Many within the boxing community have questioned Manny Pacquiao‘s selection of the young and bruising Brandon Rios as the opponent for his comeback fight on November 23 at the Venetian Resort’s Cotai Arena in Macau. Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz has made it clear he believes that is a misclassification.
We last saw Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KO’s) face down on the canvas after Juan Manuel Marquez delivered an overhand right that put the Filipino star out cold at the end of Round 6 of their December 8 fight in Las Vegas. He has not fought since, making this the longest period of inactivity in his 18-year career and the first time that he will have fought only once in a calendar year.
However, Koncz does not consider Pacquiao’s return to face 27-year old Rios (31-1-1, 23 KO’s) in the non-title welterweight bout to be a comeback fight, as it has frequently been called by media and fans.
“We’re not coming on a comeback fight,” Koncz said at Tuesday’s press conference in New York. “I think the fight we had with Marquez, in my own personal opinion, was the best performance that Manny had in his last four or five fights. Unfortunately, we got over-aggressive, Marquez threw a punch and we lost the fight.”
There is some truth to this assessment. Pacquiao had been picking apart Marquez with sharp punches that the expert Mexican counterpuncher had difficulty timing. Pacquiao had connected on 94 punches to Marquez’s 52, had broken his opponent’s nose and dropped him with a straight left hand in Round 5 for the fifth time in four fights. Marquez was bleeding profusely and having trouble breathing. All three judges had Pacquiao winning 47–46 through five rounds and he appeared to have been winning Round 6 before being knocked out in the final second of the round.
Pacquiao, a former pound-for-pound king and likely future first-ballot Hall of Famer, has gone 4-2 (0 KO’s) in his last six fights. You have to go back to November 2009 for his last knockout victory, a twelfth round stoppage of Miguel Cotto. However, he has been here for years, has been known to rock his peers and strike his opponents with fear over the course of his record eight-division world championship career.
Rios will have no such fear of any kind and will come to fight in his always aggressive, all-action style. At 34 and following the kind of knockout loss that can have a deep-rooted mental impact, all eyes will be on Pacquiao to see if he still has what it takes to rock a young, hungry and tough fighter.
If Pacquiao happens to be the one to get rocked again, there won’t be many calls for a comeback.