Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dan Rafael [Print without images]

Thursday, August 1, 2013
Pacquiao has something to prove

By Dan Rafael

Manny Pacquiao has won world titles in a record eight weight classes, been voted fighter of the year three times and fighter of the decade, and is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Yet as successful as Pacquiao has been, even he is feeling a bit of pressure going into his next fight, a welterweight showdown with former lightweight titlist Brandon Rios, whom he will meet in a scheduled 12-round bout on Nov. 23 (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at the CotaiArena at the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel in Macau.

"I am feeling a little pressure for this fight since I have lost my previous two," Pacquiao said this week while in China on the first leg of a mind-boggling 23,722-mile media tour that will take the fighters to seven cities in three countries -- China, Singapore and the United States -- as they promote the fight. "An impressive victory against Rios will raise my name again in boxing. My belief in God, and training as hard as I can, will help to relieve that pressure."

Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) has two official losses in a row, a one-punch sixth-round knockout loss in his fourth fight with rival Juan Manuel Marquez (the 2012 knockout of the year) in December and an all-time controversial split decision loss to Timothy Bradley Jr. last June.

"I was in my best shape when I fought Marquez last December," Pacquiao said. "I was winning the fight. I had taken control. But I got careless and made a mistake, being in the wrong place for him to land that final punch. But that's boxing. That's what makes it so exciting."

So the record reads consecutive defeats and Pacquiao is aiming to get back on track against Rios (31-1-1), who is coming off of his first defeat, a decision in his thrilling March rematch against Mike Alvarado.

"I need to prove I still can fight like the old Manny Pacquiao," he said. "I need to restore the public's confidence in me and my abilities. It's important that this be an impressive victory. I have already begun to visualize my fight with Rios."

Like Pacquiao, Rios is a very aggressive fighter. But Pacquiao has had many more big fights and faced many more top-notch opponents, which PacMan figures will work to his advantage.

"I have seen Rios fight and I am confident that I will win the fight," Pacquiao said. "One of my advantages is my experience against better opposition. I think the question that needs to be asked is, 'Is Rios ready for me?'

"Rios is an aggressive fighter. He likes to fight on the inside and toe-to-toe. He likes to fight, period. I am 100 percent confident of winning this fight. The fans will really enjoy the action."

Pacquiao normally splits his training camp between his home country of the Philippines and Hollywood, Calif., where trainer Freddie Roach's gym is located. For this fight, because it's in Asia, Pacquiao said he will train exclusively in the Philippines.

"It will be nice to fight in a location where I will not have any jetlag," Pacquiao said. "Macau and the Philippines share the same time zone and the same climate. No adjustments for me this time. Since Macau is only a 90-minute flight away from the Philippines, I expect a lot more Filipinos to be in the arena for this fight.

"I will begin three months of training in August when I return to the Philippines after the media tour. I'll do six weeks of conditioning and building up my stamina, followed by a six-week training camp with Freddie Roach when he arrives in October. I'm 34 and I now need to train over a longer period. The focus of this camp will be on speed and footwork, which have been my advantages in previous successful fights. I'll be more careful to avoid the careless error I made against Marquez."