AS Filipinos worldwide come to terms with the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, their national hero prepares to lace up and take out a nation’s frustration on Brandon Rios in Macau on the 24th of November.
Pacquiao, a Filipino congressman, landed in the special administrative region of China yesterday in preparation for Sunday’s bout. The nation will come to a standstill once the bell rings as their inspirational icon steps back into the ring.
Riza Rabanes, a Dublin-based Filipino, spoke of Pacquiao’s influence on the Asian nation: ‘He’s a good person, a good model as an athlete…the people are looking forward to seeing him win. He always gives back, win or lose.’
‘He’s a big help to the Typhoon victims,’ she said. Pacquiao, like many Filipino’s, grew up in abject poverty. He sold donuts on the street to help his family pay for food. The icon hasn’t changed according to Rabanes, describing him as ‘the same ‘Pac’ as before…a humble person.’
Manny Pacquiao endured a torrid 2012, blatantly robbed of what seemed like an obvious decision victory by most of the boxing fraternity against Timothy Bradley in June, before being knocked-out cold by arch-nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez in November in the fourth chapter of their epic rivalry.
Pacquiao broke Marquez’s nose earlier in the fight and was close to victory himself when he ran face-first into a counter right hand that left him unconscious on the deck, with one second remaining in the sixth round.
Calls for retirement have fallen on deaf ears as the Filipino congressman plots his route back to boxing’s pinnacle. Both Marquez and Bradley turned down the chance to face Pacquiao again, instead facing each other, so former lightweight world champion Rios grabbed the opportunity.
Rios (31-1) has never been stopped and with only one defeat on his resume, is hardly a tune-up bout for bigger challenges down the line. Come fight night, ‘Pacman’ will have put in a full 3-month preparation camp as he attempts to regain his number one pound-for-pound status.
Arguably the most exciting fighter of his generation, Pacquiao (54-5-2) has fought and beaten some of boxing’s legends, including Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto.
As father time begins to catch up on him, he clearly wants to cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats of the sport. A fifth battle with Marquez looms should Pacquiao have his hand raised on Sunday but Rios plans to send ‘Pacman’ into retirement.
‘One Mexican knocked him out. This Mexican-American is going to retire him,’ Rios goaded recently. The brash Rios has a history with his rival’s camp, apparently taunting Freddie Roach (Pacquiao’s trainer) about his Parkinson’s disease in a video with Antonio Margarito prior to the Pacquiao-Margarito bout in 2010.
The Filipino dished out a serious beating to the Mexican that night, landing 474 punches, including fracturing Margarito’s eye socket, on the way to a unanimous decision victory at Cowboy’s Stadium in Texas.
Rios is expected to provide a similar challenge. He is flat-footed, possesses an iron chin and never takes a step back. Sportsillustrated named his duel with Mike Alvarado ‘fight of the year’ in 2012 and many expect a similar scrap this weekend.
Pacquaio’s speed and footwork should see him through this fight relatively unscathed but the question remains about his ability to take a punch after his last performance.
The bout takes place in the Chinese gambling Mecca of Macau, as Top Rank promotions look to capitalise on the lucrative Asian market. The fight itself will take place at 12.00pm local time to accommodate the American primetime pay-per-view audience.
This fight is too important to Pacquiao’s legacy for him not to take seriously and with the weight of nation on his shoulders once again, expect him to be back to his best.