Boxing luminaries Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, George Foreman, Marco Antonio Barrera, Timothy Bradley and Bob Arum discuss next Saturday’s pay-per-view extravaganza between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios from Macau, China.
BOB ARUM: Welcome to the new global age, where fights take place around the world and promotions kick in as if we were still in Las Vegas. On Thursday and Friday we will have Radio Row broadcasting live from the Palazzo Waterfall Atrium inside The Palazzo Las Vegas resort. Thirteen national and regional radio shows are participating and we’ll have a whole host of great fighters from the past – guys who made this sport what it is today and as popular as it is today. George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Ray Mancini, Marco Antonio Barrera; and the stars of today — Tim Bradley and Mike Alvarado — in-person being interviewed on their views on Pacquiao vs. Rios and talking about their experiences fighting outside their own countries. The world is becoming a very, very small place. This event in Macao is making a huge impact in Asia and around the world. I thank all of the participants on today’s call, A lot of them have fought abroad throughout their career and you can ask them about their experience fighting in multiple time zones from where they trained.
Tim, what can Brandon Rios expect from Manny when he gets in the ring?
TIMOTHY BRADLEY: First of all, he should expect to see Manny Pacquiao being very quick and very elusive and lots of feints in this fight. Manny Pacquiao dropped a lot of feints on me and it kept me off balance as far as shots. He is very difficult to hit at times too because he is always angling out. He’s coming in, he’s out, he’s angling out to the right or to the left. That’s what Brandon Rios should expect. He shouldn’t expect Pacquiao to come right at him. He is going to have to expect a lot of angles in this fight. Rios, if he is going to have a chance to beat Pacquiao he is going to have to close the distance. He is going to have to get close, stay close and punch. Pacquiao has a tendency to stay on the ropes with his hands high and stay in position to allow opponents to punch him at times and that will work in Rios’ favor. Rios likes to bring the pressure and throw uppercuts and body shots and I think that’s how he’s going to be effective in this fight. If he’s out too far, he’s doomed. If he can close the distance, he’ll be OK. And expect Pacquiao to come right back too … he has to have really good defense after he punches. And if he does that, he’ll be successful but if he allows Pacquiao to move on him and find angles … Manny has power in both hands, he can hurt you. I know Rios can take a punch but this is not Mike Alvarado – he is facing Manny Pacquiao who has speed and power.
George, you won your first title out of the country and defended it out of the country – what should Rios expect since he is making the long trip?
GEORGE FOREMAN: It’s going to be rough and that’s all there is to it because you can say to yourself ‘I am accustomed to it’ but you can be there for a month. I have been there for two weeks – it’s just not going to help you. You wake up at the wrong times. You eat at the wrong times. Pacquiao, because he lives in that area, boy it’s probably going to be a shut out if he is on his game at all.
Fighting in the morning – can you get over that – after being used to fighting in the evening?
GEORGE FOREMAN: It’s a challenge because like I said, it’s a thing you can’t control. It’s your body. Forget about the mental showdown. It’s a physical showdown. You really have to pick the fight out of the guy at 8 in the morning – it’s just not going to be the same.
Ray, Rios will be attacking and Pacquiao is coming off the knockout – do you think that will affect him?
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: What Brandon Rios needs to do is not let Pacquiao forget about what took place in his last fight. Rios has to jump right on top of Pacquiao, because what happens is when you get knocked out in the fashion that Pacquiao was knocked out, it becomes like an Achilles heel. But if there is anyone that could block that out, Pacquiao is definitely the guy to do that. This fight depends on whose game plan, who dominates the other, takes control early in the fight.
Roberto, when you fought Ray Leonard, Ray was a huge star and very popular. Rios is now fighting a huge star that is very popular with the people. How does that play in the fight?
ROBERTO DURAN: First of all, the stars live in the sky. On Earth, everyone is an equal. Yes, Manny Pacquiao is a well-known star and he is not finished by any means. He is embarrassed by the Marquez loss and he feels that he needs to redeem himself. Brandon Rios needs to be very careful because I once was knocked out and I came back and won the title so by no means can you count Manny Pacquiao out – he is a very dangerous fighter. Brandon Rios needs to be intelligent in the ring, protect himself at all times because he doesn’t know where these hits are coming from. Manny Pacquiao is not finished in my eyes and I still believe he is one of the world’s most dangerous fighters in the world. I just give some advice to Brandon Rios – go in and attack and don’t be afraid and don’t hesitate because he can win if he fights intelligently. Manny Pacquiao is still a very dangerous fighter.
Do you feel the fighters will have a difficult time getting acclimated?
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Getting acclimated is one of the biggest obstacles along with facing Manny Pacquiao. In fact, Roberto Duran really described it and put things in perspective about what he said about this fight. Pacquiao is not finished even though he was knocked out in a viscous manner. If there was anyone that has the ability to come back, both physically and psychologically, it’s Manny Pacquiao. So Rios, having to become acclimated to being there, even though he is there now, it does take time. It’s an intriguing fight.
