There won’t be any titles on the line this November when Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios square off. That’s typically how it goes when two guys coming off losses collide. However, while neither man will be in line for a shiny belt on that fateful Saturday night, you can make the case that they’ll actually be fighting for something a lot more important.
Pacquiao, 34, comes into this showdown off two consecutive losses – with one coming in particularly devastating fashion. For him this match isn’t so much about putting himself back in title contention. Rather, all he really wants to do, it seems, is prove to his fans and the public at large that he still has it. What’s it, exactly? It’s just that indescribable feature that, while he reigned atop the sport for the better part of five years, everyone knew he had.
"I need to restore the public's confidence in me and my abilities," Pacquiao said during a recent press conference. "An impressive win against Rios will raise my name again in boxing."
Similarly, Rios, 27, also has something to prove. He may not be fighting for redemption like his counterpart, but he’ll be fighting for pride. To date, the young star has gotten absolutely zero respect – despite the fact that his track record is actually a lot more impressive than people want to admit. To Rios’ credit, though, he isn’t moaning and whining about it. He understands that this is the natural process one goes through when fighting a legend in the sport.
"I'm nervous speaking in front of you all, but I am not nervous about the fight,” Rios said recently. “Come November 24, I am going to be 100 per cent ready mentally and physically. I am going to show the world about me and show everybody who said bad things about me that I am going to be just a punching bag. I'm going to prove them wrong.”
In part because there are just so many damn belts in boxing, and in part because all of the big names in the sport have at least one, we’ve become trained to only care about bouts when titles are on the line. This fight is going to be the exception to that rule.