Wednesday, March 29, 2023  |



Head to Head: Pacquiao vs. Rios

Fighters Network


It’s extremely rare for both fighters in a high-profile fight – especially the main event of a major pay-per-view show – to be coming off losses, but that’s exactly what boxing fans are getting when Manny Pacquiao takes on Brandon Rios on Nov. 23 in Macau, China.

Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 knockouts) was stopped cold with a single right hand from his arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez in the sixth round of their fourth fight last December.

Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs) dropped a close, hard-fought unanimous decision to Mike Alvarado in their rematch in March.

Both losses were fight-of-the-year candidates, and both Pacquiao and Rios are beloved for producing entertaining fights, so fans aren’t hung up on the losses. They know Pacquiao-Rios will be fun while it lasts. But how much of a fight can we expect?

Pacquiao, the far more talented and experienced of the two, is the odds and media favorite in the matchup. However, given the future hall of famer’s age, wear and tear and, of course, the nature of his loss to Marquez, Rios is considered a live underdog.

There’s also the question of Pacquiao’s desire. After all of the major showdowns he’s had against the stars of the sport and fellow future hall of famers, will he be motivated for the moderately accomplished former lightweight beltholder?

Rios will undoubtedly be more motivated than ever for the HBO Pay Per View event. Will his desire and rugged slugger style be enough to topple the Filipino legend?

Here’s how Pacquiao and Rios match up in 20 categories, both physical and intangible, with each fighter rated on a scale of 0 to 5. (A score of 100 would denote the perfect fighter.)


Pacquiao has slowed down in recent years but still possesses two of the quickest mitts in the game. Rios has average hand speed.

Pacquiao – 4.5, Rios – 2.5


Pacquiao has nimble feet that he can use to befuddle or overwhelm his opposition. Rios is a rather plodding stalker.

Pacquiao – 4.0, Rios – 2.5


Pacquiao’s right isn’t his primary power hand but it carries a lot of force, which is seen in his jab and his damaging hook. Rios’ left is remarkably heavy. Even his jab has sufficient power to stagger and knock his opponents off balance. His hook and left uppercut carry concussive force.

Pacquiao – 4.0, Rios – 4.5


Pacquiao’s left has always been his bread-and-butter punch and is still a force to be reckoned with. Rios’ right carries a lot of pop but not fight-ending power.

Pacquiao – 5.0, Rios – 4.0


Pacquiao’s jab is sharp and educated. He expertly uses it to set up his powerful straight left. Rios uses his jab sparingly but when he does, he’s accurate with the punch, which often lands with the force of a power shot.

Pacquiao – 4.5, Rios – 4.0


Pacquiao’s hook, which he developed after years of Freddie Roach’s instruction, is a formidable weapon but not one that he instinctively uses in the ring. Rios’ heavy hook isn’t as technically sharp as Pacquiao’s but he uses it every chance he gets.

Pacquiao – 4.0, Rios – 4.0


Pacquiao’s left cross is still quick, powerful and accurate, and it’s still his most effective punch. He doesn’t use uppercuts nearly as much as he once did, but he delivers them with good leverage. Rios’ right cross is not as fast or hard as Pacquiao’s, but it’s hard and accurate from long and short range. Rios delivers some of the best uppercuts (both left and right) in the sport.

Pacquiao – 5.0, Rios – 4.5


Pacquiao doesn’t go to the body often but he lands with power and precision when he does. Rios’ body attack is blunt and straight forward, but it’s also brutally effective. What he lacks in technique, he makes up for with sheer volume.

Pacquiao – 4.0, Rios – 4.5


Pacquiao is more dangerous when attacking from a distance, but thanks to good footwork, combination punching and incredibly fast reflexes, he can do a lot of damage when in close. Rios, an infighting specialist, does his best work when literally head to head with his opponent. He’s arguably the best inside fighter in the sport.

Pacquiao – 4.0, Rios – 5.0


Pacquiao is no longer in his prime but he’s a once-in-a-generation athletic talent, as evidenced by his ability to compete at the world-class level from flyweight to welterweight. Rios is strong and durable with surprisingly good endurance but those traits are the extent of his athletic prowess.

