Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight.
The last time Manny Pacquaio was in the ring, Juan Manuel Marquez left him facedown in Las Vegas. (Julie Jacobson/AP)
On Saturday, Manny Pacquiao -- No. 3 in SI.com's latest pound-for-pound list -- will take on Brandon Rios for a minor welterweight title at The Venetian's Cotai Arena in Macau, China. The fight will be televised by HBO Pay Per View, for a suggested price of $59.95.
Pacquiao, 34, a former eight division champion, is coming off his second straight defeat. Last December, Pacquiao was knocked out in the sixth round by Juan Manuel Marquez in the fourth fight of an epic rivalry. One of the top draws in boxing, Pacquiao will earn a guaranteed $18 million for this fight with an upside that could drive his purse north of $30 million.
Rios, 27, a former junior welterweight champion, is moving up to 147-pounds for the first time. An entertaining brawler, Rios is coming off a narrow decision defeat to Mike Alvarado, who Rios defeated by knockout in 2012. Rios will earn $4 million for this fight.
Despite back-to-back losses -- including a questionable decision defeat to Tim Bradley last year -- Pacquiao remains one of boxing's few remaining superstars. Possessing superior power, speed and accuracy, Pacquiao blazed a trail of dominance from 2008 to 2010, when he stopped Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto. However, lackluster wins over Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez in '11 and an uninspired performance against Bradley in '12 have been signs that Pacquiao has begun to decline.
Last December, Pacquiao met Marquez in the fourth installment of a historic rivalry. It was a competitive fight early, with both Pacquiao and Marquez scoring knockdowns in the first five rounds. Then came the sixth, when Pacquiao, leading on all three judges scorecards, rushed into a picture-perfect Marquez right hand. The shot knocked him out, creating the first clear cut finish between the two fighters. Afterwards, on the advice of his trainer, Freddie Roach, Pacquiao took 11 months off, the longest layoff of his career.
Rios is not considered one of boxing's most skilled fighters, but he is one of its most entertaining. A come forward brawler carved from the mold of the late Arturo Gatti, Rios loves a good fight. He burst on the national scene in 2011, when he knocked out veteran Miguel Acosta for a 135-pound title. Rios moved up to 140-pounds in 2012 to stop Alvarado and claim a 140-pound title. He is not the most disciplined fighter; Rios has missed weight in two of his last four fights, costing him his lightweight title.
While Rios and Pacquiao have been respectful of each other, the tension between their camps has been palpable. Rios is trained by Robert Garcia, who was caught on film in 2010 laughing while two of his fighters, Rios and Antonio Margarito, mocked the symptoms of Roach's Parkinson's disease, and Alex Ariza, Pacquiao's former strength and conditioning coach who was fired by Roach in August. On Tuesday, a scuffle broke out between Roach and members of Rios's team at an open workout. During the expletive-laced melee, Ariza could be heard mocking Roach's problems with Parkinson's, including referring to Roach as a "stuttering prick."
Rios isn't complicated: He comes straight forward and wears opponents down. Though he lacks one-punch power, Rios scores knockouts in the later rounds. Four of his last five wins have come by knockout, three of which came in the fifth round or later. He loves fighting on the inside, professing that his ideal fight is when it becomes a test of wills. Rios has an excellent chin -- he has been knocked down just once as a professional -- and seems to gain momentum when the fight gets more physical. He won't avoid many punches, but he won't miss an opportunity to throw many, either.
Pacquiao has slowed down considerably the last few years. Though still fast with cutting power, Pacquiao no longer relentlessly pursues opponents for entire rounds. Lately, he has fought in bursts and has not knocked an opponent out since 2009. He is still dangerous, though not nearly as dangerous as he used to be.
And then there is the question of how Pacquiao will bounce back after last year's devastating knockout. Over the last few months, Pacquiao and his team have gone to great lengths to assure the public that Pacquiao has moved on from the loss. But history suggests that knockouts like that can have lingering effects, and if Pacquiao is hesitant or unsure of himself, Rios will be right there to take advantage.
According to Las Vegas betting website Bovada.lv, Pacquiao is a heavy favorite at -500. Rios is the underdog at +350.
Is Pacquiao the same fighter he was before getting knocked out by Marquez? This is the fight's biggest question. If Pacquiao is fully recovered, he rolls. Rios was handpicked because he isn't difficult to hit, lacks crushing power and is moving up in weight. A sharp Pacquiao will carve Rios up, battering him with flurries that Rios isn't fast enough to counter. But what if Pacquiao has lost a step? Then he could be in trouble. Rios may not be able to floor Pacquiao like Marquez did, but he can get a stoppage by applying relentless pressure. For now, you have to give Pacquiao the benefit of the doubt. He may not be the Pacquiao of 2009, but he is still better than Rios. Pacquiao by unanimous decision.
Brandon Rios (right) loves an inside, physical fight but lost his bout with Mike Alvarado in March. (Josh Hedges/Getty Images)
The Tweet Beat
Join the conversation about Pacquiao-Rios on Twitter. Track the hashtag #PacRios to see who's tweeting what about Saturday's fight.
· Evgeny Gradovich (17-0) vs. Billy Dib (36-2), 12 rounds, for Gradovich's IBF featherweight title
· Andy Ruiz (20-0) vs. Tor Hamer (21-2), ten rounds, heavyweights
· Zou Shiming (2-0) vs. Juan Toscano (4-0), six rounds, flyweights
· Felix Verdejo (8-0) Petchsamuthr Duanaaymukdahan (8-1), six rounds, lightweights
Undercard Grade: D
HBO's Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Roy Jones will be ringside for the main event and the undercard. Harold Lederman will be the network's unofficial scorer. Former judge Steve Weisfeld will be at the HBO studios in New York and available for any rules questions.
Chicago-based Genaro Rodriguez will referee the fight. Michael Pernick (Florida), Lisa Giampa (Las Vegas) and Manfred Kuchler (Germany) are the three judges.
HBO/Top Rank will televise the weigh-in on Friday live at 6:30 pm ET at TopRank.tv or InsideHBOBoxing.com
HBO Pay Per View has done 187 events, and this will be its first one from an international destination.
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