Preview/Bettor’s Guide: Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios and More!

There must be something in the water in Macau, China. Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2) and Brandon Rios (31-1-1) are going to fight in a 12 round welterweight bout for some made up WBO title in the main event of Saturday night’s pay per view but they could not be nicer to each other and are engaging in no trash talk. Meanwhile, their training staffs are apparently trying to brawl at any chance they can get. Pacquiao head trainer Freddie Roach instigated a fight with Rios trainer Robert Garcia which ended with Pacquiao’s former stregnth and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, who now works for Rios, kicking Roach and another Team Rios member attempting to attack Roach. Ridiculous but not so much to stop the fighters’ promoter, Bob Arum, from using it to further promote the bout and predict 1 million buys.

Put all of that malarkey out of your mind and focus on the important things that you need to in order to pick the winner here. Pacquiao is coming off of a devastating knockout loss and has “officially” lost two in a row. That said, his “loss” to Timothy Bradley was really a dominant victory for the Filipino congressman and he looked good in that bout against a fighter who is more skilled and faster than Rios. Additionally, Pacquiao looked good before getting put to sleep by Juan Manuel Marquez, another fighter whose skill level is far superior to that of Rios. Focusing on those performances, it would suggest that Pacquiao is due for a good performance.

Rios seems made to order for a good Pacquiao performance. In the past, Rios has had enormous trouble with skilled boxers. Miguel Acosta gave Rios fits before Rios stopped him. Richar Abril outboxed “Bam Bam” for 12 rounds before the judges gave Rios a gift decision. Most recently, Mike Alvarado used his footwork and jab to keep Rios at bay over the course of the second half of their rematch to earn a decision victory. It probably does not need to be said but Pacquiao is more skilled than all three of those fighters, can be as awkward as Acosta and Abril and is a bigger puncher than Alvarado. He is also much faster than any fighter that Rios has faced.

The best hope for Rios backers is that the knockout at the hands of Marquez has transformed the Filipino sensation into a spent bullet. It is possible. Pacquiao has been fighting professionally for 18 years, many of which were spent making low weights and which included numerous hard fights. There are also the myriad of outside distractions (Pacquiao’s personal and political life) of which the recent super typhoon in the Philippines must be added to. If Pacquiao is shot, distracted or uninterested in continuing to fight, Rios size and pressure fighting could simply run over Pacquiao. Remember, even though the majority of Rios’ career was spent at 135 pounds and he has never fought at 147, he is the bigger man.

The oddsmakers care little about size: they have installed Pacquiao as a significant favorite (4-1 by www.bet365.com; -430 on www.sportbet.com; and -500 by www.bovada.lv). Is Rios a “value bet?” Probably. He is a strong and tough boxer whom 4-1 or 5-1 odds are pretty big for. However, it says here that his come forward style allows Pacquiao to do whatever he wants. Pacquiao is the pick.

There are no odds for the undercard bouts but the chalk will win each fight easily. Look for Evgeny Gradovich to beat Billy Dib for a second time, for Andy Ruiz to easily dispatch Tor Hammer and for Feliz Verdejo and Zou Shiming to score victories over out-matched foes.

In Europe, there are two fights of significance. In Manchester, England, Carl Froch defends his super middleweight titles against fellow Briton George Groves. Froch (-500 on Bovada) is on a terrific roll with victories over some of the best fighters in the world while Groves is taking a massive step-up in competiton. While Groves will give a good account of himself, look for Froch to get the win and possibly set up a rematch with Andre Ward or a bout with Gennady Golovkin which would be a no doubt can’t miss action fight. The other notable fight is Yoan Pablo Hernandez defending a cruiserweight title against Alexander Aleeksev. Hernandez is a skilled tactician and he should carry the day as a -350 (by SportBet) favorite.

Author’s Record for the Year: 57-19-5 (It has been a while since I made some documented picks so I will not claim any victories or losses that I did not put down here. I will brag that I would have picked Tim Bradley to beat Juan Manuel Marquez but would have lost on Orlando Salido’s stoppage of Orlando Cruz on the same card. I also probably would have taken a loss when Gabriel Rosado was stopped on cuts by Peter Quillin. There would have been plenty of wins in there to so the year is still looking good. All of the favorites I picked this weekend should keep that roll going).

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