Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pacquiao: Back And Still In The Mix

The natural question that a fighter who is attempting to come back from a devastating knockout loss will have to answer is how did the knockout that they suffered affect them? It goes without saying that a knockout can have several different affects on a fighter. A fighter who was normally aggressive could turn into a defense a fighter and be hesitant to let their hands go. For fighters who suffer a particularly devastating knockout questions could also be asked about their ability to take a punch in fights following that knockout.

In the case of Boxing superstar and former multi-division world champion Manny Pacquiao those questions were all present when he entered the ring against Brandon Rios on November 23rd in Macau, China. Pacquiao, who was fighting for the first time since suffering a brutal knockout loss at the hands of his arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez last December, one might argue had more to prove in this fight than Rios who was fighting for the first time in the Welterweight division.

Although there was the opinion of some that Rios’ style was made to order for Pacquiao, Rios still was an all action pressure fighter who had the power to potentially give Pacquiao trouble. It was clear once the fight got underway however, that Pacquiao was not affected by the knockout in the way many had speculated since the loss to Marquez.

For twelve rounds Pacquiao consistently beat Rios the punch landing in combination, using great movement and angles, and showing the ability to take a punch and counter to earn a convincing unanimous decision. What particularly impressed me in this fight was Pacquiao’s disciplined approach. He remained an elusive target throughout much of the fight and frequently made Rios miss. Rios was able to be effective in spots particularly on the inside when he was able to land body punches and attempt to roughhouse Pacquiao. Although it appeared that Pacquiao may have been able to potentially stop Rios as the fight went on, he remained disciplined and did not approach his offense recklessly.

It was after all Pacquiao attempting to go in for the finish which led to his downfall in his fourth fight with Marquez. One might argue that had Pacquiao been more aware of the time remaining in the round in which Marquez was able to score that dramatic come from behind knockout that perhaps the outcome of that fight may have been different. Pacquiao appeared more cautious in this fight and did not leave Rios many openings.

Rios displayed great heart throughout this fight and never stopped trying to find a way to break Pacquiao down. Much as other fighters have discovered against Manny Pacquiao, Rios just could not find a way to break Pacquiao’s rhythm and could not effectively find a way to neutralize Pacquiao’s angles. A task that has proven to truly be easier said than done. Rios however, did show his mettle in this fight in that he stood up to all of Pacquiao’s offense and in similar situations where fighters have crumbled against Pacquiao; Rios continued to try to turn things in his favor. Although some will say that Brandon Rios was simply outclassed in this fight, no one can take away the heart he showed against Pacquiao and the “Game” effort he put forth in defeat. 

Despite what many will view as a dominant performance by Manny Pacquiao, there are some who may feel that more questions are to be asked. In the eyes of this observer Manny Pacquiao looked like the dominating force that he was prior to his loss to Marquez. He did not appear to be diminished in any way. There have after all been fighters who after suffering knockout losses, particularly knockout losses of a devastating nature who are never really the same. An example of this one might argue could be Roy Jones.

Much like Pacquiao, Jones at his peak was considered the best fighter in the world pound for pound. Along with suffering controversial losses while at their peak, both Pacquiao and Jones lost their standing as the best pound for pound as a result of sudden and dramatic one punch knockouts. Jones, who was knocked out in May of 2004 at the hands of Antonio Tarver in their second of three fights, returned to the ring in September of that year and suffered a knockout loss at the hands of then Light-Heavyweight champion Glen Johnson. Many observers, this one included believed that Jones came back too soon after being knocked out by Tarver and in addition to suffering the knockout at the hands of Johnson along with dropping back down in weight to the Light-Heavyweight division after successfully winning a Heavyweight world championship in March of 2003 resulted in the gradual decline of Jones.

Unlike Jones however, Pacquiao although suffering a brutal knockout loss was not affected by a drop down in weight and did not show any signs of diminishing skills in his fight with Brandon Rios. Whether or not Pacquiao will be able to regain his standing among the sport’s mythical pound for pound ratings remains to be seen. The win over Rios however, should be looked at as a confidence booster for Pacquiao who due to his controversial loss to Timothy Bradley and the knockout loss at the hands of Marquez had not won a fight since 2011. After suffering those setbacks in 2012, the victory over Rios and his solid performance has to be a lift for Pacquiao.

What may loom on the horizon for Pacquiao in 2014? Although it is understandable that based on what was a very impressive performance against Brandon Rios, that speculation would resume on a potential clash between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, this observer believes that is more likely to see Pacquiao remain in what I have called an unofficial round robin concept involving himself, Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ruslan Provodnikov, Mike Alvarado, and Brandon Rios. Although this concept has never been made official, it appears logical that all of these fighters will remain in the mix for each other. Despite the loss to Pacquiao, Rios is still an exciting and dangerous fighter for anyone in either the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight or 147lb. Welterweight divisions. 

Under the round robin scenario that I have discussed in recent months it is not out of the realm of possibility to see Rios pursue a third fight with Mike Alvarado or a fight with Ruslan Provodnikov. Both potential fights present exciting style match ups and would garner significant attention. Rios’ battles with Alvarado were two very exciting fights and with each holding a win over the other the idea of a third fight is very possible. A possibility of Rios fighting Provodnikov before a potential third fight with Alvarado is also possible.

Provodnikov, who stopped Alvarado to win the WBO Jr. Welterweight championship last month one might argue could be the more viable fight for Rios for his next fight due to both Provodnikov stopping Alvarado, the first man to defeat Rios, but also Provodnikov’s battle with Timothy Bradley earlier this year in a fight that many feel he deserved the decision. Whichever route Brandon Rios decides to take he will continue to garner attention.

As for Manny Pacquiao, this observer believes that his next fight will either be against Juan Manuel Marquez in a fifth encounter or a rematch with Timothy Bradley. Both potential fights deserve to happen and an obvious motivation for either Marquez or Bradley would be to prove that their victories over Pacquiao were not flukes. In the case of Timothy Bradley who’s reputation and status as a viable entity in the sport was damaged due to the controversy surrounding his win over Pacquiao, one might argue that a rematch for him would be important as it would give him the opportunity for vindication. 

Although Juan Manuel Marquez has stated that he does not have an interest in a fifth fight with Pacquiao, this observer believes that it could happen. Despite the knockout in the fourth encounter between the two, the series of fights between Pacquiao and Marquez rank among the greatest series of fights in the history of Boxing. Even though the fourth encounter provided the first conclusive ending of any of the fights in the series Boxing fans will surely welcome a fifth chapter in what has been a great rivalry.

If this round robin concept does inadvertently continue into 2014 the Boxing fan can likely expect more of what makes the sport great. Potentially entertaining battles featuring fighters at their peak facing off against each other. The kind of fights that will likely be considered one day to be part of a great era in Boxing.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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