Coming off back-to-back losses, Manny Pacquiao understands the importance of his upcoming fight against Brandon Rios. At 34 years old, the Filipino star doesn’t have many bouts left in him, and the cumulative effect of three straight losses on both his health and legacy may just be too much to overcome. Plain and simple: Nov. 24’s match-up is a must-win for him, and both he and the members of his camp seem to realize that.
"I really believe he will come back and be as good as he ever was and proof will be in the pudding [when he fights Rios],” Top Rank boss bob Arum said in a recent interview with the Sunday Morning Post.
"Let's see how he looks on November 24 and I am very optimistic that he's going to look great. You can't believe how excited everybody is. This is something new and challenging [fighting in Macau]."
Arum seemed to imply that the mundane nature of fighting the same sort of opponents in the same place wore on Pacquiao. Whether that’s accurate or not is debatable, but it’s apparently his theory on the former eight division champ’s unlucky streak.
"The problem is not in the preparation," added Arum. "It may well be that he has other interests that might take away his mental focus to some extent but as far as working hard, there's no athlete around that works harder.”
Arum also made it a point note that, although the records reads ‘two’ losses for his guy, in reality, one of those should have been a victory.
"Most people clearly felt Pacquiao beat Bradley [who won on a controversial split decision] and, as far as Marquez is concerned, Pacquiao was winning the fight until he got careless and ran into a punch and was knocked out," Arum said.
During a recent interview, Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, insisted there would be no coming back from a third straight loss.
"If you lose three in a row it's your time," Roach told ESPN.com "He's up there in age. I've got to keep a close eye on him. It's part of my job to protect him. I will do the right thing. I don't want him to be a stepping stone [for other fighters]."
Arum, however, disagrees with that notion.
"I don't really believe that if Pacquiao would lose to Rios it would necessarily be the end of him. However, it is a very important fight for Pacquiao because for whatever reasons he has lost his last two fights, he needs very much a victory against a terrific fighter like Brandon Rios to get back at the top level."
Regardless of what ultimately ends up happening in their bout, there is no denying that there is far more on the line for Pacquiao than Rios in this one. It’s good that he’s optimistic, but neither he nor his team should underestimate the magnitude of what’s at stake.