ROBERTO DURAN: I don’t think he’s going to have any problems as long as he is not extremely overweight and having to worry about losing a lot of pounds. I think Brandon will be just fine as long as he gets there in time. I have never been out that way so I can’t really say how it is but I think he will be just fine acclimating to the time zone.
BOB ARUM: Manny’s problem is not the weight in the sense that he has to eat five meals a day. A couple of weeks ago when I was in General Santos City he was down to 143 pounds – 4 pounds below the weight. Brandon has been used to fighting at 140 now he is fighting at 147 so he has no problem with the weight. So at least for this fight we don’t have to worry about the guys being overweight when they hit the scales.
Could you each make a prediction on the fight?
GEORGE FOREMAN: I think it’s going to be a 12-round decision and I give Pacquiao the hometown decision. How about a home-region decision.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: I think Pacquiao will win although I give Rios a shot, a big shot. It’s not going to be an easy fight. I’m picking Manny because he is Manny Pacquiao.
TIMOTHY BRADLEY: I’ve got Manny Pacquiao by a mid to late round KO. Eight rounds.
MARCO ANTONIO BARRERA: I think it is a complicated fight for both of them. You have Brandon Rios who comes straightforward and will apply the pressure on Manny. Then you have Manny who moves around the ring very well and picks and chooses his spots and comes at different angles and is a very strong fighter with a lot of speed. It’s just going to be a tough fight for both of them.
How do you think Manny can deal with the distractions of the typhoon?
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: I want to offer my condolences first and foremost, and my prayers, to the victims of that horrible disaster. But Manny is a fighter and a warrior. He can – he will have to – block out everything and have tunnel vision going into the ring against Brandon Rios. I say intriguing because it’s a big question mark over that ring. Who goes into the ring that night with the mindset of winning and not thinking about other things.
TIMOTHY BRADLEY: I have had some things in the past during training camp, but Manny has a job to do and he needs to take care of his job first. Then after that he can go back and take care of everything else he needs to.
GEORGE FOREMAN: Just before I fought Michael Moorer there was a big tragic flood right here in the Houston area and I had to wade through waist-deep water to rescue my family. There were many deaths. But when it came time to put on the boxing trunks – it all disappeared.
MARCO ANTONIO BARRERA: Distractions play a big deal and in many Pacquiao’s situation, say if you train 100%, distractions could take away 40% of the training of all the work that you put in. Manny has to concentrate on one thing and that’s boxing. He does have responsibilities with the typhoon and everything, which makes it harder, but he can’t separate himself from being a boxer. If he tries to be a politician and a boxer at the same time, he’s going to be in trouble. In Brandon, he is facing the toughest and the most important fight of his life. That’s the type of fighter Manny is going up against, so I just say that Manny better be 100% focused as a boxer for this fight.
Freddie Roach said Pacquiao should retire if he loses, what do you think?
GEORGE FOREMAN: I think the hardest thing for any boxer is to retire. It takes a phenomenon really (laughter). You almost have to pull him [a fighter] out of there. We don’t like to retire. I don’t think that’s going to be in his mind and even if it was it will disappear quickly.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: It’s the hardest thing, like George said. After a loss, you try to fix that. You try to repair that. As a fighter, you go back. You go back time and time again. Even if you win, because that win becomes seductive – you go back. I wish both guys the very best.
Did you think about retiring after your first fight against Roberto Duran in Montreal?
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: I contemplated it, naturally, because of the physical fight. It was so physical and it just didn’t feel good. I went home and went on vacation and cleared my head and came back. It all depends on how you lose that last fight. That plays a significant role in your decision-making.
Do you think Pacquiao will fight Mayweather if he wins?
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Pacquiao-Rios, that’s what is important to Manny Pacquiao right now.
What do you remember with your first fight with Pacquiao?
MARCO ANTONIO BARRERA: What I do remember is fighting a guy I knew nothing about and a very explosive fighter. What I remember about other than losing the fight was he really beat me with the body shots. He was an extremely quick fighter that I was not prepared for. More than anything, Manny Pacquiao gained a lot of respect from the fans by beating me. Other than that, he continued his success – and by beating bigger guys. He threw logic out the door because everyone thought that a guy in a smaller weight would never beat a heavier guy. Manny Pacquiao has made himself a star and gave smaller fighters the idea that ‘hey, I can make it in the bigger weights.’ That’s the type of fighter that Manny Pacquiao is.
Bob, of all the international events you promoted, which one stands out the most?
BOB ARUM: The one that sticks out and is most comparable because it takes place in the same time zone is the Thrilla in Manila when Muhammad Ali faced off against Joe Frazier. That fight took place the same time that the Pacquiao-Rios fight will take place – around Noon Manila time. It was one of the greatest fights I have ever seen in my life. These guys went at it and Eddie Futch wouldn’t let Joe Frazier come out for the 15th round and Muhammad won the fight. What I remember most was going outside the Coliseum after the fight was over – we had just seen this unbelievable fight and the sun was the brightest that I have ever seen it and it was almost as if everyone was blinded by the daylight and it was one of the most memorable experiences I ever had in my life. It’s now almost 50 years from that date and I still remember it like it was yesterday.
