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MACAO (AFP) – Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao will strap on his gloves on a Sunday morning when he takes on Brandon Rios in Macau, as promoters cash in on the lucrative US pay-per-view market.
In an almost unprecedented move, America's top promoter Bob Arum announced Saturday that the November 24 fight will begin at 10 am, ensuring a prime-time Saturday night audience in America.
The unorthodox start time copies the strategy used back in 1975, when Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier in the legendary "Thrilla in Manila", which kicked off at 10.45am.
"November 24 will be an historic occasion. It's expected this event will reach more people than any event held in China, other than the Olympics," said Arum, who is striving to penetrate the country of 1.3 billion potential fight fans.
"The fight will be live here at about 10 am on Sunday, which is 9 pm on Saturday night in New York, the usual time to start a pay-per-view show."
Arum made the announcement at a press conference at Macau's Venetian resort-hotel, which will play host to the biggest bout in China's history.
Pacquiao, whose record stands at 54-5-2 with 38 knockouts, will be searching for a convincing win if he wants to extend his fight career, following a pair of consecutive losses.
In December last year he suffered an excruciating defeat during his fourth meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez, whose hammerblow right at the end of the sixth sent the Filipino crashing to the canvas.
Following the knockout the 34-year-old vowed to fight on, despite calls from family, friends and media commentators to call it a day.
As the fight's promotional tour kicked off, Rios (33-1-1 with 23 KOs) confidently told his detractors who "call me a punchbag" that he would secure victory over the former world champion in eight weight divisions.
The 27-year-old American told journalists: "I'm very nervous... I'm not nervous about the fight, I'm nervous about being in front of all you people.
"I will be ready, I will be in 100 percent health, 100 percent mentally and physically ready.
"I'm going to show the world, everybody that doubts me, everybody that talks bad about me, that say I'm a punching bag, they are going to see, November 24... Brandon Rios win."
Pacquiao, who broke down in tears on television following his December defeat, said: "I would like to thank God for another chance in my life to fight again.
"It's going to be a good fight because Rios, he likes to fight.
"What we have to do is to train hard and prepare 100 percent physically and mentally and of course we always pray to God nobody gets hurt."
His trainer, the veteran Freddie Roach, added: "We will be back on top soon."