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Pacquiao to face Rios in boxing 'game changer'

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Pacquiao will fight Rios in Macau

Former pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, seeking to get his mojo back after being knocked out cold by rival Juan Manuel Marquez in December, will return to action to face brawler Brandon Rios, Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz told ESPN.com on Monday.

The fight, the first for Filipino icon Pacquiao outside the United States since 2006, will take place at the CotaiArena at the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel in Macau, China, on November 24.

The fighters have both agreed to terms and the contracts are being finalised, according to Koncz and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum. Pacquiao agreed to terms last week and Koncz, who is traveling to the Philippines to see him, said he is bringing him the paperwork. Arum said Rios agreed to terms on Monday morning.

Koncz said that Pacquiao will face Rios at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds in a scheduled 12-round fight that will be televised on HBO PPV in the United States. Because of the 12-hour time difference between Macau and the United States, the pay-per-view will take place in the morning in Macau for a normal prime-time telecast in the US

"People know what Rios brings to the table," Arum said. "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."

Rios, a former lightweight titlist, has had his past two fights at light-welterweight and split a pair of all-action battles with Mike Alvarado. Rios knocked out Alvarado in the seventh round in October and lost a close unanimous decision to him in a March 30 rematch, for a vacant interim light-welterweight title, that is the leading fight of the year candidate.

"I think it's a good match. People who watch boxing have differing views of the sport," Arum said. "Some like to see an artistic performance like Floyd Mayweather gave [against Robert Guerrero on Saturday night] and other people like to see two guys knocking the s**t ut of each other. 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."

Although Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs), 27, is coming off a defeat, Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) picked him to fight, Koncz said.

"The two fights with Alvarado were both very close fights and either guy could have won either fight," Koncz said. "We looked at styles and Rios has the better style for Manny. He'll come forward and throw a lot of punches. Whether it goes five rounds or 12 rounds, it is going to be entertaining for the fans, and that is what Manny wants. Rios was Manny's choice after Marquez and [Timothy] Bradley turned it down."

Pacquiao's selection of Rios met with the approval of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, who said Pacquiao would train for six weeks in the Philippines and the final two weeks in Macau.

"Manny is definitely going to get his mojo back with this fight," Roach told ESPN.com. "Brandon Rios likes to fight in the pocket and exchange, and Manny is very good in the pocket, too. I think it'll be an exciting fight but that Manny is going to land in the pocket at some point and knock this guy out somewhere along the way. Rios likes to exchange and his style is not really difficult to figure out, so Manny's gonna hit him."

Pacquiao, who has not fought outside the United States since he returned to the Philippines for a decision win against Oscar Larios in Manila in July 2006, has officially lost two fights in a row.

Marquez badly knocked him out in the sixth round on December 8 in a stunner. The action-packed fight was the 2012 ESPN.com fight of the year. But in his previous fight in June, Pacquiao, the only boxer to win world titles in eight weight classes, lost his welterweight title to Bradley in a highly controversial split decision.

Koncz and Arum said Marquez and Bradley were both offered career-high purses for rematches with Pacquiao, but when both turned them down, Pacquiao opted for Rios. Bradley will instead defend his welterweight belt against Marquez in Las Vegas on HBO PPV.

"After Marquez and Bradley turned down our offers, Rios was next in line and he took the fight," Koncz said. "Manny is happy to get back in the ring, so he's looking forward to this, but right now his major focus is on politics."

Pacquiao, a congressman in the Philippines, is running unopposed in next week's election, but Koncz said Pacquiao is spending a great deal of time and money on the campaigns of his wife, Jinkee, who is running for vice governor of their province, and younger brother Rogelio, who is also running for congress.

Koncz said Marquez was offered $13 million (plus an upside of the pay-per-view profits), a raise over the minimum of $6 million he made for the December fight. When Marquez rejected the offer, Koncz said they offered Bradley $6 million to fight Pacquiao again, a raise from the minimum of $5 million he made for the June fight.

"They both turned us down and agreed to fight each other," Koncz said.

Said Arum: "Bradley and Marquez preferred to fight each other and they didn't really want to go to Asia. The only one that benefits from the fight being outside the US is Pacquiao because an American like Bradley still has to pay taxes in the US and for Marquez [he] still has to pay taxes in Mexico, where the rate is about the same as in the US. For Pacquiao, it's a big deal because the tax rates in the Philippines are much lower."

Terms of the deals Pacquiao and Rios agreed to were not disclosed, but Arum said that Rios would earn "more than Robert Guerrero made to fight Floyd on Saturday night." Guerrero's purse was $3 million.

The fighters will hold news conferences in New York and Los Angeles to promote the fight, although they are not yet scheduled, and they will also go on a five-city publicity tour in China, where the fight will be the country's first major pay-per-view, for a cost of what is equal to about $4 or $5 in the US, Arum said.

"What's gonna happen with this fight and event will be monumental from the standpoint of economics in boxing," Arum said. "We have a whole programme of how to market pay-per-view in China, and we're gonna go on a barnstorming tour of China. In the United States, we market essentially only through cable and satellite systems, but in China, where they have about 1.4 billion people, it's all on the Internet, on iPhones, iPads and computers. If this thing works like we expect that it will, the boxing business will never be the same."

This article first appeared on ESPN.com

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