The last time we saw Manny Pacquiao in a boxing ring, he was the victim of one of the most brutal knockouts you will ever see in a high profile fight. A devastating counter right hand from his nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez left the Filipino laying face first and unconscious. The common thought that prevailed throughout the boxing world was: “Is this the end of Manny Pacquiao?”
Fast-forward to a year later and Manny Pacquiao is making phone calls to those who will be interviewing him for his upcoming fight against Brandon Rios on November 23 in Macao, China. When Manny calls at 6am PST from the Phillipines, he greets with a pleasant voice. Although he is still a boxing superstar, he exchanges small talk and is curious as to your well-being. If this sounds too nice for a boxer known to destroy opponents in the ring, well, you just don’t know Manny Pacquiao.
After some small talk, the first thing Pacquaio addresses is that retirement had never once crossed his mind. “No, I never once considered retirement,” Pacquiao says. “I felt like I was winning the fight and got careless. Marquez caught me with a good punch. I’m not ready to retire and I can still compete with the best fighters in the world.”
Even the best fighters in the world cannot defeat Father Time when he comes knocking at your door. Manny Pacquiao is 54-5-2 with 38 of those wins coming by way of knockout over the course of his career that spans nearly two decades. With some of the wars that he has been in, it’s normal that wear and tear is beginning to seep into his 34-year-old body. No matter how dominant a fighter may be – and Pacquiao’s rampage through eight weight classes is as dominant as a boxer has ever been – the end of the road will eventually come, and it won’t be pleasant. But the knockout loss isn’t something that Pacquiao looks at as life altering.
“I’ve been knocked out before,” he says with a laugh, referring to his 3rd round knockout loss to Rustico Torrecampo back in 1996. “That’s my sport. Sometimes you get knocked out and sometimes I knock people out. It’s really about how you bounce back from it. It’s not about getting knocked down; it’s about how you come back from it.”
Pacquiao shares that he has watched himself being knocked out and his poked fun at it with his life. Suffice to say he takes it in stride. And why shouldn’t he? He often looks to Muhammad Ali as someone who was written off by the public before stepping into the ring with George Foreman and proved that he still had it. Against Brandon Rios, Pacquiao promises that he will still have “it.”
With the longest break in his professional career (just under a year), Pacquiao has had time to reflect and let his battery recharge. For a fighter who has fought two to three times a year regularly, the time out of the ring was put to good use. Even he admits that he may have grown a bit weary of the rigors of boxing before being stopped by Marquez.
“I think the break provided a wake up call for me,” Pacquiao says while explaining that the time he spent with his family and countrymen allowed him to see the world in a different light. Rather than being word down, he’s eager to get back in the ring to show the world that he’s still one of the best fighters to ever lace up a pair of gloves. “Now I have to make sure I train hard, not get careless and stick to the plan that Freddie Roach puts in place and just do my job.”
However, those that are expecting Pacquiao to blitz an opponent who doesn’t belong in the same sentence should know that Brandon Rios is far from a pushover. Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs) is the former WBA lightweight champion who packs dynamite in both hands and loves to trade power punches just to see who hits harder. It can be argued that he hits harder than Marquez, which could be bad news for Manny Pacquiao. But the Pac Man isn’t worried one bit about what Rios has to offer. “Nothing,” he says dismissively when asked what concerns him most about Rios. “Nothing at all concerns me.”
In Rios, Pacquiao sees a fight that he considers to be “fun, but dangerous.” In his last six fights, Pacquiao has had to deal with fighters who wouldn’t engage (Joshua Clottey, Shane Mosley) and counterpunchers who wait for Pacuqiao to make mistakes (Juan Manuel Marquez). Having to face an opponent who is just as thrilled to be punished as he is punching people excites the first and only eight-division world champion.
“Both of us will be coming forward. It’s going to be one of those fights where you don’t have to chase anybody,” Pacquiao says while promising that this won’t be one of those fights that is surrounded by hype but doesn’t deliver on its promise (Mayweather vs. Canelo). “I have to make sure that when people pay to watch me, they are both excited and happy with the performance.”
There’s a certain weight lifted off of his shoulders now that he only has to focus on Brandon Rios. The exhaustive talk about a super fight between he and Mayweather is now temporarily on hold. There is no other fight to look forward to because, if Pacquiao loses, this will likely be the end of his storied career. That has allowed him to focus on one thing and that is beating Rios and proving to his fans that Manny Pacquiao is still here. Retirement is the furthest thing from his mind.
“I don’t want to put a time limit on anything. I’m ready and my focus is on this fight. This fight is the most important of my career and from there we will look to the future.”
Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios takes place on HBO Pay-Per-View November 23, 2013. Click here for more information.