It was billed as one of the greatest boxing conference calls ever, if not THE greatest. It had to capacity to be a galloping cluster-dustup, what with Bob Arum, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, George Foreman, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Tim Bradley taking part, with the subject being the Nov. 23 showdown in Macau, between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios.
If it was a cluster-dustup, it was an entertaining one, as the all-time greats talked about the hurdles that face both Pacquiao and Rios, and offered their predictions about the outcome.
Foreman foresees a distance fight, in the hands of judges, with Manny getting the “home region” decision. He recalled that before his Nov. 1994 fight with Michael Moorer, a flood hit Houston and he had to save people from drowning, but was able to block that out on fight night.
Leonard gives the advantage to Pacman, who will have to block out the typhoon tragedy, because he likely wants the win so bad. “It's not an easy fight, people may go down, but I give a slight edge to Manny,” he said.
Bradley's got Manny by KO, in round eight, and thinks Manny's power will be hard to handle.
Barrera said it's complicated for both, for Rios who comes forward and Manny who gives different angles. “Manny is a very strong fighter, has a lot of speed and is tough,” the Mexican legend said. He said Manny is in “trouble” if he tries to be a boxer and politician at the same time. “He better be one hundred percent focused as a boxer for this fight,” he said.
Foreman was asked about retirement. He said that is the hardest thing to do, and he doesn't think that will be in Manny's head, win or lose. Leonard echoed that; he said it is the hardest after a loss. Leonard said he contemplated retiring after his loss to Roberto Duran, because the fight was so difficult. He took a vacation and decided he'd come back.
Bradley was asked about what Pacman brings to the table. Bradley said that Rios will see a mobile Pacquiao, quick, elusive, a lot of feints, and someone who is difficult to hit. Rios will have to close the distance, get up close, and punish Pacman on the ropes. If he's out to far, he's “doomed,” Bradley said. He also must have great D after he punches, because Manny can counter. “This is not Mike Alvarado,” he said. Rios has to watch out for Manny's left, and he can't rush in, Bradley said. “He better be very aware of it,” he said he told their manager-in-common Cameron Dunkin.
He bounced back after getting whacked around, and thinks Manny can do the same. Every shot Manny throws is hard, he said, and he thinks Rios is a tad slow to hang with Manny.
Barrera talked about his first fight with Pacman, ten years ago. He said he went in knowing nothing about Manny, who beat him with body shots. Pacman has given smaller the fighters the confidence to leap in weight class, and win.
Foreman was asked about fighting outside the US. It will be tough, he said, and you wake up at the wrong time all the time. Manny, from that region, will have the edge. Fighting in the AM will be a challenge, mentally and physically. “It's not going to be the same,” he said.
Leonard was asked if Manny has self doubt in his head coming off a KO loss. He said Rios needs to remind Manny of that loss. Manny is a great candidate to be able to shrug that off, he noted.
Duran said that everyone is equal on Earth, but Manny is still a star. Duran was kayoed (TKO2 to Thomas Hearns in 1984) and later won a title (in 1989), so Rios shouldn't underestimate him. “I still believe Pacquiao is one of the most dangerous fighters around.” he said. Rios can't be afraid, or hesitate, he stated.
Arum jumped in with a story; he said George Foreman fought Jose Roman in Japan in Sept. 1973, and the ref Jay Edson refused to DQ Foreman after George hit Roman while he was down. Edson, later a Top Rabk employee, was principled but not crazy, apparently.
Duran said Rios should be fine as long as he's not too over weight or anything going in. Arum piped in, and said Manny struggles to gain weight. Thus, he eats five meals a day. Rios is used to making 140 so he should be fine for the weigh in. Both will be fine, in fact.
Arum recollected that this fight reminds him of the Oct. 1975 Thrilla in Manilla, which unfolded at about 12 noon in Manilla. The promoter said he went outside the coliseum after the bout, and the sun was the brightest he'd ever seen. “I still remember it was like it was yesterday,” he said.