Is Manny Pacquiao done?
That's the question that will sell the Filipino star's Nov. 23 pay-per-view welterweight fight in Macao, against former world lightweight champion Brandon Rios (31-1-1, 23 knockouts).
"I need to prove I can still fight, that my boxing is not done yet, and I want to get the confidence of my fans back," Pacquiao said Thursday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, closing a worldwide press tour to promote the bout that included stops at the Great Wall of China, Beijing, Singapore and New York.
Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) hasn't fought since he was knocked out by Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez in December, the longest break of his career. He backed away from a chance to return to the ring in April.
Pacquiao, who has lost his last two fights — the other defeat was by Timothy Bradley in a controversial decision — noted Thursday that he had been knocked out in 1996 and 1999 and recovered to become the world's top pound-for-pound fighter.
"Some fighters can come back," Rios, 27, said. "I'm not Manny, so I don't know how he feels mentally and physically, but we are getting ready for the best Manny Pacquiao — the one who was dominating the fight game."
Pacquiao, 34, said he refuses to believe he'll fade further from the Marquez loss, insisting he never considered retirement afterward and chalked up his defeat to just being "part of boxing."
"I didn't regret anything about that fight," he said. "It just happened he got me. I have confidence in my ability.
"When you look back at my last fight, my condition, aggressiveness and killer instinct is there."
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer, said he will keep a sharp eye on the fighter during their shortened six-week training camp in General Santos City, Philippines, limiting his typical number of 150 sparring rounds before venturing to the Venetian Macao.
"If he shows any flaws in training camp, I'll tell Manny it's over," Roach said. "My No. 1 responsibility is taking care of the fighter."
Roach said Pacquiao's slippage isn't that great a concern, however, as they prepare for an aggressive fighter moving up in weight whose last two fights, against Mike Alvarado, have been very taxing.
"Manny is just too fast, and I wonder how Rios will take a punch," Roach said. "I think Manny will be dominating with his power and speed. Rios swings a lot. You do that, you get caught. He'll make us look great, it's a perfect style matchup."
The charismatic Rios said he plans to fight Pacquiao "smart," and not necessarily engage in typical toe to toe.
"My power translated to 140, and 147's going to be even better," Rios said. "I don't have to cut weight. I'll be walking around very well. My power will show, and they will see it too."
Asked if he will retire should he lose, and if he'd select Marquez or Floyd Mayweather Jr. as his next opponent if he wins, Pacquiao smiled and delivered a patented coy response.
"Let's see," he said. "I never think negative, I always think positive."