When Manny Pacquiao announced that his next fight would be against Brandon Rios, a lot of people were understandably underwhelmed. On paper, there are at least three notable flaws with the match-up.
One, both guys are coming off defeats. Two, stylistically, this match-up clearly favors Pacquiao. Three, it favors Pacquiao earning a decision victory. When you have a bout where one fighter has a clear advantage over the other, you want it to lean in the direction of a knockout – not a decision.
Again, the lack of enthusiasm as it pertains to Pacquiao-Rios is not unreasonable. That being said, just because this isn’t the flashiest of showdowns doesn’t mean we should dismiss its potential ramifications. Recently, Bleacher Report published a very well-argued, very solid article saying that a Pacquiao victory would tell us nothing about his future.
I respectfully disagree.
Whereas there weren’t all that many questions about Pacquiao following the Timothy Bradley fight, largely because of what a robbery that was, the same can’t be said for Pacquiao-Marquez IV. In that bout, Pacquiao looked like the better fighter for 90 percent of the match, only to then walk into a picture perfect counter from Marquez that dropped him for the long count.
The question is: Who is Pacquiao now? Is he the guy we saw for 90 percent of that last Marquez fight, or the guy who went to sleep on the canvas courtesy of a punch that landed in three prior Pacquiao-Marquez showdowns and never phased him?
Rios’ aggressive style will test Pacquaio. Yes, it plays into his strengths – but only if his strengths are still his strengths. If the former eight division champ still has his speed, footwork and elusiveness, then yes, he has the advantage. But we don’t know if he does. Rios will show us. Along the same lines, given Rios’ preferred style of fighting, there’s a very good chance that he’ll land at least a few good shots on Pacquiao. That’ll give us an idea of how solid Pacquiao’s chin is at this stage in the game.
Honestly, this fight will tell us a lot about Rios as well. Coming off his first bout against Mike Alvarado, he looked like a stud. After the second one? Less so. A win here will put him right back on track to the top of the pound-for-pound charts – a loss derails him for good.
In a way, this match-up will tell us everything about Pacquiao’s future. Why? Because really, at this point, we’re just looking to answer a very simple question: Does he still have it?
We’ll find out the answer in a month and a half.