega-fight this year is still more than four months away, but the buzz and the speculation has already begun. Temporarily taking a back seat to the massive publicity push of Floyd Mayweather vs. Saul Alvarez, the November 23 bout between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios is no less intriguing as a main stage prizefight.
Pacquiao-Rios will no doubt by affected by it's a Macau, China location and the inability of its combatants to spend as much time on American soil as is usually the case for fights of this magnitude. However, as a contest, in and of itself, it matches up favorably against Mayweather-Alvarez, Marquez-Bradley, or any other high-profile bout on the fight schedule.
But Pacquiao-Rios won't be a strength vs. strength match-up, like Mayweather-Alvarez, which pits two unbeaten fighters at the top of their game against one another. Both Pacquiao and Rios are coming off embarrassing losses.
"Bam Bam" Rios was outboxed in March by Mike Alvarado - a fighter not normally known for his fine-tuned technical boxing skills. And Pacquiao, of course, was knocked flat on his face by Juan Manuel Marquez at the end of the sixth round back in December of last year.
Although a good, compelling match-up between still-world class fighters, Pacquiao-Rios is more about redemption than glory and more about recovering lost ground than conquering new territory. Both fighters need a win in order to stay in that upper boxing class reserved for the most elite of elite.
There are some, though, that feel both fighters are overrated at this point and that, especially in the case of Manny Pacquiao, their best days have already come and gone.
"Pacquiao's a has-been, his career is over," Floyd Mayweather said at a recent press conference in San Antonio when Pacquiao's name was mentioned by a fan.
Obviously, Mayweather is not exactly impartial when it comes to evaluating his Filipino arch-rival. But there are more than a few respected and neutral insiders who, at the very least, are wondering aloud whether Pacquiao will ever get anywhere close to being what he was just a couple of years ago.
Not too long ago, respected trainer Nazeem Richardson also questioned whether the best has come and gone for the eight-division former world champ:
"Right now we don't know where Pacquiao is and where he's at physically and mentally after the spectacular loss he took… I've always known him to be a little tough son of a gun, but we know that sometimes guys don't bounce back from that kind of demise... An annihilation of that magnitude could put him in a place mentally where we may have seen the last of that Manny Pacquiao."
Pacquiao will be one month shy of his thirty-fifth birthday when he climbs into the ring with the 27-year-old Rios in November. He'll also be entering the ring for the sixty-second time in a career that began when he was, really, just a boy. Add to that the personal and professional pressure of being a congressman, television star, business man, promoter, and cultural icon.
Pacquiao may be a tremendously strong individual, but one can only carry the weight of the world on their shoulders for so long. Less pressure has destroyed greater men and Pacquiao could very well be beyond the breaking point when it comes to the incredibly demanding world of elite-level professional boxing.
A loss to Rios would represent a third straight defeat and, perhaps, final confirmation that he is, indeed, a "has-been."
Realistically, even with another loss, Pacquiao could still generate business and would still be able to beat 99 percent of the fighters in his weight range. But as the fierce competitor that he is, would he want to go on with a career where he stood no chance of being the best anymore?
Some claim to see the writing on the wall-the end is here. Others prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt and wait to see what he does on November 23. One thing is for sure, though - Pacquiao always leaves his heart and soul in the ring, and the question of whether or not he's done will be easy to answer once the Rios fight is over.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Sources: ESPN UK, YouTube
- Sports & Recreation
- Manny Pacquiao
- Floyd Mayweather