Pacquiao vs Rios preview and prediction: Can Brandon Rios beat Manny Pacquiao?

Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez IV, 2012 - Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Can Brandon Rios beat Manny Pacquiao? That's the big question heading into Saturday night's Pacquiao vs. Rios PPV. Fraser Coffeen tries to find an answer in this Bloody Elbow preview.

Saturday November 23, Bloody Elbow presents live fight coverage of Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios, live on HBO PPV. Pacquiao vs Rios live from Macau airs live this Saturday, November 23 with a fight time of 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. PT. Bloody Elbow will have live fight coverage, including results and discussion.

Why Brandon Rios? That's the question that was asked when this fight was first announced. After all, Rios was coming off a loss to Mike Alvarado, so why isn't this fight Pacquiao vs. Alvarado? The conventional wisdom was that there was an obvious answer - Rios was an opponent hand-picked by the Pacquiao camp. Rios presents a straight-ahead, offense-focused style, but Alvarado definitely showed that he can be outboxed. An opponent that Pacquiao can defeat with superior boxing while also turning in an exciting fight? Sounds like a perfect match.

But to view Pacquiao vs. Rios through this lens is to ignore a very real possibility: Brandon Rios can win this fight.

For years, every non-Marquez opponent that has been paired with Pacquiao has been written off, and understandably so. Manny Pacquiao is one of the two best fighters of this era - an exquisitely talented fighter who is an easy Hall of Fame candidate. Opponents like Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, and even Timothy Bradley all felt like obvious Pacquiao wins from the moment they were announced.

It's tempting to put Rios in this same camp, and two years ago, that would have been right. But for Pacquiao, much changed in 2012. His "loss" to Timothy Bradley was a loss in name only, though the fight did continue the trend of Pacquiao not quite looking as crisp as he once did. Still, not a huge concern.

Then came the Marquez fight. And for the first time in 13 years, Manny Pacquiao was not only stopped, he was knocked out cold, finding himself prone on the mat after an absolutely brutal KO. Tonight, Pacquiao steps back into the ring for the first time since that KO.

More Pacquiao vs Rios coverage:
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The reality of Manny Pacquiao as he is today is that we simply don't know much about Manny Pacquiao as he is today. We don't know how focused he is on his future as a boxer, we don't know how his chin will hold up after the KO, and we don't know what it took out of him mentally. We just don't know. And while Brandon Rios may have been a perfect opponent for a prime Pacquiao, this is not prime Pacquiao.

So the real question now is not why Brandon Rios, but can Brandon Rios? Can he hand Pacquiao his third consecutive loss on paper and in the process potentially end the career of this all-time great? That depends on just how far removed from his prime the 2013 Manny Pacquiao is. Because make no mistake, Rios is a talented and tough fighter and is primed to capitalize on any weaknesses.

When it comes down to it, the unknowns make this a virtually impossible fight to call. But at the end of the day, I see Brandon Rios catching and testing the chin of Pacquiao. I think Manny will pass that test, but it won't be easy.

Prediction: Manny Pacquiao by close decision

Join us here at Bloody Elbow for the Pacquiao vs. Rios PPV live from Macau with results, discussion, and live fight coverage this Saturday, November 23.

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