Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios are at the crossroads of their boxing careers. Rios is looking for a win to catapult him to the top of the sport. Pacquiao is looking for redemption after his crushing loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December of 2012.
Power: Pacquiao has the power advantage in theory. He has always been a crippling puncher, even as he has moved up in weight. However, he has shown a diminished ability to hurt opponents as he has moved into the welterweight division. Rios is moving up from Jr. Welterweight for this fight. He has been a strong puncher at lightweight as well as his two fights with Mike Alvarado at 140 lbs. I would give the advantage to Pacquiao because he has consistently kept a good portion of his power with him as he has moved up in weight.
Speed: This is a no brainer. Pacquiao has a huge advantage in speed in this fight. He is one of the fastest fighters of all time. His hand and foot speed are vastly superior to Rios. Rios has some speed, but it is the biggest advantage that Pacquiao will have in this fight.
Experience: Pacquiao has fought the much better opposition throughout his career. He has beaten Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Ricky Hatton among others. These fighters are future Hall of Famers and Pacquiao dominated most of them, Marquez being the exception. Rios has beaten some good fighters such as Alvarado and Miguel Acosta. Clearly, it is not even close. Pacquiao has a huge advantage in that he has beaten the elite fighters in the sport and Rios hasn’t.
Chin: Rios wins this hands down. He has been knocked down only twice as a pro. This was in his ninth pro fight. He has shown the ability to take huge shots and walk right through them. Pacquiao on the other hand, has a decent chin. He has taken good shots before and has remained upright. He was brutally knocked out in his last fight against Marquez, and there may be some residual effects from it. Rios has the advantage here.
Heart: These two fighters have huge hearts. Both are warriors who will not back down from a fight. Rios is going to be the fighter coming forward, but Pacquiao will fight fire with fire if he has to.
Styles: Pacquiao is a boxer-puncher who is very quick and can punch. He utilizes movement and is a southpaw who uses both hands effectively. Rios is a straight ahead brawler who puts lots of pressure on his opponent. He can box well enough to get inside and throw his punches. He is also an effective body puncher.
Prediction: This fight has all the makings of a classic. Pacquiao needs to use his speed and box Rios. He has to avoid getting bullied into the ropes where Rios can throw his body punches. He also has to keep Rios off balance with his footwork and has to use the jab effectively. Rios has to pressure Pacquiao and get him on the ropes. He has to wear him down so he can start landing his power punches. There should be extra motivation for both fighters because of the trash talk between the camps this week.
Talent-wise, there is a colossal gap between the two favoring Pacquiao. He should be too fast and skilled for a tough, but limited brawler such as Rios. However, there is one factor that makes this fight so intriguing. Pacquiao is coming off of a brutal knockout loss to Marquez in his last fight 11 months ago. The question is if that loss sapped Pacquiao of everything that has made him special.
I personally believe that he will come in motivated and put on a show. He should be able to outbox and outslug Rios to win a unanimous decision or a late round stoppage.