Pacquiao at the crossroads against Rios?

Sights and sounds from Pacquiao/Rios presser

Pacquiao at the crossroads against Rios?
August 8, 2013, 9:15 pm
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I didn’t think of retirement after the fight with Marquez. It’s part of the sport.
Manny Pacquiao

The last image we have of Manny Pacquiao is the back of his head, as he lay frozen and face-first on the canvas last December. Since that ruthless right hand from Juan Manuel Marquez found the mark, the ensuing months have been just as unforgiving for the transcendent Filipino superstar.

His pound-for-pound crown signifying the best boxer in the world now sits atop the head of archnemesis Floyd Mayweather. The Hennessy commercials are not as prevalent in the airwaves, and there have even been calls from some for the “Pac-Man” to retire.

In a way, Pacquiao is learning the same humbling truth that the Romans would heap on their heroes during triumph parades over two thousand years ago: “All glory is fleeting.” Can the happy assassin revive his status as a relevant force when he faces Brandon Rios on Nov. 23 at The Venetian in Macau?

At Thursday’s press conference in the swanky Beverly Hills Hotel—the last stop on a media tour that started in Asia and has spanned over 40,000 miles—the question was asked ad nauseam. In true Pacquiao fashion, he resolutely answered in the affirmative, grinning throughout the event without a hint of impossibility in his tone.

“I chose a good opponent like Rios so I could get back the trust and confidence of the fans,” Pacquiao said. “I have to make sure not only that I win, but win convincingly.”

Perhaps it would be too easy for the public to write him off right now. By his lofty standards, Pacquiao is coming off three consecutive subpar outings. An outright robbery of a decision “loss” to Tim Bradley in 2012 was sandwiched in between both a controversial points win and definitive defeat at the hands of Marquez.

In fact, the buzzsaw that rose to mainstream fame after overwhelming Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto has failed to score a win via knockout in four years.

Although Pacquiao’s longtime trainer Freddie Roach has stated in the past that the eight-division world titlist should hang up his gloves if he is unable to emerge victorious in November, at no point since the loss to Marquez has the southpaw even considered the R-word.

“No, I didn’t think of retirement after the fight with Marquez,” Pacquiao said. “It’s part of the sport. It’s happened to other fighters…For me, it’s part of boxing.”

On the surface, the unbeaten Rios is no tune-up, but he possesses the type of style that suits Pacquiao’s strengths. The Oxnard native is a warrior who relishes withstanding a big shot as much as he loves to give one, which essentially means that Pacquiao will be afforded plenty of opportunities to unleash his sterling speed and combinations on an oft-stationary target.

In addition, as heavy-handed as Rios has shown to be over the years, he has never fought upwards of 140 pounds; this bout takes place at the 147-pound welterweight limit. Combine these factors with a Manny Pacquiao desperate for a win, and it would be plausible to assume that Rios would be intimidated by the big stage. Not so.

“I want him to be motivated because I want a great fight and the fans want a great fight,” said Rios, who played the role of jokester throughout the presser. “My mindset is to win. I’m not going in there to lose...I experienced a little fame, and I want to go higher.”

Rios, who just participated in his second insatiable bloodbath with Mike Alvarado, has displayed an iron jaw that has yet to show signs of wear and tear. On the other hand, the issue remains whether as a result of his legendary run to the pinnacle of the sport, that Pacquiao’s chin has endured one too many dents—something Rios is all too eager to test in Macau.

“Check this out. One Mexican knocked him out,” Rios said. “This Mexican’s going to retire him.”

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