MACAU – Manny Pacquiao took a big leap forward when he scored a convincing and well-earned 12-round unanimous victory over tough Brandon Rios Sunday afternoon at the Cotai Arena
With the win, he left behind him the demons of his two losses last year – the knockout defeat to arch nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez the most painful of all his past failures.
But on Sunday, Pacquiao emerged a new man who showed that he has still plenty of miles left before he goes to sleep, to paraphrase his Robert Frost quote.
The Hall of Fame-bound Filipino boxing icon also added new dimension to his already impressive arsenal of speed, power and stamina. In outfoxing Rios, Pacquiao showed superior ring intelligence, a part of his game that has never been fully appreciated.
He fought a tactical battle, following a well-laid out strategy agains a tough Rios who showed more grit and ability than many gave him credit for. Still, Pacquiao did not not tilt.
He piled up his points and stacked his chips by carefully sniping Rios with well timed hooks to the body and his patented straight left leads. He avoided the right hand ambush by repeatedly circling to the left of Rios. Pacquiao was out of Rios’ sight faster than the American could count 1 to 3.
In instances that he backed Pacquiao to the ropes, Rios suddenly found his target already behind his back or far to the left of his shoulder.
At the press conference later, Rios said Pacquiao’s quickness got the better of him.
It was the frustration of not being able to pin down Pacquiao and land his shots that led him to roughhouse the Filipino boxing icon.
Rios was repeatedly warned by the referee for hitting during breaks and even lifted Pacquiao off his feet late in the fight.
Pacquiao was also annoyed by Rios’ repeated clinching and wrestling but kept his composure and refused to take the bait.
In the 12th round, Pacquiao eased up a bit and admitted he did not take any chances of another shock defeat by looking for a knockout.
Pacquiao has not stopped any opponent in the last 4 years, a matter that Rios’ trainer tried to sell before the fight.
It turned out that Pacquiao did not need the KO victory to prove he is back.
Robert Garcia, Rios coach, later said Pacquiao still has what it gets to be on the top again.
Pacquiao later gave credit to Rios, saying he was very tough despite catching a lot of punches from him.
Asked why he did not go for the knockout, Pacquiao said boxing was not about killing the opponent. He said boxing is entertainment and he was giving the crowd, largely composed of Filipinos, 12 exciting rounds.