Venetian Resort in Macao on November 23rd will be the hottest place to be to be in Asia when the biggest international boxing match in Chinese history hits those shores, Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines vs Brandon Rios of the US of A.
Bob Arum of Top Rank has been testing the shores of Macao since he signed Chinese gold medalist Zou Shiming straight out of the 2012 Olympic Games. Shiming will help shore up the Pacquiao/Rios undercard with his 3rd straight bout in Macao this year. With both Pacquiao and Rios coming off notable losses that might take the shine off a Vegas PPV promotion, the perfect moment to introduce the big fight climate into Macao has finally arrived.
The idea is a type of low cost PPV off the Chinese internet that Arum says has the biggest potential with an Asian population in the billions. Presumably HBO will be still broadcasting in an American PPV format, so we’ll see how the figures are split if and when they release them.
It should be noted that even going against a diminished version Pacquiao for this fight, Rios is making a quantum leap up the big fight scale, not to mention the internationally exotic venue being beyond his wildest dreams. What Rios has going for him is a straight ahead physical style, so there is precious little boxing nuance to freeze up as might happen with a more complex style and personality in such a big fight. Rios likely knows how to box better than he shows, but why bother with such frilly notions when power on top of even more power has been all that he has needed to get him to this point, 31-1-1, 23 KO with a world title belt for a trophy? He’s also the bigger, stronger fighter in spite of moving up another weight class for the Pacquiao fight, 161 lbs in fighting trim for his rematch against Mike Alvarado, so he has to be feeling good about his chances to be even a bigger fighter against a smaller opponent in Pacquiao, not that I am suggesting his team might be overlooking Pacquiao.
Quite the contrary in that Rios will be able to spend more time in actual physical fight preparation than any other camp since he won’t have to waste precious resources losing unnatural weight as happened too many times in previous camps. Rios has earned hot blasts of criticisms from looking like death warmed over at the weighin before subsequent poor fight performances, but has been in training an incredible 5 months for this fight. That’s one thing Pacquiao has done for boxing competitiveness, giving fighters plenty of time to whip themselves into all time good shape compared to some other top fighters who’s opponents are often given short notice.
Team Pacquiao couldn’t have picked a more dangerous opponent for Manny’s return from the death punch knockout loss of the century against Juan Manuel Marquez. Rios is prime aged at 27 years and been brought up old school hard by one of the premiere trainers in boxing, Robert Garcia. He vaults into the stratosphere of boxing with a dynamic win here, and even with a hard fought loss he still wins. He always comes out swinging to let the chips fall where they may anyway, but perhaps that much harder now that he has a sniff at a big time boxing purse.
If any added intrigue is needed, Pacquiao’s longtime physical trainer Alex Ariza fell out with team Pacquiao after the devastating Marquez loss. Pacquiao looked spectacular in that fight but for what in tennis is termed a foot fault, having the mortally wounded Marquez lined up for the knockout before jumping in with his lead right foot landing on the Marquez lead left foot. The penalty in tennis is the automatic loss of the serve, but in boxing the consequences can be much more severe even if nominal foot faults played out a dozen times in their past fights. This time Marquez was well balanced with his back to the ropes. Pacquiao’s sudden loss of balance with momentum changes left him stooped over, his entire noggin being exposed for the Marquez counter right hand that exploded with all time great effect behind the ear.
Ariza quickly took up an opportune offer from the “enemy camp” to rework Brandon Rios who is changing up after an ill advised stint with disgraced BALCO figure Victor Conte. It goes without saying that Ariza knows all of Pacquiao’s weak spots, so his input helps shape their fight plan to tap into those weaknesses in spite of banal denials by the Garcia camp that they ever intended to tap into the Pacquiao history with Ariza.
Justin Fortune served as Pacquiao conditioning coach from 2003 until 2007 and will reunite with Freddy Roach for this effort at least. An ankle and leg specialist Gavin McMillan is in support to shore up Pacquiao’s long time leg cramping problems. The illicit drug testing cartel chosen for this non Vegas bout is supposed to be the newly created VADA, Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, also associated with Victor Conte and operating out of Las Vegas if any more drug testing sleaze factor is needed. I’m sure Team Pacquiao felt the need to keep the Las Vegas connection however loosely associated since the Chinese boxing commission was only newly formed this year. Whether or not Conte now has a grudge against Team Rios is not known by me, but any advantage would appear to be Pacquiao’s. Who can really know with claimed traces in parts per trillion modern day snake oil medicine men and drug testing cartels are selling the public? They can’t pass their own drug tests which is why you’ll never see them implemented on themselves.
