Amidst all of the Monday morning water cooler buzz surrounding Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s masterful performance over Robert Guerrero earlier this week, it was announced that Manny Pacquiao will fight Brandon Rios at the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macau Resort in Macau, China on November 24 (to be televised on November 23 in the United States on HBO pay-per-view at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT). The "Who, What, When, Where, Why and How" of this fight may explain why the reaction to it has been mixed.
Who: Brandon Rios
When both Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley rejected offers for a rematch against Pacquiao, attention was turned elsewhere to find an opponent who would welcome the Filipino star back to the ring following his shocking knockout loss to Marquez last December.
Even though Mike Alvarado evened the score by defeating Rios with a unanimous decision victory in a March rematch of their October 2012 "Fight Of The Year" contender, a closely contested battle that had been scored as a majority draw at the time of a somewhat premature seventh round stoppage, it is Rios who gets the big payday and opportunity to face Pacquiao on the main stage. This essentially tells Alvarado and the boxing community at large that the victory over Rios is somewhat meaningless in the larger scheme of things.
It is bad enough that Alvarado was paid only $625,000 for the Rios rematch while his opponent earned $1.25 million, the biggest purse of his career at the time. While it was expected that Rios would be paid more as the winner of the first fight, the wide disparity in pay for a contest that pegged two equally dangerous fighters against each other is difficult to digest. Yet, that general methodology is not applied when he emerges victorious in the rematch, now forced to sit back and watch the man he defeated get a dream fight at the elite level.
It was suspected that an injury to Alvarado's right hand might keep him sidelined for an extended period of time. However, this was not highlighted in the initial reports when the fight was first announced on Monday (see "Why" below). It was not until two days later that more definitive reports surfaced that Alvarado's injury was a factor in the decision.
What: 147-pound Non-Title Fight
This will be the first fight at welterweight for Rios, a former WBA lightweight champion who has only fought twice at junior welterweight in his battles with Alvarado. Given the trouble Rios has had in the past making weight, losing his title on the scale before facing John Murray in December 2011 and coming in overweight against Richard Abril in April 2012 to squander an opportunity to win back the vacant title, it was time for him to move up. Although he should carry the extra weight well given his natural size (he unofficially weighed 161 on fight night for the Alvarado rematch) and he has a very solid chin to be able to absorb a heavier punch, Rios is totally unproven as a welterweight.
When: November 23 (November 24 in Macau)
Given the 12-hour time difference, the fight will be televised live in the United States on November 23 by HBO pay-per-view. This is being done to accommodate the high-paying U.S. audience who will be required to shell out up to $69.99 for the telecast (see "How" below).
Where: Macau, China
Given the success of Top Rank's show featuring the pro debut of China's Zou Shiming in April and Pacquiao's desire for more advantageous tax treatment, Macau will play host to the beloved Filipino's first fight outside of the U.S. since July 2006 when he defeated Oscar Larios in Manila.
Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach has said that Pacquiao will train for six weeks in the Philippines and the final two weeks in Macau. Rios, who trains with Robert Garcia in Oxnard, California, will have to contend with adjusting to the time difference in addition to battling in front of thousands of passionate Pacquiao supporters who may have some impact on the scoring (ie; Brian Viloria somehow managed to get the nod on one of the three judge's scorecards in a losing effort against Juan Francisco Estrada in Macau this past April).
Why: Style Match-Up
Rios' aggressive and brawling style was the reason provided for his selection as an opponent when the fight was first announced on Monday.
"After Marquez and Bradley turned down our offers, Rios was next in line and he took the fight," Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz said.
“For the more entertaining fight for the fans, Manny chose Rios because of the styles.”
The 27-year old Rios loves to exchange and his style is not difficult to figure out. The general sense among many observers, including Team Pacquiao themselves, is that this will play right into the powerful Filipino's hands, making Rios a "safer" option that the more polished Alvarado. However, Pacquiao's dominating victories over pressure-fighters Ricky Hatton and Antonio Margarito came well before he was knocked out cold by Marquez last December. We no longer know how well the 34-year old Pacquiao, coming off of such a devastating one-punch knockout loss, will psychologically respond when faced with pressure by a younger and fearless opponent.
How: HBO PPV
The question has to be asked whether Pacquiao is still a legitimate pay-per-view draw worthy of demanding up to $69.99 to watch him fight. He has lost two consecutive contests, albeit the split-decision loss to Bradley last June was highly questionable, with two previous underwhelming performances against Marquez in November 2011 and Shane Mosley in May 2011.
This bout against Rios will match two fighters coming off of convincing losses. The hope is that Pacquiao's name value, combined with the promised action that Rios always brings, will be enough to make this a major event. The reality, however, is that it's a pair of men looking to rebound.
This concern can be offset with a strong undercard. Unfortunately, the clear lines of division between Top Rank and Golden Boy makes this more difficult to accomplish.
All said, it is expected that fans will do what they have always done and tune in to see what happens when the bell rings.
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