Manny Pacquiao has hit something of a rough patch. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of his work or one of those people who thinks he rose to the top of boxing’s pound-for-pound charts during a particularly weak era in the sport's history, there is no denying that for a five-to-seven year period he was the cream of the crop.
Unfortunately, it only takes a few fights to shake the confidence in your skills that takes a decade to build up. Pacquiao experienced two of those fights over the past year – “losing” to Timothy Bradley last June and getting knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez last December.
Prior to those two defeats, he was being mentioned as a possible foe for Floyd Mayweather Jr. Their battle, initially, was billed as one that would determine who the sport’s best pound-for-pounder was. After a while, as their skills noticeably began to wane, it became more about settling a grudge than determining who the greatest truly was.
All discussions for a superfight went out the window when Pacquiao suffered his losses, though. Now, in order to get back into the discussion for a possible showdown against Mayweather, Pacquiao will need to defeat Brandon Rios in November. A win restores some semblance of normalcy to his career; a loss sends him into retirement.
During a recent interview with David Tyler of Doghouse Boxing, legendary commentator Larry Merchant weighed in on whether he still expects to see Pacquiao and Mayweather square off at some point.
“The first obstacle is the fact that the two networks and two promoters are not talking to each other much less negotiating fights with each other,” Merchant said. “Now that's one factor but experience tells us that the pie is big enough that they can make it happen.”
The cold war between Top Rank and Golden Boy has been well documented, but as noted by Merchant, money cures everything. At the moment, both camps can make just as much money pitting their guys against people under their own umbrellas as they would if they let them fight people from other promotions. The same wouldn’t hold true in the case of Mayweather-Pacquiao.
But that isn’t the only pitfall.
“Right now Pacquiao is coming off two losses and he will have to restore himself and he does have an opponent in Brandon Rios who will be his truth machine,” noted Merchant. “We will see if Manny Pacquiao wants it bad enough and willing to give it his full time and energy, even though he has another full time job as a congressman, the Rios fight will answer some of these questions.”
He’s absolutely right. Pacquiao-Rios is far more important to the former than the latter. Obviously Rios doesn’t want to suffer back-to-back losses, but he’s only 27, he can recover from just about anything. For Pacquiao, there is no tomorrow. In order to fight another day, he has to defeat Rios – no ifs, ands or ors about it.