Nobody knows which Manny Pacquiao will enter the ring next Saturday at the The Venetian Macao. Will it be the guy who dominated his sport for the better part of five years, seemingly having no equals outside of Floyd Mayweather Jr.? Or will it be the guy who, in his last two fights, found a way to lose despite coming in as an overwhelming favorite both times? It’s a tossup at this point, and that’s what makes Pacquiao’s upcoming showdown against Brandon Rios so fascinating. It has no real ramifications outside of the Filipino star’s possible retirement, but it will tell us so much about where both men currently stand.
Here is what we do know, however: Pacquiao will not defeat Rios by knockout. It will not happen – plain and simple.
At 34 years old, Pacuqiao isn’t the fighter he was at 32. And seeing as he hasn’t knocked out since he was 29, that’s saying something. He simply doesn’t have the power anymore. He still has all of the technical skills that got him to this point, hence his ability to toy with Marquez for the better part of six rounds before ultimately catching an unfortunate counter. But he can neither throw, nor take, a powerful shot anymore.
Of course, that reality hasn’t set in yet. Not for him, and not for his trainer Freddie Roach. A month ago, the latter came out and said that Pacquiao would knock Rios out. This week, while speaking to Eddie Alinea, he reiterated that point.
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According to Roach, Pacquiao will “demolish Rios inside six rounds.” Why the confidence? Because Pacquiao is “tougher, stronger and quicker.”
Pacquiao is far more skilled than Rios, that isn’t up for debate. But tougher? Come on. How can anyone say that with any degree of certainty? What’s gotten Rios to this point, despite his one-dimensional style, is his toughness and strength. Maybe Pacquiao really is stronger and tougher and whatever else, but that’s what the knockout is hinging on? That prayer?
A lot of stuff about next weekend’s bout is totally unpredictable. Will Rios be able to crack Pacquiao’s gameplan? Will Pacquiao be able to avoid Rios’ heavy shots? Does Rios have the cardio to deal with a guy who will take him to the deep end the way Pacquiao will? What sort of impact will Alex Ariza’s guidance have on Rios? Can Pacquiao still take a punch and not go down the way he did last December?
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All of those questions will be answered on Nov. 23. However, one can be answered today, on Nov. 17. Will Pacquiao knock Rios out? Hell. No.