Pacman carries hopes of a weary nation
Manny Pacquiao is determined to beat Brandon Rios, both for his compatriots reeling from the typhoon and to salvage his own career
If there was ever a time for Manny Pacquiao to call on his God-given skills to lift his countrymen, this is it. If there was ever a time for him to prove to the world he still has something to offer, that time is now.
Pacquiao carries the hopes of a nation as he puts his ageing 34-year-old body to the test in Sunday’s Clash in Cotai against brash Mexican-American Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios – and it won’t be easy.
The Philippines is counting on the Fighter of the Decade to lift the spirits of a country ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan.
And Pacquiao is also fighting for his career after two successive losses. He will be looking to “get even” after members of Rios’ camp ridiculed Pacquiao’s Parkinson’s-disease-affected trainer, Freddie Roach, during an ugly training bust-up on Wednesday.
The world champion in eight weight divisions said he was determined to win for his people.
“I must help my country. They are suffering there. I must win,” he said during Saturday’s weigh-in at the CotaiArena.
Pacquiao came in at 145 pounds (65.78kg). Rios was 146.5 (66.47kg).
They will clash for the vacant World Boxing Organisation international welterweight title, an insignificant title really for a fight billed as Asia’s biggest-ever bout.
“My goal was 145 [pounds] and I feel strong, so there is nothing to worry about,” Pacquiao said. “I have been doing this since I was 23 years old. I’m hungry.”
Hordes of Filipino fans descended on Macau, but Rios said he wouldn’t be bothered.
“I’m fighting Pacquiao and not his fans. It don’t bother me. It just motivates me to try even harder,” said the 27-year-old (31-1-1, 22 KOs), a former WBA lightweight champion now fighting at welterweight. “I am going to show the world that I can beat him in his own back yard.”
Rios, who is also coming off a loss after his rematch with Mike Alvarado in March, was brimming with confidence, saying he already “beat” Pacquiao when they climbed the stairs at the Great Wall of China when the two were promoting their fight in Beijing last summer.
“We did travel a lot together, but we don’t really talk. After the fight, if he wants to be friends and talk to me, that’s cool, if not, it’s okay,” said Rios.
Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) has lost five times in his professional career, but at least two of those losses were controversial, his defeat to Timothy Bradley in July last year the most flagrant.
“Boxing is judged by humans and humans make mistakes,” Pacquiao said. “In my heart, I know I should have been declared the winner against Tim Bradley and in my first fight against Juan Manuel Marquez [a draw]. But that is boxing. I am very proud of my career and I think I have left my mark in the sport.”
Organisers expected a full house of 15,000. Football icon David Beckham, heiress Paris Hilton and actor Stephen Baldwin were among the celebrities who were expected to attend.
Asked whether it’s the biggest fight of his life, Pacquiao reiterated: “Absolutely. It is important that I prove to all my fans and fans of boxing that I am back. A victory will not be enough. It has to be a decisive victory. A victory with no doubts.
“The fans are going to see an all-action, all-out war.”