Coming off of the longest layoff of his illustrious -- and extensive -- professional career, one of boxing's greatest modern superstars, Manny Pacquiao, will return to the ring this Saturday (Nov. 23, 2013) in Macau, China.
The Filipino firebrand will headline HBO's latest pay-per-view (PPV) event, looking avoid an unprecedented third consecutive loss when he collides with lead-fisted (and lead-chinned) Brandon Rios at The Venetian.
MMAmania will deliver LIVE "Pacquiao vs. Rios" coverage of the event on fight night, starting with the HBO PPV broadcast at 9 p.m. ET.
In addition to the highly-anticipated main event, the card will also feature a Heavyweight clash between unbeaten Andy Ruiz and American power-puncher Tor Hamer, the third professional fight of two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming, as well as a Featherweight title rematch between Billy Dib and Evgeny Gradovich, who took Dib's IBF title this past March.
Will this be a return to form for the Pacquiao or the end of one of the most impressive careers of the last 20 years?
Let's break it down:
Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KO)
Notable Victories: Marco Antonio Barrera (x2), Erik Morales (x2), Juan Manuel Marquez (x2), Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya
Last Fight: Knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in round six, Dec. 2012
Brandon Rios (31-1-1, 23 KO)
Notable Victories: Miguel Acosta, Urbano Antillon, Mike Alvarado
Last Fight: Unanimous decision loss to Mike Alvarado, March 2013
Prediction: Despite coming off of a loss, do not write off Rios out of the gate. While he lacks the sort of one-punch power seen in his contemporaries such as Lucas Matthysse or Gennady Golovkin, he possesses what I call "thumping" power: Punches that sap an opponent's will.
In other words, disassemble rather than demolish (Vitali Klitschko possesses this sort of power as did Antonio Margarito in his prime).
Though Rios is considered a brawler, this alone does not warrant criticism. That's because a brawler is not an inherently inferior archetype. On the contrary, what defines how good a fighter is is how well he can impose his preferred style of engagement.
However, this is where criticism is warranted: Rios is not adept at forcing his style of fight on an unwilling opponent. He has one range: Point-blank, head on the chest, ripping short uppercuts and hooks. His footwork, or lack thereof, limits him to simply walk forward in a tight guard, absorbing punches until his opponent runs out of ground to give.
And with Pacquiao's unrivaled footwork, he doesn't run out of ground. Indeed, he moves laterally brilliantly, landing punches at bizarre angles and speeds that Rios can't match. Against this sort of mobility, Rios will be forced to engage at long range, where he was outclassed by the aforementioned Alvarado in their rematch.
Put simply, against perhaps the finest long-range offensive fighter in decades, that's not a fight Rios can win.
Dangerous as he is, Rios is a poor man's Margarito, lacking the ring generalship to apply true, overpowering pressure against elite competition. While Margarito himself was a poor man's Margarito when he was euthanized by Pacquiao, the ease with which "PacMan" inflicted so much damage on him suggests very bad things in Rios' future.
Rios' trainer, Robert Garcia, cornered Margarito in that bout and showed that he's willing to let his fighter take permanent damage without stopping the fight. Pacquiao's left hand will force the referee's hand, however, as his withering firepower beats down a game -- but overmatched -- "Bam Bam."
Prediction: Pacquiao defeats Rios via technical knockout in round seven
Once again, remember to join MMAmania.com this Saturday night for our LIVE play-by-play coverage of "Pacquiao vs. Rios."
It's going to be good.