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MANILA — Brandon Rios is the next opponent of Manny Pacquiao.

Rios was amused when he was told about the reason why he was handpicked as Pacquiao’s foe on Nov. 24 in Macau, China.

He was chosen as Pacquiao’s comeback opponent for the simple reason that he doesn’t take a backward step in the ring.

“Everyone says that. It’s different when you’re in the ring. I don’t run and I don’t dance,” Rios told the Manila Bulletin in an interview that was facilitated by Top Rank through the fighter’s publicist, Nancy Rodriguez.

Rios contends that even the most elusive fighters, like Muhammad Ali, “gets hit and everyone gets hit.”

Still, the 27-year-old from Oxnard, California, assures everyone that he will be in the best shape of his career when he squares off with Pacquiao before an expected sellout crowd of 15,000 at the CotaiArena, a world-class venue located within The Venetian complex.

The thought of him being in the same ring with Pacquiao makes him drool.

“Two guys going toe-to-toe and going at it,” said Rios, who is never in a bad fight owing to his ultra-aggressive nature.

“A battle between the young lion and the old lion,” said Rios, who is assured of a career-high purse of more than $3 million.

Even if it feels like winning the lottery, Rios said, “it’s not all about the money.”

“It’s not much about the purse. It’s about fighting the best. This is my passion. I want to prove myself that I belong with the best. I want to prove myself.”

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The fight is six months away, but Rios is not lowering his guard.

“I have been helping out in the gym, sparring lightly. I am a little bit in shape.”

Rios plans to do eight to ten weeks of training camp in the biggest fight of his life. (Nick Giongco, Manila Bulletin)