“I’m like a Russian mobster/ drinking distilled vodka/ till I’m under the field with Hoffa- its real”
Some things just go down hard. Even the smoothest hardcore liquor will grind you when chased by nothing. Your legs will go and so too will your balance, and depending on how many times you slam the shot glass upside down against the bar’s counter, so too will your memory.
But you won’t die.
You might instead go for a ride and never return, tempting fate with the keys only you hold. This is dangerous, selfish and it’s foolish, for lives depend on your decision to engage- or not engage. Intoxication is provocative, and to be inclined to be this way in the sport of boxing can only endanger the ring participants. But it is a chance that they must take, for nearly every fighter makes a pact with an unwritten oath of valor which decrees you go on until you cannot go on anymore.
It is debatable what kind of glory an alcoholic is chasing. But to find irresistible the challenge of either making another man succumb to your will, or for it to be declared that you bested him, is a pursuit of glory only soldiers of the squared circle can understand.
Seated with HBO’s Max Kellerman and directly across from his November 23rd opponent, eight-division Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao for a “Face-Off” encounter, Brandon Rios wore the look of a warrior willing to die in order to avoid defeat. Bitterly dejected following his thrilling points loss to Mike Alvarado this past spring, Rios looked at Pacquiao like a man would his former boss that fired him unfairly and took food off of his table. He spoke to him with disdain and utter contempt. At one point Pacquiao, tinged with a degree of condescension, suggested that Rios find God- and that he’ll be praying for him.
Already irritated by Kellerman and growing increasingly pissed at Pacquiao, Rios had an icy response.
“Oh you’re praying for me already… Ok. Well I’m ready. I have to go ahead and retire you.”
There was similar contempt between two fighters very close in make-up to Pacquiao and Rios who locked horns long ago: super lightweight champions Zab Judah and Kostya Tszyu. It was the now stately and mature Judah who was a lot like Rios is now; while Tszyu was the more reserved and measured man of purpose Pacquiao presents himself as now. What would happen if this particular Judah (who faces Paulie Malignaggi in Brooklyn on Dec. 7th) was to deal with Brandon Rios, and how would Manny Pacquiao fare against Kostya Tszyu?
The possibilities are intoxicating.
Brandon Rios vs. Zab Judah
To this day, Zab Judah remains somewhat of an enigma. Immensely successful by any standard in prizefighting, his career somehow seems incomplete. That’s because he was such a prodigious talent- and still is, albeit to a lesser degree. No one seemed more destined for spectacular greatness than Judah in the mid to late 90’s, but too many servings of an ego out of control, coupled with the influence of a then out-of-his-mind Mike Tyson, left Judah undone. Blessed with rare physical talent and an uncanny resemblance to Pernell Whitaker in style, Judah was a more lethal version of his Hall of Fame predecessor, and despite his penchant for problems, seemed on the cusp of fulfilling promise. Then came a Tszyu right hand and an unforgettable knockout loss, and a somewhat uneven stint thereafter, including big fight losses to both Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto. He’s still a great boxer and one of the best southpaws in the world today, making this a very realistic match-up.
Brandon would come after him much in the same way that Tszyu did, but with more variety while not quite as sharp as Kostya was. He’d find Zab’s speed and movement to be very problematic, and would be given a #2 pencil and a chair by Zab at times over the first half of the fight. But then things would turn for two reasons. Brandon has an unusual amount of grit and determined belief in himself and in his power, while Judah tends to fade over the closing stanzas of bouts and has lapses in concentration. Rios is a thudding puncher and knows how to break an opponent.
And I think he would break Judah too.
Brandon’s degree of dogged determination and persistence would divide Judah into fractions until he just subtracted him all the way around. He’d walk through Zab’s more stylish attack and overwhelm him in a war of attrition. Rios chops Judah down and stops him due to accumulated volume in about 10 rounds.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Kostya Tszyu
There are those who at first glance would be inclined to dismiss this as a fast and furious Pacquiao destruction. The basis of this would stem from Pacquiao’s chilling 2nd round demolition of Ricky Hatton in 2009. Of course, it was Hatton who unleashed his own version of hell on Tszyu, while more or less depleting him over 11 rounds back in 2005.
But Pacquiao would have a lot of problems with Tszyu.
For starters, Kostya wouldn’t get the same NBA-style fullcourt attack from Manny the same way that Hatton gave him. And Manny wouldn’t have the luxury of Hatton’s come forward assault in the form of Tszyu.
This would be an incredible fight featuring two men with iron wills and hearts of steel. Kostya Tszyu reminds me of a more mechanized and robotic version of what we see in Gennady “GGG” Golovkin today. He was somewhat rigid in his upper body and could be bothered by movement, but he closed on you like “The Terminator” while attacking behind a powerful jab and a punishing overhand-right. The difference in this fight would be Pacquiao’s frenetic movement, volume punching and pace, which would keep Kostya on the defensive much in the same way the same way that Joshua Clottey was during their March 2010 bout. Freddie Roach would essentially employ the same strategy against the powerful Russian. But Tszyu would be more offensively threatening and offer Manny plenty of scary moments.
Using strictly the eye test, the Pacquiao we’re about to see in a few weeks will be on par with the most well conditioned versions of Pacquiao we’ve ever seen- the edition for De La Hoya in 2008 and the one against Miguel Cotto in late 2009. In the end, his versatile repertoire and overwhelming arsenal would prove to be too much, as Pacquiao would batter and stop a very game Kostya Tszyu in the 9th round of a fiery action fight.