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Pacquiao vs Rios preview: Picks and predictions from the BLH staff

Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring tomorrow night for the first time since his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez. Will Brandon Rios extend Pacquiao's losing streak to three, or will Manny get back to business?

Stephen Dunn

Ryan Bivins

At his best Manny Pacquiao is too fast, too skilled, and too energetic for a guy like Brandon Rios to stand much of a chance against. But Pacquiao hasn’t stopped anyone in 4 years. He no longer fights 3 minutes of every round. He’s aged. Styles and peak abilities are not the full story of Pacquiao-Rios. Pacquiao is 34 years old with 61 pro fights. He’s been fighting world class opposition since he knocked out Chatchai Sasakul in 1998. He’s been stopped twice since then, most recently in what is generally deemed the "2012 Knockout of the Year." That devastating knockout was then followed by a career long layoff. Pacquiao had no easy build back. There was nothing to give him a confidence boost. And now he has to fight and iron chinned, iron willed warrior who is not going to give him any breaks. Is this really a good idea?

Everyone already knows that Pacquiao knows HOW to beat Rios. The question is does he still have the physical capabilities and self-belief. For his sake, I hope so. Otherwise, he’s probably going to take the beating of his life. We could see Roy Jones Jr vs Glen Johnson all over again, with Rios playing Johnson. But I’m going to assume that Pacquiao has more left in the tank than Roy did. It’s like Freddie Roach said in the 24/7 finale, "tough guys don’t win fights." Pacquiao by decision.

Scott Christ

Brandon Rios is a good fighter who does a lot of things well. He's an elite pressure fighter with good power, a terrific inside battler, really good chin, and he throws nice combinations, with a money uppercut that snaps heads back regularly. Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter who does a lot of things well. He's an elite boxer-puncher with good power, goo speed, great lateral movement, and he attacks from confounding angles when he's at his best. Manny Pacquiao has been knocked out before. Not as a big superstar, but it has happened. Pacquiao is in his decline, I truly believe that. I've believed it for the last three years. But he's still a notably better fighter than Brandon Rios, who was confounded by Mike Alvarado and Richar Abril. Pacquiao is far, far better than those two, and they aren't ancient in Brandon's past the way Rustico Torrecampo and Medgoen Singsurat are for Manny.

If Brandon Rios beats Manny Pacquiao, then I believe Pacquiao should retire from boxing and focus on his political career or whatever he wants to do outside of the ring. That's not because a loss at age 35 (in a month) to a fighter like Brandon Rios would be anything to be ashamed of, but Pacquiao would have eaten this guy for lunch just a couple of years ago for sure. I think Manny's still got way too much for Rios, but there is some danger here. If Manny has mental doubts right now, Rios can expose those, because he will not stop coming. Pacquiao TKO-9.

Tom Craze

On the face of it, envisaging how Pacquiao-Rios plays out doesn't seem like the most arduous of tasks. Both men have a distinct, trademark style of fighting and, by and large, we haven't seen either deviate from their Plan A. The beauty of this match-up is that, for those with bloodlust, it looks inevitable that the end result is a head-on collision in the centre of the ring from the very opening seconds.

It would be a considerable surprise if Rios did anything other than he always does. He'll be on the front foot for as long as this lasts, hands high, chin tucked, almost hunched. Pacquiao - or at least the version we expect to see - will dart in and out, landing power shots and removing himself from harm's way as Rios returns fire. If the Oxnard man fails to cut off the ring early he has but a puncher's chance at best.

I have little doubt that Rios will be game, but Pacquiao is a nightmarish kind of match-up for him, really. This will be fun from the word go, but don't blink. Pacquiao TKO-6.

Eddie Gonzalez

I just can't shake the image of Manny laying on the canvas face down unconscious, I just can't. I can't recall another fighter in recent memory ever recovering from a knockout so brutal. Roy Jones, Jermain Taylor, Paul Williams just were never the same in the ring. Now Manny looks to rebound from that punch and that knockout against a fighter with real power in Brandon Rios? Manny should outbox Rios, his speed should be more than enough to cruise to a win, but at some point he has to take punches, and I don't see that going well. Rios is going to shock the world, and probably himself, and end the career of Manny Pacquiao. Rios KO-8.

Steve Janoski

The course of this fight will be dictated by how Manny Pacquaio reacts to being in the ring for the first time since his brutal knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez almost a year ago.

Brandon Rios is many things — hungry, tough, powerful — but he’s not a true boxer, and he doesn’t have the skillset necessary to impose his will on a prime Pacquaio. He’s simply too stationary a target for a man who attacks like a pack of wild wolves, bouncing and slashing and pummeling until there is nothing left but bloody pulp where a face once was. Yes, it takes much more than gameness to defeat Manny Pacquaio, and if Rios’ plan is to walk forward behind hooks and straight right hands (as it often is), he is in for a violently rude awakening.

There is another path the bout could take, however, but it’s one we’ll only see explored if Pacquaio really has lost a step. Of course, at the age of 34 and coming off a crushing defeat, that’s entirely possible. His chin might truly be weakened, and, like Ricky Hatton after Mayweather took it to him, he might not be the same as a result. This is the fight where Rios’ punches, slow though they may be, actually hurt the Filipino, and drive him into a retreat that causes more of Rios’ punches to land — and so on. This is the fight that Pac gets beat up and knocked out in.

But me, I don’t think that will happen. I like Brandon Rios, but I learned long ago that you pick with your head, not your heart, and in the end the skills pay the bills. And Pac will pay his bills…probably in the form of one savage overhand left. Pacquiao TKO-10.

Kory Kitchen

If this fight had occurred this past April or May I would have many more questions. But since Pacquiao has taken 11 months to come back from his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, I believe he will be totally fine. In addition to taking the proper time to recover, Pacquiao is being served up the perfect opponent for him in Brandon Rios. Rios will come forward all night, right into Pacquiao’s wheelhouse. He may land a few good shots but his punches are slow enough that Pacquiao will see them coming. The difference in hand speed is stark, and will be even more pronounced when they trade in the center of the ring. It will be a fun fight while it lasts, but Pacquiao is on another level from Rios. Pacquiao TKO-10.

Dave Oakes

This result of this fight depends entirely on what Pacquiao has got left. A near top of his game Pacquiao would demolish Rios, who is great to watch but makes the same mistakes now as he was doing when he first turned pro. Face-first is an understatement when it comes to Rios, and face-first against someone like Pacquiao is a recipe for disaster.

If the Marquez knockout hasn't had a serious effect on Pacquiao, which I don't think it will have, then it's very hard to see a way in which Rios can win. Pacquiao holds advantages in speed, punch power, movement and experience. It'll be great to watch whilst it lasts but I feel the only thing up for debate is what round Rios gets stopped in. I'll plump for the sixth. Pacquiao TKO-6.

FINAL TALLY: Manny Pacquiao 6, Brandon Rios 1.

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