Manny Pacquiao made it no secret over the past few weeks that he was contemplating taking on either Mike Alvarado or Brandon Rios in his next fight. Both guys made a certain amount of sense, but any time you can fight someone coming off a win as opposed to someone coming off a loss, that’s the direction you move in.
Predictably, Pacquiao went the other way.
On Monday, the Filipino star and his team announced that they were going to square off against Rios at the end of 2013. Their justifications for the decision varied depending on who you spoke to, but essentially it boiled down to all involved feeling as though Rios’ style was a better fit for Pacquiao.
"Manny is definitely going to get his mojo back with this fight," Freddie Roach said in an interview with ESPN. "Brandon Rios likes to fight in the pocket and exchange, and Manny is very good in the pocket, too. I think it'll be an exciting fight but that Manny is going to land in the pocket at some point and knock this guy out somewhere along the way. Rios likes to exchange and his style is not really difficult to figure out, so Manny's gonna hit him."
While Roach is correct in his assessment of Rios’ technique, he seems to be seriously underestimating why the 27-year-old star is always so relentless in moving forward.
Hint: It's not because he's stupid.
As anyone who has watched Rios fight since the beginning can attest to, he moves the way he moves because the dude’s chin is made of iron. There is a reason why he beat Alvarado via knockout and Alvarado beat him via decision. Rios likes to fight in the pocket and exchange because he can absorb punishment – something Pacquiao used to avoid with his quickness. It remains to be seen if he can still do that.
It’s worth remembering: Timothy Bradley didn’t run away from Pacquiao when they fought. The guy was absolutely hobbled, barely standing, and Pacquiao still couldn’t put him away. Bradley is tough, as he proved in his last outing, but Rios is tougher. And if he lays a hard hit on Pacquiao the way Juan Manuel Marquez did last December – lights out.
At the same time, discounting Pacquiao in this one is foolish. Yes, he’s coming off two defeats, but one of those was actually a win (Bradley). In other one, he looked a lot better than Marquez right up until he got dropped. Presuming he doesn’t hastily walk into a punch again (which, given Roach’s preferred style, he might), there is a very good chance the Filipino star could outpoint his foe to a win.
Regardless of how you see this fight turning out, this much is for certain: The ramifications for Pacquiao are clear. If he wins, he’s back to being one of the most talked about boxers in the sport today; if he loses, his career is over.