MANILA, Philippines - Although Manny Pacquiao hasn’t opened training camp for his November appointment with Brandon Rios, it’s no indication that boxing is slowly moving out of his priority list. Pacquiao, 34, hasn’t fought since losing by a shock sixth round knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas last December, making it two back-to-back defeats, but a source close to the ring icon said his weight is in check, he hasn’t ballooned despite the layoff and he stays in shape playing basketball.
The source claimed that when Pacquiao starts his regimen for Rios, he’ll be in condition to go full steam. When the camp opens is still a question mark as the fight is over four months away. Pacquiao’s fight adviser Michael Koncz and trainer Freddie Roach are both in Los Angeles. For sure, they’ll take the first flight to Manila once Pacquiao calls them over.
Rios, a former world lightweight champion trained by Robert Garcia, is coming off a loss on points to Mike Alvarado whom he had previously stopped and knows a win over Pacquiao will be a huge feather in his cap. Rios could be the man to retire Pacquiao as the speculation is a third loss in a row will mean curtains for the Filipino’s career.
Retirement, however, isn’t in Pacquiao’s immediate plans. “Manny is his own boss,” said Koncz quoted by Matt Christie in the authoritative English weekly trade paper Boxing News. “He loves his family but Manny is going to retire when Manny wants to retire. He has not thought about walking away. With regard to comments from doctors, how can a doctor make an assessment of Manny without examining him? He underwent some extensive medical exams to make sure that his health was okay. The night of the fight (against Marquez), we rushed him to the hospital, did an MRI and then we got back to the Philippines and we did a subsequent CAT Scan. I was with him and observing him, for the next month. But he was immediately playing chess and games where you have to utilize the mind substantially and there were no issues.”
While hanging up his gloves isn’t imminent, Pacquiao must set aside other priorities on his plate to focus on boxing if he hopes to bounce back in the ring. Once the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, Pacquiao remains in the Ring Magazine top 10 at No. 8 but he’s been overtaken by No. 1 Floyd Mayweather Jr., No. 2 Andre Ward, No. 3 Marquez, No. 4 Wladimir Klitschko, No. 5 Abner Mares, No. 6 Adrien Broner and No. 7 Sergio Martinez. If Pacquiao beats Rios convincingly and Mayweather disposes of Saul Alvarez in September, they could be headed for a collision early next year. Another option is for Pacquiao to face the winner of the October match between Marquez and Timothy Bradley.
Roach said he won’t hesitate to suggest retirement once Pacquiao shows signs of diminishing returns. “It’s always hard to get Manny to give 100 percent to boxing because he spreads himself so thin,” said Roach. “He’s got his life in politics, his wife and kids, he now has bible study, he has as many things going on as anyone possibly could. But when he comes to the gym and starts training for the fight, that’s when he gives 100 percent. His work ethic is still great. I haven’t seen any signs of his slipping whatsoever so I don’t expect any at this point but if there are, we will address it.
“Once I see him in camp, if I see signs of him slowing down, I will bring it to his attention and we’ll make a decision. But he’s anxious to get back into camp, he’s hungry for it, he’s been running everyday and he’s ready for it. I can’t tell you the future but if this training camp is anything like his last training camp, which was one of the best training camps of all time, there won’t be a problem.”
Like how Pacquiao is to Jinkee so is Rios to his wife Victoria Lopez, a professional therapist. “My wife, she’s with me 24/7,” said Rios quoted by Norm Frauenheim in The Ring Magazine. “She lives with me, sleeps with me. My wife is straight out. She tells me: Brandon, right now, you’re thinking you’re the best. You’re thinking you’re this and that. I don’t like it. You’re not the person I met. I didn’t fall in love with you because you think you’re better than everybody. No, I want you to come back down to earth. I realized it then. I knew I had to pop that balloon.”
With his feet on the ground, Rios is a devout Catholic and his faith gives him the strength to face the challenges of boxing. Frauenheim said he’s been criticized for taking too much punishment because of his reckless, brawling style but that’s Rios – he wouldn’t be called Bam Bam if he didn’t go for broke in every round. Pacquiao is up against a dangerous and hungry opponent who’s seven years younger. Losing isn’t an option for both fighters. They square off on Nov. 24 morning (Nov. 23 evening live on US pay-per-view) at the Cotai Arena of the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Macau.