Against an opponent handpicked to make him look spectacular, Manny Pacquiao appeared just that.
Against an opponent handpicked to make him look spectacular, Manny Pacquiao appeared just that.

The Filipino overwhelmed Brandon Rios on Sunday morning before a sell out crowd of 13,101 at the CotaiArena at the Venetian Macao, winning a unanimous decision and turning back rumblings of his demise. With a punishing display of speed, footwork, power and ring generalship, Pacquiao showed glimpses of the fighter who captured world titles in a record eight weight-classes (from 112 to 154lbs), catapulting from fringe curiosity to global brand.
Even the wide margins of the official scores ? 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 ? understated the case: Rios didn?t win a single minute, let alone a whole round.

Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KOs) had been coming off consecutive defeats ? the former a controversial points loss to Timothy Bradley, the latter a seismic knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez ? but his slump extended back even further. He?d underwhelmed in four straight outings, showing indications of physical decline and fading in the later rounds. The Filipino congressman, who turns 35 next month, needed to deliver an impressive performance to thrust his name back among boxing?s elite.

Mission accomplished.

?My time is not over yet,? said Pacquiao who dedicated the victory to his countrymen affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Rios (31-2-1, 22 KOs), a former lightweight titleholder, had promised to send Pacquiao into retirement, to expose the eight-division champion as slow and past his prime. The 27-year-old said he?d prepared for the best Manny Pacquiao, even if he made it clear he wasn?t expecting it.

Only his granite chin lived up to advertising.

From the opening bell, Pacquiao found a home for the straight left, sending a crowd that included David Beckham and Paris Hilton into rollicking cheers with every punch that landed. Rios, while tentative early, managed to score with a series of thudding body shots, but Pacquiao boxed from range beautifully and connected with punches from all angles.

By the fourth, the fight had settled into a familiar pattern: Rios moved straight in, unable to keep up with his opponent?s slick lateral movement. Pacquiao would fire crisp combinations before pirouetting down and to his right, safely out of range of Rios? TNT-packed right hand. It was a step he’d rehearsed ad infinitum with his trainer, Freddie Roach, during training camp and it worked to perfection, leaving Rios reaching at thin air. School was in session.

It seemed Rios?s strategy was to absorb Pacquiao?s worst punishment and hope his opponent faded in the later rounds. Clearly frustrated at the elusive target before him, Rios received the first of several warnings for holding and hitting from the referee Genaro Rodriguez. When the bell rang to end the seventh, the look of discouragement on Rios?s face as he retreated to his corner spoke volumes. It only went downhill from there.

Pacquiao landed 281 of 790 punches (35.6%), compared to just 138 of 502 (27.5%) for Rios.

?All I can say is many Manny punches,? quipped Roach. ?He fought the perfect fight. Body shots killed him. Manny let him off the hook, I wanted him to knock him out.?

Rios, who suffered a cut above his left eye, insisted he never felt Pacquiao?s power.

?I never got hurt,? said Rios, who suffered a second consecutive loss after going unbeaten in his first 32 pro fights. ?I never got stunned. I think the quickness just threw me off guard. I feel good. I could go five more rounds.?

The victory propels Pacquiao right back into the mix at welterweight, boxing?s glamour division, where lucrative rematches with Bradley and Marquez could happen in the next year. Bob Arum, Pacquiao?s promoter, said his next fight will take place on 14 April, most likely in Las Vegas.

One potential opponent Arum didn’t mention ? but the only name that’s mattered for years ? was Floyd Mayweather Jr. Seldom do a generation’s two finest boxers come from the same weight class ? and rarer still are they both roughly the same age. Mayweather-Pacquiao is a fight the public made years ago and its failure to materialise remains the tragicomic nadir of boxing’s institutional dysfunction. Yet Pacquiao insisted he wants to make it happen.

“Anybody who will fight with me, I will fight,” he said. “I’m willing to fight Floyd, but it’s up to him.”

He had no answer when asked what obstacles have prevented the fight from being made. “That question is for Floyd Mayweather’s camp,” he said.

Pacquiao, fighting on his home continent for the first time since 2006, earned a guaranteed $18m for Saturday’s outing, a figure nearly certain to swell to more than $30m based on the pay-per-view receipts. The tax-friendly structure of Macau will allow him to take home the entirety of the earnings. Had the fight happened in the US, anywhere from 36 to 40% would have been forfeited in taxes (Rios will take home a career-high $4m).

The fight took place on Sunday morning to accommodate the prime-time viewing audience on Saturday in the United States. So obsessed was the network with limiting potential confusion that marketing material for the pay-per-view made no mention of the location.

The scene was predictably surreal, offering the typical after-hours atmosphere of a Las Vegas blockbuster ? complete with well-lubricated fans and impossibly proportioned women in gravity-defying eveningwear ? at an hour typically reserved for breakfast. The first fight started at8am local time. The media buffet opened at 5am. The production call time for HBO, which broadcast the fight, was 2am.

Yet the main event itself, which started at 12:41pm local time, went just as expected. Rios, a conventional pressure fighter, had been regarded as an opponent made to order for Pacquiao.

Indeed he was. Roach, when asked to assess Rios this week, was as succinct as he was prescient.

“He is a tough guy, and tough guys don’t win fights; good boxers win fights,? Roach said.

Source: The Guardian


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