Boxing superstar and Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao arrived in Macao yesterday, with wife Jinkee, to view the bout between his countryman Milan Melindo and WBA/WBO flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada, @The Venetian Resort & Casino (HBO2, 5:30 ET).
Pacquiao not only got a first chance to witness the place where he’ll face Mexican banger Brandon Rios, but an up close look at Rios himself. When the two actually faced off on stage to kick off what will be a world tour, Rios appeared the much bigger man and no where near fight condition, while Pacquiao looked trim and close to fighting form.
There was no open hostility or sense of disdain from either one of them, but this isn’t Pacquiao’s style anyway.
When the legendary fighter took the podium, he was typically calm and gracious. “I want to thank God for another chance to fight again,” the 34-year-old, 2nd term congressman said.
He also thanked Top Rank, the Venetian Hotel and his better half. Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KO’s) hasn’t fought since December 8, 2012, when he suffered a sixth round knockout loss at the hands of his arch nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez.
“It will be a good fight,” Pacquiao went on, “Rios likes to fight toe to toe. There will be a lot of action inside the ring. I pray to God that no one will get hurt. Macau is near the Philippines, so I expect more Filipinos than Mexicans watching this fight.”
Rios took the microphone nervously at first, this being his first foray in an event of this magnitude, while being so far away from home. But he dispensed of any anxiety rather quickly, when his thoughts turned to those doubtful of his chances.
The 27-year-old Rios (31-1-1, 23 KO’s), a previous belt holder at lightweight and junior welterweight, savors his underdog status.
“I am very nervous.” Rios said sheepishly, “I’m not nervous about the fight, I’m nervous about speaking in front of all of you people.’
Rios then turned serious a few seconds later: ‘I want to show the world, all those people who said bad things about me, those who said I’m a punching bag. They will see come November.”
And I know I speak for you when I say- I can’t wait for the 23rd day of that month.
Estrada vs. Melindo
This is a potential “fight of the year”, as both men are full of pride and possess a never-say-die mentality. The 23-year-old champion Estrada is as hard a worker as there is in all of boxing. He fights bell to bell, and its what won him the war over Brian Viloria. He’ll need to bring that and more to beat Melindo, who has turned into a technically proficient ring assassin with sudden power. Its that “suddenness” which will be the difference maker. Melindo anticipates things very well, and has a lightening-quick trigger. He’ll exploit any opening to greater advantage than Estrada, who’ll be hit like never before, on his way to being dethroned. Their styles automatically mesh well for an adventure, and Melindo will emerge the victor via 10th round stoppage.