Boxing fans should realize Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao could be fighting for the last time.
Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 Kos) faces a daunting task against Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios (31-1-1, 23 Kos) when they meet on Nov. 23, in Macau. The back-to-back losses by Asia’s greatest boxer are proof of ageing legs and slower reflexes. The non-title fight will be televised worldwide.
Fans have missed the signs. Instead of realizing that the Filipino superstar’s reflexes and stamina were waning, they opted to argue the point that judges were off target when Timothy Bradley took the WBO welterweight world title by unanimous decision.
Many did not notice Pacquiao was only fighting at full bore in the last 60 seconds of each round. They just saw the blurring combinations and negated the first two minutes of Pacman’s relative inactivity of each round. The judges didn’t miss it.
When Pacquiao next fought Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez and was knocked down for the first time in four encounters, many ignored it again. Few surmised that the reflexes were not up to his old standards. They saw Pacquiao rally back and knock down Marquez, but few saw the quivering legs of Pacman, whose stamina issues began to surface after expending so much energy chasing Marquez. Just before Marquez unloaded the big right hand, if you looked at Pacquiao’s legs, they were visibly unsteady. He was just plain tired in the sixth round.
It happens to the best.
Pacquiao hopes that his upcoming challenger Rios will rekindle the fire that he displayed when he demolished Mexico’s Antonio Margarito in 12 of the most one-sided rounds seen in a championship fight. That day on Nov. 13, 2010, the Filipino speedster never tired and seemed to have a limitless supply of bombs bouncing off Margarito’s head.
“That’s what I want, his style of fighting,” said Pacquiao of Rios. “He likes to come inside and I like that style. I don’t like to chase and I’m pretty sure I won’t have to chase him.”
Yes, he prefers the Margarito style that Rios uses, but it was three years ago. Can Pacquiao regain the almost superhuman cardio of the past?
“My training for this fight has been unique and my training camp has been very long for this fight,” said Pacquiao, 34, who seeks at least two more fights should he beat Rios. “My preparation has been going very well so I think it’s going to be an exciting fight.”
Rios can’t match Pacquiao when it comes to speed. Few prizefighters in the world can rival the southpaw’s lightning combinations of bullet-like punches that come from unorthodox angles and slots. But what happens when he slows down?
“I’m going to do what I always do, I’m a pressure fighter,” said Rios, 27, from his Oxnard base. “I’ll pressure him and make him throw punches. I’ll wear him down. It’s what I do.”
Top Rank’s Bob Arum has not shown unwavering confidence in his super star Pacquiao. Instead, he hopes that the change from training in California to the Philippines helps prepare one of the greatest fighters in the last 50 years.
“He was spending time on the phone talking with people in the Philippines when he should have been sleeping,” said Arum about previous fights. He also added that Pacquiao’s responsibilities as a Congressman in a different time zone handicapped his prize charge. “Now that he’s home, he’s able to rest and take care of business at the proper time. His training has been incredible.”
Rios doesn’t have to worry about time zones or politics. The only added element to his training regimen was having Hollywood actor-comedian Kevin Hart walk into his gym to promote a boxing movie called “Grudge Match.” Despite fighting at welterweight for the first time the always loose Rios was even more placid than usual.
“All of my concentration has been just on fighting Pacquiao, not on losing weight,” said Rios, who will be fighting at 147-pounds. “This has been easy and it’s been hard. Easy, because I can make weight. Hard, because I have to train to beat a great fighter like Pacquiao.”
Fans should not take for granted that Pacquiao will win. Never in his career has vulnerability been as obvious then now for the great Asian prizefighter. Don’t miss this fight. It could be the last for the great Pacquiao.