Manny Pacquiao’s long-awaited return to the ring has been confirmed for Nov. 24 in Macau, when he will take on Brandon Rios in a bout to be held in the morning to make it accessible to the US pay-per-view audience.
It will be Pacquiao’s first fight since a devastating sixth-round KO defeat at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas in August last year and the first time that the Philippine superstar has fought in Asia since 2006.
Rios (31-1-1) probably got the nod to face Pacquiao (54-5-2) on the basis of his performance against Mike Alvarado in October last year, which won “Fight of the Year” honors and will go down in boxing folklore due to the intensity of the exchanges.
On that occasion, Rios prevailed in a come-from-behind win that was sealed with a seventh-round stoppage. In the rematch on March 30, Alvarado claimed a clear-cut decision as he fought strategically and avoided getting drawn into another slugfest.
The Nov. 24 card, which will take place on a Sunday morning, will be Top Rank’s third at the Cotai Arena in Macau. Last month, Chinese Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming made his professional debut there on a card that featured a number of Japanese and Philippine fighters, and another event is already booked for July.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum sees China as the final frontier for the expansion of his boxing empire and says he chose to pit Pacquiao against Rios because he thought it would be the most entertaining matchup.
“We want to get the people a really good, exciting fight. People want to see a real fight, and that is what you get with Rios. We’re building a business in Macau and China, and these are the kinds of fights, real action fights that they want to see,” Arum said.
Other contenders in the running to face Pacquiao were Tim Bradley and Marquez, the two fighters who defeated him last year, but they have been booked to face each other in a welterweight bout set for Las Vegas in September.
That left Arum with a straight choice between Rios and Alvarado and he opted for the former, even though he was coming off a loss, because he felt that stylistically, it would make for a better fight.
“People who watch boxing have differing views of the sport. Some like to see an artistic performance and other people like to see two guys knocking the shit out of each other,” he said.
“Me, I love a match when the guys go after each other and throw bombs. That’s my preference. It doesn’t mean it’s the right preference, but this is one of those kinds of fights,” he added.
With both fighters coming off losses, Pacquiao at the hands of Marquez and Rios in the rematch with Alvarado, it remains to be seen if there will be a belt on the line, but it will still be by far the biggest boxing match to ever take place inside Chinese territory.