What Pacquiao used to sell was a tigerish instinct to fight with lightning knockout punches out of his southpaw stance that garnished him every fighter of the decade bauble that counts. The past couple of years, however has seen him selling soap in the form of Filipino politics. His brother and sister in law are now elected officials on top of Manny being the supreme politico as a congressman for his district. His wife also holds another substantial office, so could be the start of a new Filipino political dynasty if Pacquiao can keep his focus once he retires.
His domestic life certainly became the stuff of soap operas with his wife serving a divorce subpoena going into the Bradley fight after years of Pacquiao infidelities. Then he added fuel to the fire with ill advised comments over gay marriage, going against the liberal Speaker of the House, longtime Senator Harry Reid, a former amateur boxer that Pacquiao actually campaigned for. Few in boxing even care for politics save the liberal Nevada governor who appoints boxing commission honchos. That “political misstep” is likely the real reason Pacquiao didn’t win the Bradley fight. If that wasn’t enough of a tactical boner, what were Team Pacquiao genii thinking when they invited “Hi, I’m Mitt Romney and I just lost the US presidential election.” in for a canned chat before the always tough Juan Manuel Marquez? The quotation is exactly as Romney introduced himself, I kid you not. They further compounded that grave error by saturating the Paquiao corner with more negativity when they gave this loser’s loser a ringside seat spitting distance from where Pacquiao was knocked cold before his eyes.
Thank goodness I don’t get paid big bucks for making these kinds of critical decisions for fighters, but we have to wonder what further idiocy the team will have in store for the beleaguered Pacquiao going into Rios? He’s been in the ring against the hardest overall caliber fighters of anyone in boxing not to mention there are few ranked fighters with more than his 61 career fights currently operating. He needed and got an 11th month breather from boxing for the first time ever in his career. This is surely going to be a firefight for as long as it lasts, and it may last 12 rounds of the kind a grind the near 35 year old fighter really doesn’t need, but relishes all the same because he’s been the purest premiere fighter of his ages in giving his all in the ring.
Certainly Rios is stylistically made to order for Pacquiao, yet Rios still remains an unrelenting knockout beast wanting to duplicate Pacquiao’s still painful KO loss. The vacant WBO International welterweight title is the bauble. Rios can be outboxed for spells, but nobody has yet to put a serious dent into him like Pacquiao always used to do, but can he still?
The undercard is strong with perhaps the most varied international cast of top fighters ever assembled from the 4 corners of the earth. Mexican heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr looks like the biggest upside there in potential stardom, looking to become the best Mexican heavyweight contender in history and not too far removed from a title shot, perhaps late next year or 2015 if his victories continue to mount. He goes against former touted American prospect Tor Hamer looking to climb back in the ratings.
Contract terms of Pacquiao and Rios are may be unknown, but supposedly Rios would earn more than the $3 million Robert Guerrero made to fight Mayweather according to Arum in a dig at his former protege now nemesis. It’s a gamble on whether the Asian market picks up on this historic opportunity to see Manny Pacquiao in what looks like a firefight of the year in the deal of the century!
The skinny here:
If all the above history of distractions aren’t enough, the worst typhoon in the history of the Philippines has devastated that country. Congressman Pacquiao should be slogging around in the middle of the mess leveraging his position to speed as much aid possible to his district, but alas, he has schedule conflict with what may turn to be the most importing fight of his boxing career coming up. These types of conflicts were well predicted in advance of his assuming congressional duties, and in fact he was supposed to be retired as early as 2012.
The tens of millions left on the table luring him for one more fight again and again simply cannot be forsaken by such a poor bedraggled Filipino waif as he grew up. Presumably many if not most Filipinos forgive him his distance from the tragedy since he does have his “lieutenants” working on the ground as they would be even if he were there. The official statement here:
“I really feel very bad over what happened in the Visayas region where more than 10,000 people are believed to have lost their lives. I really want to visit the area and personally do what I can to help our countrymen who have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy but I’m in deep training in General Santos City for a crucial fight so I regret I cannot go. I will send help to those who need it the most and I enjoin all of you to pray for our country and people in these trying times.”
Indeed, these are very trying times for many, even for Manny Pacquiao and “boxing” in general. Such are what The Fates have given Pacquiao to work with. Brandon Rios for sure has his own Fates to deal with. Fighters seldom enter a fight 100% healthy and mentally prepared. Life imposes it’s will, so we shall see how they deal with it.