There was a scene during the 2002 spy thriller “Spygame” starring Brad Pitt and Robert Redford, that puts the two stars on a rooftop at the height of a debate that nearly sealed the fate of Pitt’s character. Enveloped in his own determination, he stubbornly disregarded the sage being blown his way by his master, and thus, was nearly blown away.
The winds of change can be unforgiving.
The only thing constant in this life is change. Some in the boxing world would argue that this isn’t true- for you would have to add the constant “motion” of Pacquiao to the equation, for he never stops seeking offense. But if defense wins championships, and that old axiom holds true, then how would he possibly beat perhaps the greatest defensive rubix cube the sport has ever produced: Nicolino Locche.
Before the time of Mayweather, and sometime after Willie Pep, there was Locche. The Argentine was unusual given the ring legends that come from there were almost always unusually strong punchers. Locche was not. But his ring artistry was something to this day we’ve never seen before, and Freddie Roach would have to prepare his charge for the most unusual encounter of his life.
Tucked away in the sprawling scenery of his native Phillipines, these days Pacquiao is in the grind of intense traffic on the road of the foot variety, aided by his trustee Jack Russell Terrier, “Pacman”, who seems to run with the wind, as he prepares for an all-out and not so secret war with Brandon Rios.
As for the Mexican bred ironman who hails from Oxnard, Cali, Rios is undergoing a transformation of a different kind under Robert Garcia. One which required the import of a “spy” in Alex Ariza, the world renowned diet, strength and conditioning coach, once under the employ of Pacquiao until most recently. Can he provide Rios with the requisite speed to rival that of Pacquiao’s? And can he unveil clues in how to best utilize Brandon’s numbing power against the ultra-hyper and comebacking Filipino icon? Could he in fact have this upcoming version of Rios prepared enough to beat a vintage Carlos Ortiz?
Let’s spy on that.
Brandon Rios vs. Carlos Ortiz
Carlos Ortiz actually fought the enigmatic Nicolino Locche to a draw in 1966 in Argentina. In fact, the Puerto Rican legend would go to anybody’s back yard to find out just how bad you or aren’t. Ortiz was fearless, and an intoxicating blend of technique, speed and ferocity. He fought like a textbook Cuban would now- but as if he was behind on points and like every round was the 12th round. Ortiz would be too much for Rios. He would overwhelm him with volume, stun him fairly often, and generally beat him by a pretty sound and comfortable UD. Interesting thing about Ortiz is he actually fought Lou Filippo, who many of you know as a pretty decent referee and for being featured in 5 “Rocky” movies. But Filippo was also a very good fighter in his day. Carlos Ortiz had perhaps the most famous victory of his career, at least in the Phillipines, when he knocked out famous Filipino “Flash” Elorde in the 14th round, right there in the Phillipines. Told you he’d go anywhere to kick your ass, and he’d kick Rios’s too.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Nicolino Locche
“Manny listen to me! You’re fighting this guy wrong! We’re not gonna win this fight like this… There’s a lot more of him to hit than his head Manny. He can’t hurt you… Stop trying to hit this f**kin guy and hit him!”
Freddie Roach to Pacquiao, between rounds 5 and 6 during his fight with Nicolino Locche
To say that Locche, “El Intocable” (The Untouchable), was a physical contradiction is an understatement. Balding, barrel-chested and thick shouldered, he was the greatest anomaly the sport has ever seen. He moved in a lazy, languid, impudent style that was all his own. He had an eidetic, almost supernatural way of anticipating punches and avoiding them with uncanny head and upper body movement. The shoulder roll you see employed by Mayweather was patented by Locche, as was many other subtleties. He could stand directly in front of a dangerous opponent (as he did the great Antonio Cervantes) and make him miss lethal 4 to 5 punch combinations with his hands down. To see it, you’d almost think you were watching Mad TV.
He was unreal.
He once made a very good champion in Paul Takeshi Fuji quit in Japan and essentially give up his title after the 9th round out of frustration because he just couldn’t hit him.
Pacquiao would never quit, but he’d be frustrated to no end trying to score on Locche. The Pacquiao we’re about to see in a few weeks will be decidedly better than the one who “beat” Timothy Bradley in a losing effort. I envision this fight, and I believe it would unfold much in the same manner. Around the time of his fight with Fuji, Locche was about 28 years old, around the age of Rios. But he had amazingly amassed almost 1000 rounds of activity while running his record to 90-2-14. But he only had 10 KO’s.
Another thing about Locche too, was he was a serious smoker (sometimes during the fight in between rounds) and he played games in the ring, and those two things would work against him opposite Pacquiao. Manny would eventually turn up his attack full throttle while walking through Locche’s limited power. He’d punish him to the body when he could, and beat him with volume, though the proud Locche would believe he won because he made him miss so often.
In the lowest offensive connect percentage of his career, Pacquiao would damn near kill himself with his own missed punches, while winning a comfortable UD over the great Nicolino Locche.