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Pacquiao predicts toe-to-toe battle against Rios

MACAU (Reuters) - Filipino boxing great Manny Pacquiao has predicted an all out slugfest with American Brandon Rios on November 24 as he looks to get back to winning ways and silence retirement talks after two consecutive losses.

Pacquiao 54-5-2 (KO 38) makes his first return to the ring since a brutal knockout defeat by old advisory Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas in December, a loss which many predicted would close out the 34-year-old's career.

Undeterred, Pacquiao has lined up a non-title welterweight battle with the aggressive Rios for his first fight in eight months and first in Asia in seven years.

"It's going to be a good fight because Rios, he loves to fight toe-to-toe and he loves action in the ring," Pacquiao told reporters in Macau on Saturday.

"So what we have to do is to train hard and prepare a hundred percent physically and mentally. And of course we always praying to God that nobody gets hurt," the world champion at eight different weights said.

Rios 31-1-1 (23 KOs) is also coming off a defeat, a points loss to Mike Alvarado at light welterweight in Las Vegas in March.

The 27-year-old former lightweight world champion was confident, though, of claiming victory over Pacquiao and moving back into title contention.

"I'll be ready. I'll be in 100 percent health, 100 percent mental and physically ready. So November 24, you'll see a new superstar rise and that's going to be me," said the California-based fighter, who boasts a height advantage over his opponent.

"I'm going to show the world and everybody that doubt me, everybody that talks bad about me, that say I'm a punching bag. They are going to find something out different. They're going to see November 24, it's going to be Brandon Rios, win."

Prior to booking the Rios bout, Pacquiao had been linked with an epic fifth duel with Marquez, a battle with Alvarado or a rematch with Timothy Bradley, who also beat him last year.

However, former heavyweight world champion George Foreman thought Rios-Pacquiao was the best welterweight fight available and predicted fireworks at the Cotai Arena in Macau.

"Manny Pacquiao, in his weight division, there's no one better at punching. Brandon Rios, in his division, there's no one better at taking a punch. This will be one of the best fights we've ever seen," the American said.

The two fighters were in Macau to promote their fight dubbed 'The Clash in Cotai' and Pacquiao agreed with Foreman about the magnitude of the task.

"Brandon Rios is the biggest test out there for me and I will be ready to meet the challenge," said Pacquiao. "I have heard what Brandon has been saying. If he fights as well as he boasts it will be a great fight for us and the fans."

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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