Manny Pacquiao is coming off two consecutive losses and is likely a single defeat away from retirement. Brandon Rios, the guy he’ll be fighting this upcoming November, is also coming off a loss and is hungry to prove that Mike Alvarado one-upping him in their rematch was an aberration, not an indicator that he has any holes in his game.
Given all that, it sort of goes without saying that Pacquiao should probably be working hard to prepare for his next fight. It has all of the ingredients you need for a must-win; huge ramifications in the event of a loss, tough opponent, etc. So, how hard is the former champ working right? It’s difficult to tell.
In a recent interview with ESNews, his trainer, Freddie Roach, indicated that he hadn’t even started working with Pacquiao yet. As noted by the good folks at Latino Post:
"When asked if Pacquiao is already training for the fight; Roach said he doesn't think so as he believes the boxer usually doesn't begin training without him. The trainer added that Pacquiao is playing a lot of basketball as part of his conditioning regimen."
While standard operating procedure between Pacquiao and Roach may not call for training this early before a fight, shouldn’t there be some sort of two-loss exception to that rule? It’s worth noting: whereas Pacquiao’s defeat to Timothy Bradley was admittedly questionable, the decisiveness of his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez was not. And when you get dropped in the fashion that Pacquiao got dropped last December, that’s a pretty good sign that there’s work to do.
The Latino Post also added this tidbit:
Roach, who's targeting to start training with Pacman on October 6, said he would not make major changes in Pacquiao's gameplan but he wants the Filipino boxer to throw more combinations especially against the hard-hitting Rios.
That date is likely going to change, but the “he would not make major changes in Pacquiao’s gameplan” tidbit is significant. Taking into account the type of fighter Rios is, Pacquiao absolutely needs to make some changes to his strategy. Roach’s fighters have a tendency to sacrifice defense for the sake of offense; that attitude makes them fun to watch, however, as Amir Khan can attest to, it leaves them open to shots that they shouldn’t be open to. Rios is as aggressive a fighter as you’ll ever come across, if you don’t employ good defense against him, he will make you pay. If you don’t employ good defense against him after proving that you’re susceptible to a knockout, he’ll probably knock you out.
The media has and will continue to disregard Rios as a non-threat. That’s wrong and foolish, but they won’t pay a price for being wrong. The same can’t be said for Pacquiao. He will pay for underestimating Rios, and he should strategize for his next bout accordingly.