What do you think Rios’ biggest concern should be?
TIMOTHY BRADLEY: I think the biggest concern should be that left hand of Pacquiao. Pacquiao has a huge left hand. He feints a lot and tries to lure you in. He will probably let Rios get off first. And he’s going to make him pay for every mistake he does. Rios has a tendency to lunge in so he better be careful because the left hand is definitely coming over the top so he better be aware of it. I told my manager Cameron Dunkin to let him know to stay away from that left hand.
Do you think Manny can overcome that knockout?
TIMOTHY BRADLEY: Absolutely – you saw me in my last fight and I overcame a brutal fight with Ruslan Provodnikov – I took a lot of punishment in that fight and suffered a concussion. I bounced back and I fought smart. I got hit with some shots in that fight and I was OK. The big thing is styles – styles make fights. We all know that and Rios definitely has a style that suits Manny Pacquiao – he comes forward and he’s face-first. He doesn’t care about defense. He gets his with big shots. But what Rios has to understand is that he never took a shot from Manny Pacquiao, who throws them with either hand. I’m telling you, I’ve been in the ring with this guy and what’s special about him is that he throws combinations and every shot is a death blow. Every shot is hard. Rios is going to have to be on his P’s and Q’s. Rios is a big puncher and I know he comes to fight but I think he’s a tad too slow for Pacquiao and I don’t think he has the power in his punch either, so…
What do you think about staying on your diet when you go overseas?
GEORGE FOREMAN: When I went to fight everything was cooked in the same fashion that as I received it when I was home. Maybe a little better so that won’t mean anything. Just like home but maybe a little better. When I went to Macao, the food was great. It was great.
BOB ARUM: George was over in Macao a couple of times and the food at the Macao was first class. It’s mostly western. Steakhouses, buffets all western food. I don’t think the food will be a problem for Rios and certainly not for Manny. I know Rios had a chef with him and I know Manny will have a chef with him. They both have suites that have kitchens so they can prepare their own food.
Ray did you bring your own chef?
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: Well yes, I brought my mom and dad. Home cooked meals and never a problem.
Marco, you had to move your training camp for your first fight with Pacquiao – did it affect your training?
MARCO ANTONIO BARRERA: First I would like to say I am not making any excuses – Manny Pacquiao beat me clearly. Because of the distractions, I probably trained a total of 20 days for that fight. The first distraction was there was a fire in Big Bear and we had to evacuate training camp. Then after that I had to get evaluated – get my head checked by my surgeon in Houston – and that delayed some of the training camp as well. There were distractions but it just goes to show that you have to stay focused and how much distractions will really affect the outcome of a fight.
Tell us about your China fight…
MARCO ANTONIO BARRERA: What I remember most about that fight was asking myself, ‘do I stay in boxing or retire?’ I remember that there were a lot of boxing fans in China and they treated me really well. There are a lot of fans out there and Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios will both see that. The Pacquiao-Rios fight will be very entertaining for the fans. Two great fighters clashing.
BOB ARUM: I want to thank all the fighters for being on the call. I leave for Macao tomorrow. I am looking forward to this event. It has world-wide significance and I hope that everyone enjoys Saturday night November 23rd because they are going to see a great show.
GEORGE FOREMAN: I look forward to a great fight. Both guys know this is a showdown for their career. I am going to make certain that everyone I know sees it because it’s going to be a great fight. I was distracted, that’s why I lost [in Zaire.]
MARCO ANTONIO BARRERA: I know it’s going to be a great fight – an explosive fight. A fight of styles and styles make fights. It is going to be a brand new type of public out there that is going to enjoy a great show. Americans and Mexicans, to them I say, do not miss this fight – it is the fight you want to see.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: I just want to tell Bob that I want to be there next time.
BOB ARUM: We are going to continue to do big shows in Las Vegas but this is a new market in Macao and China and so we’ll be back on an number of occasions. Mark your calendar Ray, February 22nd is going to be the next big show at The Venetian Macao.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: I am marking it down right now. I feel that Pacquiao is going to surprise the majority, even being knocked out the way he was it could be over, but it’s all about the mind. Pacquiao has incredible mind and confidence and conditioning. Rios is not just coming in to play – it’s going to be an incredible fight.
TIMOTHY BRADLEY: I came into the Pacquiao fight in the best shape of my life. I trained extremely hard for that fight. I remember it being around the 4th round – I was exhausted – after four rounds! I am in the best shape of my life and I am exhausted. Pacquiao drops so many feints on you and he keeps you so tense – he hits hard with both hands – you always have to be alert and it drains you as a fighter. With that being said I hope that Rios is ready for that because Pacquiao will make it seem like he’s coming in and he’s not. I think it’s going to be explosive and Bob Arum is giving the fight fans another great fight and another great promotion and for all the fans in China – I wish it was on U.S. soil – enjoy this great show that Top Rank is putting on and I can’t wait to see this fight – it is going to be exciting.