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Why Brandon Rios Was Robbed of His Moment in the Spotlight Against Manny Pacquiao

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COMMENTARY | Nobody's denying that what we saw on November 23 in Macau, China, was a complete and total mismatch. The disparity in talent when Brandon Rios met Manny Pacquiao was crystal clear. The two fighters were not even remotely on the same level and, even under the best of circumstances, Rios would've still been in over his head.

But performance aside, Brandon Rios deserved better.

"It just hurts, it hurts deep down inside because I trained my [expletive] off to win…[expletive] five months," a tearful Rios said shortly after his loss. "Like I said, it hurts me bad because I worked my [expletive] off so hard. Five months in the gym. Training, training, training…it hurts, it hurts really bad. It feels like I let my team down. That's what, to me, it feels like I let my team down…"

Unless one was in camp with Team Rios, it's hard to know whether Rios let his team down, his team let him down, or the let down was mutual. The unanswered question will always be whether Rios was fully prepared for a fighter like Pacquiao. Did he have a Plan B or Plan C? Were tricks of the trade, specifically designed for slow-footed fighters matched against speedsters, ever taught and, if so, was Rios serious about working on strategies outside of his comfort zone?

Those secrets will be buried in the fading memory of a past tense camp and behind the post-fight scrutiny following an embarrassingly one-side loss on the grandest of all stages. There's nothing that can be done now about strategies and tactics that should've been explored during camp and there's no way to know whether a lack of proper preparation robbed Rios of a legacy-affirming experience.

Outside the ring, Rios' biggest bout and greatest opportunity was also ruined, through no fault of his own, by just being the wrong fighter at the wrong time in Manny Pacquiao's Hall of Fame career.

Instead of basking in the celebrity spotlight of a major fight, Rios was forced to travel to the other side of the planet for his big break. His story, his exploits, and his unique personality were buried in the lead-in to this bout. The hardcore fans were well aware of "Bam Bam" and respected him as one of the sport's toughest battlers, but the casual fans were never really exposed to the heart and soul of Brandon Rios.

Facing superstars like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather usually serves as a springboard to greater recognition and bigger opportunities, regardless of the actual outcome of the bout. The massive publicity and media hype exposes the world to a new character with a unique story. From that point forward, their star burns brighter than ever.

This was not the case with Rios, who was far away from U.S. audiences as the promotion truly started to kick in.

Casual fight fans came away from the November 23 drubbing with the impression that Rios was some sort of journeyman fall guy. Given the performance he issued, the impression is understandable, but Rios' is much more than a walking punching bag hand-chosen to be Manny's comeback victim.

Rios deserved to be showcased under the proper spotlight.

Proper exposure wouldn't have changed his actual performance in the ring, but it surely would have provided a more dignified background for Rios' ugly defeat and it would've given the tough-as-nails battler a deserved post-Pacquiao push.

Now, Rios will be tossed into the virtual scrap heap, forced to return to his career a full step below where it was when he answered the call for the biggest showcase of his career. According to promoter Bob Arum, Rios may be in the co-feature of an HBO card in the spring, sharing the bill with two-time foe, Mike Alvarado with a possible third Rios-Alvarado bout later in the year as the carrot on the stick for both headliners.

Brandon Rios, after a poorly-received, poorly-promoted pay-per-view mess, has no choice but to pick up the pieces and keep his career going as best he can. At 27, there's nothing else he can do. The former lightweight champ may be in the unique position of actually being lower-paid and less in demand after a bout with one of boxing's cash cows. The $4 million he made against Pacquiao will mean less and less as his future per-fight earnings dip well below his pre-Pacquiao pay scale.

Nobody, specifically, is to blame for any of this. Rios just happened to be the wrong fighter at the wrong time. The whole situation does make one wonder, though, about what would've happened had someone in Team Rios had the foresight to turn down the Pacquiao fight in favor of some solid, fan-friendly bouts at junior welterweight, a bit more seasoning, and a 2015 run at a Vegas-hosted Pacquiao clash.

Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. 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.

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