Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios are among the world’s very best fighters. Even though one guy is coming off two straight losses and the other is coming off one, their last few bouts aren’t indicative of where they stand on the boxing hierarchy.
Aside from Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s showdown against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Juan Manuel Marquez’s looming match-up versus Timothy Bradley, and a handful of other fights, Pacquiao-Rios will go down as one of the most anticipated events on every boxing fan’s 2013 calendar.
That being said, it’s undeniable that Pacquiao-Rios lacks buzz. There is no built-in storyline for this thing. When Pacquiao fought Marquez, obviously that was the latest in a series of extremely controversial, mostly epic wars. The Bradley fight was intriguing because everyone knew he didn’t deserve a shot, and was simply getting it because he signed with Top Rank. In the case of Rios’ last fight, the selling point was the fact that Rios-Mike Alvarado I was arguably the best of the prior year.
Storylines sell fights. True blue, hardcore boxing fans make up a small segment of PPV purchases. The real money is made on casual fans whose interests are piqued somewhere along the way.
Over the past three weeks, finally, an interesting little side story emerged from the shadows. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a start.
Pacquiao’s former strength and conditioning coach, Alex Ariza, was fired earlier this year after butting heads with trainer Freddie Roach one too many times. This was a divorce a long time in the making, but nobody wanted to rock the boat while Pacquiao was winning. When the victories stopped coming, though, this move became inevitable.
Shortly after getting booted, Ariza found new work – with Rios. Now, the extent to which Ariza can help Rios is debatable. Similarly, seeing as his advice to Pacquiao had either stopped working or wasn’t being listened to, it’s hard to imagine the Filipino star suffering too much from the loss. Still, it’s something. There is an undeniable shadiness to seeing a guy who worked for one fighter work for his opponent – regardless of the circumstances.
Just to be clear: Nobody is saying Ariza is in the wrong here. We don’t know how or why things ended the way they did with Roach. In fact, during a recent interview, he indicated that Pacquiao’s camp did him very dirty.
“Manny could have called me himself and told me over the phone in a dignified, professional and affectionate manner, and said ‘hey bro I don’t want to have any trouble in my camp at this time I’m just going to let you go,” Ariza said. “He didn’t have to wait. He could have told me months ago instead of waiting for the last minute. He was not the one who did it he let Freddie do it over an internet chat.”
It’s just a matter of perception. And since Pacquiao has more fans than Ariza does, the latter will always lose the PR war.
Again, Ariza’s role in Paquiao-Rios won’t sell the PPV. But at least it got people talking about this bout. That’s a pretty big win considering the fact that, to date, any and all conversations pertaining to Pacquiao have centered around how much money he lost by not fighting Mayweather.