Brandon Rios doesn’t fight like Timothy Bradley or Juan Manuel Marquez and for Manny Pacquiao, that’s a relief. Rios is a come-forward slugger who fights without a reverse gear – it’s an exciting style that Top Rank chairman Bob Arum believes will make for an explosive head-on battle against Pacquiao at the Cotai Arena of the Venetian Resort Hotel in Macau on Nov. 23.
When Pacquiao lost to Marquez in Las Vegas last December, Rios was a disappointed spectator. He was next in line for the Filipino icon but the loss derailed the planned encounter. “It’s my time,” Rios told The Star. “I’m young (now 27) and strong. I wanted Manny to beat Marquez so I could fight him next but now, I’ve got to talk to my manager (Cameron Dunkin) to find out what to do. Manny losing to Marquez by a knockout was unbelievable.”
Another disappointed spectator was Rios’ trainer Robert Garcia who also takes care of Nonito Donaire Jr. He said a Pacquiao-Rios bout would be an easy candidate for Fight of the Year because of their go-for-broke styles. “It’s a fight fans would love to watch,” said Garcia. “Nobody would back down.”
With Pacquiao scratched out of his list, Rios wound up facing Mike Alvarado in a rematch last March. Rios had stopped Alvarado five months earlier and was tipped to repeat but in a war that could’ve gone either way, “Bam Bam” lost a unanimous decision. The outcome was settled in the final few rounds. Kieran Mulvaney, writing in Boxing News, said “Amid the brutalizing blows and the vacillating ebb and flow, Alvarado was able to inch ahead down the final quarter courtesy of the boxing skills he had promised beforehand … as Rios continued to plough forward, Alvarado somehow had the strength and stamina to step slightly to the side, to fire combinations that served mostly to keep Rios at bay and leave him within range for more telling blows.”
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Alvarado exposed the chink in Rios’ armor and Pacquiao will no doubt use the blueprint to map out a strategy to beat the fighter whom writer Chris Williams called “a basic stand-up slugger.” Rios needs a standing target to display his punching power – he likes to trade toe-to-toe. If his opponent shows side-to-side movement, Rios is lost in space. Pacquiao won’t make the same mistake he did in attacking Marquez with reckless abandon. He’s in a must-win situation against Rios because another setback will probably mean the end of his ring career.
The fight won’t only be between Pacquiao and Rios. It will also highlight the corner war between Garcia and Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach. They’re both cerebral, intuitive and masters of adjustment. Their strategy and approach will dictate the terms of engagement. A sidelight is Rios’ lack of respect for Roach whom he once mocked by mimicking a victim of Parkinson’s syndrome on video.
Mulvaney said Rios is “a straight-forward, face-first, suffocating, spirit-sapping brawler who drowns his opponents in a relentless tide of aggression.” An advantage for Rios is making the 147-pound limit won’t be a problem as he once said, “When I come in on weight comfortably and when I’m not worrying about training to make weight, but training to fight an opponent, I can stop anybody.”
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Rios scaled his heaviest at 140 pounds in his last two fights against Alvarado. When he turned pro in 2004, he weighed in at 130 to knock out Raul Montes in Oxnard, California. Pacquiao also scaled his heaviest at 147 in his last two outings which he lost to Bradley and Marquez. Whether Rios can bring up his power to the welterweight division is a question mark. If he can’t hurt Pacquiao, the Filipino will step all over him for sure.
Rios said money isn’t his motivation to fight Pacquiao. “I want to fight him not just for the money but because of what he has done – and if you beat him, it takes your name to a different level,” he said. “It’s my time to shine to take on the best and beat the best.” Rios has held only one world title at lightweight compared to Pacquiao’s eight.
“I come to fight,” said Rios quoted by Boxing News editor Tris Dixon. “I don’t come to hug and hold. That’s what I love to do. That’s just who I am. That’s the way I was brought up. I was always in and out of jail, I was always in trouble with the law, was always on probation, was always fighting in the street.” For Pacquiao, Rios couldn’t be more tailor-fit. Rios won’t counter like Marquez or move away like Bradley. He’ll be in front of Pacquiao ready to exchange and rumble.