Manny Pacquiao entering a fight as a favorite isn’t breaking news. He’s been regarded as the likely winner in all of his bouts for years now. Similarly, popular sentiment being that he is head and shoulders better than his next opponent, Brandon Rios, isn’t particularly shocking either. It seems like the only time Pacquiao’s foes get any credit is when they beat him. What is mildly unanticipated, however, is how short everyone’s memory is.
Pacquiao, 34, is coming off four consecutive flawed performances. In his 2011 match-up against Shane Mosley, he couldn’t find a way to stop the other guy from running away from him for the duration of the bout. Six months later, in his third fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, he won a very close decision that a number of people had going the other way.
Half a year after that, in June of 2012, Pacquiao dominated Timothy Bradley, but was unable to put him away despite the fact that he was limping around the ring on two busted up feet. And then, in December of 2012, even though he was actually winning the fight on every judge’s scorecard heading into the seventh round, Pacquiao got dropped by a beautiful Marquez counter in the final seconds of the sixth.
The Filipino champ hasn’t looked bad in any of his last few fights, really, but each of his performances left something to be desired. Despite that, people seem to think he’ll destroy Rios.
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Now, while it’s undeniable that Rios hasn’t actually faced anyone of old Pacquiao’s caliber up to this point, it’s not like he’s been fighting scrubs either. He beat John Murray. He beat Richard Abril. He beat Mike Alvarado via knockout just last year, before falling to him in a hard-fought decision a month and change ago. Yes, Rios’ style is slightly elementary and does leave him open to decision victories – but only one guy has actually been able to take advantage of that to date.
Pacquiao may beat Rios. Rios may beat Pacquiao. Maybe the 3-to-1 odds are fine because, really, what does that even mean? Boxing-wise how does one differentiate between a 3-to-1 favorite, a 4-to-1 favorite and a 2-to-1 favorite? A favorite is a favorite. But the media really seems to be underestimating Rios right now.
It would not be shocking at all to see Rios walk out of The Venetian Macao on Nov. 23 with his arms raised high after a brutal, Marquez-like KO victory.