Is Manny Pacquiao closer to rejuvenation or retirement?

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Manny Pacquiao finds himself at a quite unique crossroads at this stage of his career. On November 23, he returns to the ring for the first time in nearly a year as he takes on Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios in Macau, China in a fight televised on HBO Pay-Per-View.

With one big win, Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) would return quickly back to a position of prominence in the sport, with lucrative and high-profile fights of his choosing awaiting him. On the other hand, a loss to Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs) would likely send him straight into retirement and a role as full-time politician in the Philippines.

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Credit: Chris Farina – Top Rank

It’s not often that a fighter ends up in this exact situation. Pacquiao is at a place where even with great success, retirement is looming in the near future. There are only so many fights left in his body, and only so many worthwhile matches to make.

However, after suffering that brutal knockout defeat at the hands of long-time rival Juan Manuel Marquez last December, his future in the sport was suddenly in more immediate jeopardy.

That is only enhanced by the fact that if Pacquiao does lose, it’s going to be via another brutal stoppage. He’s not going to drop a decision to Rios, against whom he holds advantages in speed, skill and agility. No, if he loses this fight, he’s going to be battered and knocked out by a young, powerful, aggressive and altogether sanguinary opponent.

[Also See: Pacquiao vs. Rios Betting Odds]

Yet, Pacquiao is not far removed from his peak. While his ledger technically shows two straight losses, nobody in their right minds believes he was defeated by Timothy Bradley. Pacquiao is still regarded as a top pound for pound fighter [ProBoxing-Fans.com currently has him at #12 pound for pound, and #4 in the Welterweight division] and with a win against Rios, he can once again call the shots.

He could easily face the winner of October’s Timothy Bradley vs. Juan Manuel Marquez fight, or even the loser of that contest depending on how it played out. He could take on the winner of the Mike Alvarado vs. Ruslan Provodnikov match, or yes, there’s always the slim and now somewhat absurd possibility that he could end up in a fight against Floyd Mayweather.

Ultimately, I believe that Pacquiao’s inherent advantages over Rios provide him with the opportunity to be at his best and score a solid, or even spectacular, comeback win. But one or two punches can change anything once you step through the ropes, and if that happens here, Pacquiao falls from top of the game to out of the game in the blink of an eye.

The potential that either of those outcomes could happen is what makes Pacquiao vs. Rios an intriguing battle.

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