by Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney
Not even a distance of 8,000 miles and 13 time zones could stop HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney from keeping alive the most beloved fight week tradition this side of hearing Bob Arum pronounce "Tecate." Though Mulvaney is in Macau, an administrative region of China, and Raskin is back home in the States, they are forging ahead from opposite ends of the earth to give the people the Fight Week Stat Chat. CompuBox crunched all the key numbers regarding Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios, and now it's up to Raskin and Mulvaney to figure out what it all means for Saturday's can't-miss slugfest:
Raskin: The last time we did this CompuBox Stat Chat was a month ago for Tim Bradley vs. Juan Manuel Marquez, and you picked the winner of that fight correctly, whereas I did not. So for me, this Stat Chat is all about revenge. Never mind Pacquiao vs. Rios. This is about Raskin vs. Mulvaney. Can you handle the heat I'm about to bring?
Mulvaney: For a guy on a one-fight losing streak, you sure bring the trash talk.
Raskin: Hey, speaking of guys on losing streaks (thanks for the perfect segue set-up, Kieran!), Pacquiao and Rios are both coming off defeats and, particularly for Manny, have their careers on the line Saturday night. As we know, both of these guys are offense-minded, and as the CompuBox stats show, they both throw more punches than the average welterweight. Do you expect them to match their typical high outputs against each other, or might one of them adopt a slower pace?
Mulvaney: Great question. I think both guys have to do what they do best: Pacquiao darting in and out, showing angles, keeping his opponent on the defensive, and Rios working behind a jab to get his guy in front of him and then try to wear him down with power punches. Which is, of course, why so many folks are salivating over this one.
Raskin: Interesting that you bring up the Rios jab. In his last fight, the rematch with Mike Alvarado, he was generally out-jabbed. And one would think that if Alvarado can out-jab him, then Pacquiao can out-jab him. Do you see the southpaw right jab being a significant part of Pac-Man's game plan?
Mulvaney: I think this gets to the heart of why Rios is going to have a hard time in this fight (he says, foreshadowing his pick). Unless Pacquiao is no longer Pacquiao, Rios isn't going to be able to just barrel forward and work his way inside, as he likes to do. And a large part of the reason for that is that Pacquiao is going to be bouncing on his toes, sticking out that jab, turning Rios, and looking to land that potent left hand of his. Somehow, Rios has to win the battle of the jabs, and that's going to be hard to do.
Raskin: Well, if one was looking for a reason to pick Rios, one might note that his CompuBox numbers are slightly better across the board in fights where he didn't struggle noticeably to make weight. Against Miguel Acosta and Urbano Antillon, he landed at better percentages than against John Murray and Richar Abril. And since this is a welterweight fight, he should make weight with ease. Do you think those numbers mean anything, that he's really better and more accurate when he doesn't strain to make weight, or is it too small a sample size and possibly more about the opposition in question?
Mulvaney: First of all, I do suspect we're going to see a well-conditioned Rios. Based on the patented "eyeball test," he looks healthier than he normally does in fight week: none of that sunken-cheek, dried-out look we're used to. So the weight will likely be good for him. I must say, though, I definitely did a double-take when I saw that Rios' overall figures and percentages are higher than Pacquiao's. I suspect fairly strongly that those figures are skewed against Pacquiao because his last four fights were against Shane Mosley, who did not want to engage; Marquez (twice), who is his nemesis; and Bradley, who is a hard-to-hit slickster. I do expect that a better-conditioned Rios will be a better Rios, that stands to reason. But he has never faced anyone remotely in the class of Pacquiao, and I suspect his numbers will take a hit as a result.
Raskin: Here's the number that stuck out most to me: In his CompuBox-tracked fights, Rios opponents landed 39.5 percent of their power shots. That's not the worst number I've ever seen (I followed Arturo Gatti's career, remember), but it's up there, and it's scary when the opponent is Pacquiao. I don't know how Brandon Rios is going to get out of the way of Pacquiao's laser-fast punches. And that, as much as anything, is why I'm picking Pacquiao by TKO. Earlier in the chat, you hinted very strongly that you'd be picking Pacquiao as well. Knockout or decision?
Mulvaney: I also am picking Pacquiao by TKO. I'm thinking late in the fight, around round 11, because for all the punishment he absorbs, Rios has a rock-hard chin. There's one caveat of course: The last time we saw Manny in a ring, he was taking a long nap, courtesy of that Marquez right hand. Is he still the same fighter he was 12 months ago? Unfortunately, we don't have the figures to tell us that. We'll have to see for ourselves on Saturday night.
Raskin: And I can't wait, because even though we're making the same pick (and therefore I can't exact revenge upon you), this is a guaranteed-action fight for however long it lasts. Here's hoping all parties involved make it to the opening bell without getting kicked in the stomach by Alex Ariza.
Mulvaney: And let us hope also that the Rumble in the Gym won't be the best fight of the weekend. I doubt it will be; I think this main event is guaranteed excitement. As always, my friend, it's been a pleasure. As I'm a day ahead of you here in China, farewell from the future, and until next time.
Raskin: The future? Wow. You just blew my mind. Don't fall off your hoverboard on the way to the fight.