Spotlight on | Boxing

Surprise! Brandon Rios, Manny Pacquiao agree to bout in China

 

Coming up

•  Saturday (9 p.m., Showtime): Devon Alexander vs. Lee Purdy, 12, for Alexander’s IBF welterweight title; Lamont Peterson vs. Lucas Matthysse, 12, junior welterweights.


Special to The Miami Herald

If there is a boxing metaphor for curve ball, promotional company Top Rank recently threw one with its plans for Manny Pacquiao’s next fight.

Pacquiao will return to the ring Nov.24, and his presumed opponents were either Juan Manuel Marquez or Timothy Bradley. Marquez and Bradley defeated Pacquiao in his two fights last year, and the revenge factor figured to play the pivotal angle in selling the bout.

But Top Rank, which promotes Pacquiao, provided an unexpected alternative that appealed to Pacquiao, inactive since his sixth-round knockout loss against Marquez on Dec. 8.

Instead of Marquez or Bradley, Pacquiao will face 140-pound fighter Brandon Rios. The pay-per-view welterweight bout will be fought in Macau, China.

Given the background between Pacquiao and Marquez or Bradley and its obvious rematch storylines, the Rios choice seems surprising.

Rios has never fought above junior welterweight and only recently moved to the division after a lightweight title run. Moreover, Rios has his own recent fight history that indicated another immediate bout path.

Rios and Mike Alvarado created boxing’s latest rivalry thanks to the thrilling tone of their consecutive fights. Alvarado avenged a seventh-round TKO loss against Rios in an action-intense fight last year with a unanimous decision in a similarly exciting bout on March 30.

The fighters eagerly talked of the tiebreaking third bout as soon as the scorecards were read in Alvarado’s rematch victory. Now the trilogy is on hold after Rios opted for the first pay-per-view fight of his career.

Rios and Alvarado eventually will have their third bout and, before he retires, Pacquiao likely will want another crack at Bradley and a fifth bout with Marquez, a rare number of fights between the same fighters in contemporary boxing.

In the meantime, Pacquiao and Rios will deviate from the respective trails anticipated by many fight fans.

Division riches

Even with Rios moving up to welterweight to face Pacquiao, the 140-pound class continues to feature compelling and talented fighters.

Two of the division’s best will meet Saturday night in Atlantic City. International Boxing Federation junior-welterweight champion Lamont Peterson will face Lucas Matthysse in a nontitle fight.

“I believe I’m at the top level, but at this point a win over Lucas solidifies me as a top guy not only in weight class but a top-15, pound-for-pound guy in the game,” Peterson said. “It would lead to bigger fights.”

Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KOs) defeated former champion and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Amir Kahn for the IBF junior-lightweight belt in December 2011.

A native of Argentina, Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs) has one of the sport’s best knockout percentages. His two losses were close, split-decision results against Zab Judah and Devon Alexander.

“If I were climbing a ladder, a win over Matthysse would be a big jump up to the top,” Peterson said. “I’m preparing for a hard-fought, 12-round fight. I’ll be there every step of the way.”

King-maker

Bahodir Mamadjonov, the Uzbekistani fighter who recently spoiled Miami resident Angelo Santana’s unbeaten record, signed a promotional deal with Don King in King’s Deerfield Beach office on Thursday.

“Signing with Don King brings me closer to my goal of winning a world championship,” Mamadjonov said in a statement. “That is what drives me every day. I want to win a world title for my family and the people of Uzbekistan, who always have believed in me.”

Mamadjonov (13-1, 9 KOs) enhanced his lightweight-title aspirations after a ninth-round TKO victory over Santana on April 12 in Las Vegas. Mamadjonov, 25, took the bout on less than two weeks’ notice after Santana’s original opponent withdrew because of an injury.

King also promotes Santana, who won his first 14 professional fights before he faced Mamadjonov.

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