PACQUIAO: 145 LBS.
Photo Credits: Chris Farina/Top Rank
PREDICTION: In analyzing this fight, one question keeping coming to mind — who’s truly the sacrificial lamb? The surface answer is Rios, who while making for a tough lambchop meal, appears made to order for Pacquiao. He’s durable, yet admittingly likes to take punishment in order to “warm up” to the fight. Pacquiao will be happy to oblige him. As the Filipino legend so eloquently put it on a recent edition of 24/7, “I believe I can hit him in the face, a lot.”
Beneath the surface, the lamb can be Pacquiao, whose year off after getting left for dead by a Marquez counter right might have done more harm than good. While Pacquiao has claimed the time away was just good for rest, it was also a time to get complacent. It was year-long preview of what his life will be away from boxing, where political jousting served as his only “combat.”
Complacency isn’t good for a killer.
That’s what Pacquiao was in every sense of the word at his absolute best. The sheepish smile and “aw shucks” demeanor outside the ring was a 180 contrast to the fighter that laid waste to the likes of Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto. But since Cotto in November 2009, Pacquiao has gradually in every subsequent fight looked worse, culminating in the Marquez fight. As of now, everything in his life seems to be moving away from boxing but his words. All we have left to find out is if his body has already betrayed the mind. Has the knockout left Pacquiao physically damaged? Mentally scarred? Will his stamina fail him if Rios relentless pressure and chin takes this into the later rounds?
For all the questions we won’t have answered until Saturday night, here’s what we do know. Pacquiao is a great fighter and first ballot Hall of Famer who’s excelled when facing when brawling fighters similar to Brandon Rios in every division he’s competed in. Rios has the power to hurt anyone who elects to stand in front or him and trade. Pacquiao’s camp has made it clear they will be in boxer-puncher mode, using angles and darting in and out with lethal and fast combinations. Rios has claimed that although Marquez knocked out Manny, Rios would be the Mexican-American to retire him. However, Rios possesses none of the footwork nor counter-punching acumen that we’ve seen pose the biggest issues for the Pac-Man in his last three losses (Morales, Bradley, Marquez).
The common statement from analysts is if Pacquiao has lost something, Rios will be able to exploit it. I disagree — even a Pacquiao that is only 70% of what we saw in December will still be enough to get the job done. This time, it will just take a little longer than usual. Prediction is Pacquiao TKO9.