Never again will I fail you, Pacquiao vows
MACAU—Manny Pacquiao cried when he first saw the devastation wreaked by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” on Nov. 8.
On Sunday, he gets the chance to put the smile back on the faces of his suffering countrymen when he tangles with Brandon Rios at the 15,000-seat Cotai Arena of The Venetian Macao.
A runaway 4-1 favorite, Pacquiao needs an impressive win to recover the luster of his ring career and, more important, make the typhoon victims back home temporarily forget the horrors of the howler that killed thousands and destroyed homes in the Visayas.
Pacquiao’s mythical image vanished when he was knocked out cold by Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8, but he accepted that twist of fate. What made him cry later was the stunned, disappointed look of Filipinos who saw him face down on the canvas.
Never again will he fail them, Pacquiao swore.
Pitted against a fighter suited to his style, Pacquiao, holder of a 54-win, 5-loss, 2-draw record with 38 knockouts, should sizzle again, according to his chief trainer Freddie Roach.
Roach, a boxing Hall of Fame inductee, initially said the fight for the WBO international welterweight crown won’t go six rounds, but eventually reduced his prediction to four after feeling Pacquiao’s rejuvenated punching power in their mitts session on Monday.
Quite a bold statement considering that the iron-chinned Rios, the former IBF junior lightweight titlist, has never been knocked down in 33 fights, which include 31 wins, including 22 by knockout, one loss, and one draw.
Pacquiao’s last knockout happened in 2009, when he stopped Miguel Cotto in the 12th and final round.
The Texas-born Rios, noted for his relentless charging style, is eight years younger than Pacquiao at 27 and taller by 1.5 inches at 5-foot-8.
Though making his initial appearance as a welterweight, Rios will be bigger than Pacquiao in their Clash in Cotai on Sunday. Rios tipped the scales at 146.5 pounds during the official morning weigh-in early Saturday morning, while Pacquiao came in at 145.
Coming off back-to-back losses (to Tim Bradley and Marquez), Pacquiao is deemed at the crossroads of an illustrious 18-year ring career that saw him win an unprecedented eight titles at flyweight (112 lb), super bantamweight (122 lb), featherweight (126 lb), super featherweight (130 lb), lightweight (135 lb), light welterweight (140 lb), welterweight (147 lb) and super welterweight (154 lb) divisions.
While boxing pundits agree that Pacquiao is superior in skill, experience and speed level, they are concerned with the impact of that Marquez dynamite right that sent him to dreamland with a second to go in the sixth round.
Whether Pacquiao’s jaw can still weather a solid punch will be known when Rios tags him in furious exchanges that are expected to be the tone of the 12-round fight.
Irked by insinuations that he’s nothing but a tune-up fighter, a sparring partner and a punching bag, Rios promised to send Pacquiao into retirement with a knockout victory.
Though coming off his first ever defeat—against Mike Alvarado—on March 30, Rios will be rewarded with $4 million, his biggest purse ever.
Pacquiao, being the main draw, will get $18 million, slightly lower than the $20 million he pocketed in his fourth showdown with Marquez, who has refused juicy offers for a fifth fight.
Resting in his 38th floor suite at The Venetian on Friday night, Pacquiao likened his battle with Rios to that of David and Goliath. He, the small David, and Rios, the giant Goliath.
David, of course, slew Goliath with a single swing of his slingshot.
After making the weight, Pacquiao ate a hearty breakfast and will continue to bulk up during lunch and dinner. He’ll have another full breakfast on Sunday morning, take a rest, then have a light snack. The Pacquiao-Rios tussle is set between noon and 1 p.m.
Two other Filipinos—Harmonito De La Torre and Dan Nazareno Jr.—are seeing action in the undercard of the event promoted by Top Rank and to be aired worldwide by HBO through pay-per-view.
De La Torre, a 19-year-old rising star from General Santos City (10-0, 5 KOs) clashes with Indonesian Jason Butar-Butar (15-11-2, 11 KOs), in the super featherweight curtain-raiser, while Nazareno (17-10, 13 KOs) tangles with Briton Liam Vaughan (8-1, 2 KOs) in another super featherweight clash.
Interestingly, Nazareno and Vaughan served as Pacquiao’s sparring partners in his three-month preparation for Rios, who trained for five months under 2012 Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia in Oxnard, California.
American Idol 2012 runner-up Jessica Sanchez, whose mother hails from Samal, Bataan, will sing both the United States and Philippine anthems.
Here to cheer Pacquiao on are wife Jinkee and mother Dionisia.
Though five months pregnant with their fifth child, Jinkee, elected as vice governor of Sarangani, opted to be by her husband’s side.
Also here to watch China’s biggest fight card to date are football icon David Beckham, actor Mark Wahlberg and noted fighters Roy Jones Jr., Ruslan Provodnikov and Mikey Garcia.
Regarded as the Philippines’ richest congressman, Pacquiao, who represents Sarangani province, has promised to visit ravaged Tacloban City and share his blessings upon his return to the Philippines on Monday afternoon.
Pacquiao hopes to come home victorious. Another loss will be catastrophic, not only for him, but for the country as well.
Already reeling from the Zamboanga siege, the Bohol killer quake and supertyphoon Yolanda, the Philippines can hardly afford another major disaster.
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