Pacquiao – 5.0, Rios – 3.0


Pacquiao is by far the more proven pro over the championship distance, having fought 12 rounds 10 times (11 times counting the Miguel Cotto stoppage, which occurred in the 12th round). The veteran has shown the ability to come on strong in the late rounds. Rios only has two 12-round bouts under his belt, the loss to Alvarado and a controversial split-decision victory over Richar Abril.

Pacquiao – 4.5, Rios – 3.5


Pacquiao has good head- and upper-body movement, which he uses well from a distance. His in-and-out footwork also makes him hard to hit. Rios generally doesn’t bother to slip punches but he has a high guard that catches incoming shots, and he has underrated blocking ability when in close.

Pacquiao – 4.0, Rios – 3.5


Pacquiao isn’t always in 100 percent shape for his fights, but even at 80 percent he’s in better condition than most world class boxers. Rios, who generally relies on guts and stubbornness to get him through tough fights, has only become dedicated to his conditioning in recent years.

Pacquiao – 4.5, Rios – 3.5


Pacquiao is one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet and a bona fide hero in his native Philippines, where he is a congressman. Being in the spotlight and under pressure is second nature to him. Rios has never been in a big event, but he loves to fight, and he’s a happy-go-lucky kind of personality who doesn’t allow outside expectations or criticism to distract him.

Pacquiao – 5.0, Rios – 4.0


Pacquiao, once one of boxing’s most reliable finishers, has gotten a bit soft with age. He hasn’t scored a knockout since the Cotto fight, and he wasn’t trying to force that stoppage. Rios instinctively goes for the kill whenever he hurts his opponents.

Pacquiao – 4.0, Rios – 4.5


Pacquiao’s ring IQ is a bit underrated (as is the case with most offensive fighters). He has methods to his offense, and he usually follows game plans well. Rios has a seek-and-destroy mentality, but he’s crafty about the manner in which he breaks his opponents down once he’s in close. He does not deal well with defensive boxers, however.

Pacquiao – 4.0, Rios – 3.0


Until Marquez knocked him cold, Pacquiao had shown very good whiskers, having taken solid shots from Morales, Cotto, Josh Clottey, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley without blinking. Maybe age is beginning to affect his chin. Though rocked a few times by Alvarado, Rios has always shown a strong beard and excellent recuperative ability.

Pacquiao – 3.5, Rios – 4.5


Pacquiao, who has been a pro for 18 years, has fought 371 rounds in 61 bouts. Rios, who turned pro nine years ago, has fought 172 rounds in 33 bouts.

Pacquiao – 5.0, Rios – 3.0


No contest. Pacquiao has faced more than a dozen world titleholders, including at least seven future hall of famers, some of whom he’s fought more than once, such as Marquez (four), Morales (three) and Barrera (twice). Rios, who has faced one world titleholder (Miguel Acosta), is fighting his first hall of famer on Nov. 23.

Pacquiao – 5.0, Rios – 3.0


Pacquiao’s longtime coach is the most accomplished active trainer in boxing, recent Hall of Fame inductee Freddie Roach. The two are as close as a fighter and trainer can be. Rios is trained by Robert Garcia, the most successful young trainer in boxing. Garcia has coached Rios since the amateurs.

Pacquiao – 5.0, Rios – 4.5

Total: 88.5 (Pacquiao) to 75.5 (Rios)

Summary and prediction: Even at age 34, Pacquiao is out of Rios’ league in terms of talent and experience. However, this is a dangerous fight because it’s Pacquiao’s first since the Marquez KO. Nobody’s sure how the future hall of famer will react when he’s nailed squarely on the jaw, which is why Pacquiao will be careful in the opening rounds of the bout, nailing Rios with quick one-twos before maneuvering out of range. Rios will block what he can and take the landed shots with a devilish grin, even when he’s stunned or knocked off balance. In the middle rounds, Rios’ constant pressure will pay off when he forces Pacquiao to engage with him more and the two exchange brutal combinations in close. Pacquiao will score with the better head shots; Rios will land debilitating body shots. Rios’ body work will help him maneuver Pacquiao to the ropes, where he’ll badly rock the legendary fighter with an uppercut, sending shock waves through the Venetian Resort in Macau. Pacquiao will survive the scare and obey Roach’s stern orders between rounds, which is to work more from the outside and to stay off the ropes for the rest of the fight. Pacquiao will do so despite Rios’ game efforts to drag him back into a slugfest.

Pacquiao wins a competitive but unanimous decision.

Photo by Chris Farina-Top Rank