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The China Syndrome: Pacquiao Returns Tonight Against Rios

The biggest fight in the world this weekend takes place at the Cotai Arena in Macao, China and marks the much awaited return of Boxing's former top man, Manny Pacquiao, who meets brash American brawler Brandon Rios over 12 scheduled rounds for the vacant WBO International welterweight strap.

Both Pacquiao, 54-5-2 (38), and Rios, 31-1-1 (23) are coming off losses with Pacquiao seeming to have the added difficulty of also having been out of the ring for just short of a year.

After going six years without a loss and winning four world titles in as many weight classes during that span of time, the Filipino icon is coming off two straight disappointments, against Timothy Bradley in June, 2012 and Juan Manuel Marquez, during their fourth fight, this past December, something Rios has vowed to turn into three straight disappointments.

Even given these unexpected setbacks to Pacquiao's career, it will take more than inflated confidence for Rios, who is coming off a decision loss to Mike Alvarado in March for the WBC Interim light welter crown, to pull off his promised result.

Rios goes into this fight with two main problems, quickness and defense, and his lack of both these attributes are probably why he was selected to face Pacquiao.

Both Bradley and Marquez are far quicker that Rios and possess much better defensive abilities, and they both gave Pacquiao difficulties as a result.

What Rios does have is a big fighting heart, a desire to brawl and no problems about getting hit and thus, the perfect comeback opponent for "Pac Man".

With a potential Floyd Mayweather clash pending on the outcome of this bout, would Pacquiao's promoters really put him in a contest that he stood a good chance of losing?

Not a chance. Common sense would indicate they would choose to do the opposite, put him in a contest where he would look great to re-build interest in the Mayweather fight that was severely damaged by the Bradley and Marquez losses.

But, at the same time, Rios at 27 years of age is in his prime and is a good, hard-nosed fighter, while at 34 years of age, Pacquiao isn't the same guy that produced hall of fame results in the ten year span from 2001-2011.

Pacquiao clearly had stamina problems in the later rounds of the Bradley bout and was gunned down with a single right hand in the fourth Marquez fight. If he continues to have problems in these two departments, then Rios will be a very dangerous opponent indeed.

Marquez and Bradley did their best against Pacquiao when they maintained distance and anticipated his southpaw lunges with slips and sharp counters. When they went into exchanges against Pacquiao, both came off second best and getting into exchanges is what Rios does.

Will Rios choose to try and outfight Pacquiao or will he learn from Pacquiao's losses and try to box from a distance?

No doubt his camp has prepared him for the latter but after Rios gets hit a few times, look for him to revert back to his natural style and try to gun down Pacquiao before the same happens to him.

If Pacquiao falters in this fight, retirement is the likely outcome and in that respect he has everything to lose, while the career prospects of Rios will rise if he gives a good account of himself, even in defeat.

Look for Pacquiao to win either by mid-fight KO, wide points decision or a late round stoppage when the corner of Rios decide to save him from additional punishment.

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