By Alex P. Vidal
Bob Arum would not give Manny Pacquiao a chance to redeem himself after losing by 6th round knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez on December 8, 2012 if the Top Rank chief executive officer knew Pacquiao could not beat his comeback opponent.
Thus Arum picked 27-year-old iron-jawed Brandon Lee “Bam Bam” Rios (31-1, 23 KOs 1 draw) to test Pacquiao’s mettle and see if he still have what it takes to become world champion again at 34.
Never mind if the WBO international welterweight belt that Pacquiao and Rios will dispute on November 24 at the Cotai Arena, Venetian Resort in Macao, China is not a legitimate world championship. Pacquiao’s comeback fight against the former world champion Rios is crucial and will serve as the basis if Arum can still sign him up for more multi-million contracts against the current world champions in the 147 lbs division in his next fights.
Pacquiao (54-5, 38 KOs 3 draws) is under obligation to fulfill a contract with Top Rank thus Arum is morally obliged to “protect” his ward by hook or by crook, so to speak.
Under the contract, Pacquiao still has two fights left under Top Rank but he has the option to retire after the Rios fight.
Since Rios does not have the caliber of Pacquaio’s previous opponents, oddsmakers are giving him a slim chance to score an upset against the 8-division world champion from General Santos City in Mindanao.
Upsets, however, happen when they are least expected like in the case of Pacquiao vs Marco Antonio Barrera first fight on November 15, 2003 where Pacquiao scored a dramatic 11th round TKO against the most charismatic Mexican world champion in that period.
Rios has been training for at least five months and he is expected to be in perfect shape when he scuffles with Pacquiao who has trained only for about two months.
If Rios is mentally and physically prepared, he won’t be a patsy when he squares off with Pacquiao. Pacquiao will have to be extra cautious when he attempts to finish off the younger Rios in the early rounds so as not to repeat the tragic ending inflicted on him by Marquez in his last fight. And his coaching team is aware of this reality.
If Pacquiao can’t put away Rios and the fight goes the full route, he will win by unanimous decision. Both protagonists will be judged by “friendly” officials: Lisa Giampa, Michael Pernick, and Manfred Kuechler and the fight won’t be held in the glitzy Las Vegas where mafias wield tremendous power and influence; and where Pacquiao was “punished” en route to losing by a highly controversial split decision to Timothy Bradley on June 9, 2012.