Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Brandon Rios figures to be the third or fourth most watched bout of 2013. Obviously it won’t surpass the numbers that Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez did, however, it will probably hit something in the general vicinity of what Mayweather’s showdown versus Robert Guerrero did.
For all the talk of how Pacquiao is washed up and how Bob Arum opted to host his match with Rios overseas rather than Las Vegas because the demand just isn’t there anymore, there is no denying that, aside from Mayweather, nobody in the sport is as marketable as Pacquiao.
Among the many eager fans who will be watching Pacquiao do what he does against Rios this November will be his arch rival – Mayweather.
A few days ago reports circulated that he and Amir Khan were nearing an agreement for a May 2014 showdown. While that could still happen, the fact that Khan -- and not someone like Danny Garcia -- is Mayweather’s rumored foe is indicative of what his team is looking for. They’re not looking for the best challenger available.
Maybe once upon a time Khan was that guy, but ever since the Lamont Peterson bout, nobody has looked at him that way. There are more deserving opponents out there.
Mayweather isn’t awarding paydays based on merit, though. He learned the hard way from the Guerrero fight that in order to do the sort of numbers he did with Alvarez, he needs a recognizable guy to punch.
Khan is sort of recognizable. Pacquiao is an international star. And so, regardless of what’s been said up to this point, despite any history that may lead people to believe otherwise, Mayweather will be watching Pacquiao-Rios very closely.
If Rios comes out and smashes Pacquiao, then the latter’s career is over. Any shot of a Mayweather fight immediately evaporates, and the chance of Pacquiao ever fighting again is suddenly very, very tiny. However, if Pacquiao comes out and looks good against Rios, then everyone suddenly forgets about what happened against Bradley (which, to be fair, wasn’t a loss) and Juan Manuel Marquez.
Pacquiao’s fight against Rios will tell us a lot more about the likelihood of a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight than any comments from either guy could.