MANNY Pacquiao is taking the road less traveled in his bid to return to pro boxing 's top echelon.
Coming off a numbing sixth-round knockout loss to Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez in December, Pacquiao could have opted for a doughnut-knitted adversary for his comeback fight. An over-the-hill former world champion or a feather-fisted newcomer would have made for the ideal take-off point for Pacquiao's return, but the Filipino ring icon instead decided to roll the dice and take on a high-risk opponent.
On November 24, in Macau, Pacquiao will swap leather with former World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight (135 pounds) champion Brandon 'Bam Bam' Rios in 12-round, non-title affair. This early, Rios has to be considered a live underdog owing to his aggressive style of fighting and Pacquiao's questionable confidence in the aftermath of the harrowing loss to Marquez.
Rios, 31-1 with 23 knockouts, offers youth, legitimate power, and the evident hunger to make a name for himself at the expense of a legend. While Rios is coming off his first career loss to Mike Alvarado in March, the defeat is not as damaging compared to the one Pacquiao suffered in the hands of Marquez. Rios even hurt Alvarado early in their rematch before dropping a 12-round unanimous decision. Oh, in their first meeting in October 2012, Rios mercilessly butchered Alvarado.
One of four children, Brandon Lee Rios was born in Lubbock, Texas and grew up in Garden City, Kansas. Rios had a troubled childhood, going in and out of jail for petty crimes. Fortunately for Rios, boxing saved him from a worthless life as a street thug. Following in the footsteps of an older brother who briefly boxed, Rios laced on the gloves and figured in nearly 400 fights as an amateur. At age 18, Rios almost earned a spot in the United States' boxing team for the 2004 Olympics. It was during the US Olympic trials when Rios met noted pro trainer and former International Boxing Federation super featherweight champion Robert Garcia. Though Rios only ended up being an alternate in the US team, Garcia liked what he saw and he encouraged the youngster to train with him in Oxnard, California.
Rios turned pro in July 2004 and won his first six fights by knockout. In February 2011, he stopped Miguel Acosta in 10 rounds to win the WBA lightweight diadem. Rios made one successful defense before he was stripped of the crown in December 2011 for failing to meet the prescribed 135-pound limit in a title defense against John Murray. Rios tried regaining the title in April 2012 but again showed up overweight against Richard Abril. After escaping with a controversial decision win over Abril, Rios moved up to the super lightweight class (140 pounds).
The Ring magazine describes Rios as a "strong-willed slugger." In January 2006, in his ninth pro fight, Rios was dropped twice from body shots in the first round by Joel Ortega. Rios bounced back and gamely brawled with Ortega en route to a fifth-round knockout victory. In his first meeting with Alvarado, Rios swallowed several vicious shots to the head before prevailing by knockout in the seventh round.
Rios is expected to take the fight to Pacquiao in their upcoming showdown. The cocky American does not take a step backward and relishes nothing more than a toe-to-toe slugfest. Conditioning has been an issue with Rios, but he is expected to be in tip-top shape against Pacquiao.
Pacquiao-Rios has all the trimmings of a pulsating, unadulterated knuckle-fest. Pacquiao is putting his career on the line as he takes on an opponent who will not hesitate to rumble with him. Make no mistake, Rios knows how to play the pain game and in terms of offense he is expected to push the pedal to the metal when he meets his biggest opponent to date.