MANILA, Philippines - Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring against Brandon Rios on Nov. 24 in Macau, seeking a victory that would remind the boxing world that he is far from finished.
Pacquiao has lost his last two fights after an incredible run spanning seven years and had him winning a record eighth world title in as many weight divisions.
The Filipino icon lost by decision to Timothy Bradley last June and absorbed a horrifying knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez last December.
As Pacquiao lay motionless on the floor after taking a solid right to the face from Marquez, many thought they’d seen the last of him.
But Pacquiao is here to fight again.
“We will rise again,” he said after the knockout loss to Marquez.
In November, he climbs the ring of The Venetian in Macau to face Rios, who at 27 is seven years younger than Pacquiao, running unopposed for a second term as congressman in next week’s Philippine elections.
There’s no title at stake in the fight set at 147 pounds. And because of the time difference, it will take place shortly before noon to accommodate the prime time pay-per-view audience in the United States and elsewhere.
Pacquiao has decided to skip the United States for tax reasons and he will make more fighting in Macau which is just two hours away from home.
Koncz is scheduled to return to the Philippines this week, bringing with him the fight contract for Pacquiao to sign. Reports said Rios was guaranteed over $3 million, his biggest paycheck ever. There was no word on how much Pacquiao will make but it could be close to $20 million.
Pacquiao badly needs a victory and not just an ordinary one. He needs to be impressive against Rios and should go for a knockout.
Rios’ fighting style, according to experts, is tailor-made for Pacquiao. He loves to engage, toe-to-toe, and never backs off. Rios is 31-1 with 23 knockouts.
“Rios’ style is perfect for Manny,” Team Pacquiao insider and the boxer’s legal counsel, Franklin Gacal, told The STAR yesterday.
“This fight is meant to boost and build his confidence after those two losses. But he needs to be impressive. Kailangan impressive ang panalo,” Gacal also said.
Pacquiao’s decision to face Rios, who just absorbed the first loss of his career last March against Mike Alvarado at 140 lb, was announced yesterday.
Pacquiao’s handlers, led by his ring adviser Mike Koncz, spent the last few weeks shopping for an opponent, and they had a hard time.
They offered Marquez $13 million for a rematch, more than double than his $6 million purse for the December fight, and Bradley $6 million, also higher than the $5 million he earned in their first fight.
But Marquez and Bradley turned down the offers, and instead decided to face each other either in September or October for Bradleys’ WBO welterweight title.
Marquez said he’s done with Pacquiao, and would rather keep the image of his sensational knockout over Pacquiao frozen in time. He said what’s more important to him right now is the chance to become the first Mexican to win five world titles in five weight divisions.
Bradley refused a rematch with Pacquiao simply because he wanted more.
But Gacal said this doesn’t mean that a rematch against Pacquiao, now 54-5-2 with 38 KOs, is not forever lost for either Marquez or Bradley.
“I think whoever wins their fight will get to face Pacquiao next,” he said.
Top Rank chief Bob Arum explained to ESPN.com yesterday why they chose Rios over Alvarado, who became a contender after Marquez and Bradley refused to fight Pacquiao.
“People know what Rios brings to the table. People want to see a real fight, and that is what you get with Rios. We’re building a business in Macau and China and these are the kinds of fights – real action fights – that they want to see,” he said.
Arum guaranteed a great match between Pacquiao and Rios for the world to see.
“Me, I love a match when the guys go after each other and throw bombs. That’s my preference. It doesn’t mean it’s the right preference, but this is one of those kinds of fights,” said the ageless promoter.
This early, Arum is lining up a tour of key Chinese cities for Pacquiao and Rios on the last week of July or early August, and then a separate press tour in the United States sooner after.
Koncz also told ESPN.com that Rios is made for Pacquiao.
“We looked at styles and Rios has the better style for Manny. He’ll come forward and throw a lot of punches. Whether it goes five rounds or 12 rounds, it is going to be entertaining for the fans, and that is what Manny wants. Rios was Manny’s choice after Marquez and [Timothy] Bradley turned it down,” he said.