Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao made a triumphant comeback to the ring yesterday with an overwhelming points victory over Brandon Rios to win the World Boxing Organisation international welterweight championship.
The three ringside judges scored the fight 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 as Pacquiao handed out a lesson in clinical boxing to his less-experienced American opponent before a sold-out 13,200 audience packed with Filipinos at Macau’s Cotai Arena. The Filipino great, who had lost his last two fights, took the 12-round contest to Rios from the first bell, connecting with lightning combinations to the body and head behind a stinging left-hand lead.
Rios was on the canvas following a body shot in the first round, but the referee ruled no knockdown because the former lightweight world champion had slipped. Rios proved durable, taking blow after blow that might have finished off many boxers as Pacquiao gave him an all-over body workout and a boxing lesson in the American’s debut at welterweight.
Pacquiao, a congressman in the Philippines, which was recently ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan, was understandably emotional afterwards. “This is not about my comeback,” he said in the ring immediately after the fight ended. “This is about my people’s comeback from a natural disaster and a natural tragedy.”
By the third round Pacquiao was in complete control, rocking Rios back time and again with big left hands followed by super-sharp combinations. During the sixth Pacquiao opened up a cut above the American’s left eye as his opponent’s face began to puff up, showing the effects of Pac-Man’s relentless accuracy.
It seemed only a matter of time before Pacquiao would stop his man but, perhaps wary of walking onto a knockout punch as he had in his previous fight, he chose to pick off his opponent from arm’s length in a masterly performance. “Manny fought a perfect fight,” said his trainer Freddie Roach afterwards. “The body shots killed him.
“Manny let him off the hook. I wanted the knockout. It was there for him. But I’m very happy with his performance.” Roach had said a week ago that he would tell his charge to retire should he lose to Rios. There will be no thoughts of that now as Pacquiao showed all his blistering speed, skill and agility had returned after almost a year off and an intense eight-week training camp in the lead-up to the fight.
Just too quick
“I’m so happy,” added Pacquiao. “Because my time is not over.” Rios paid tribute to his conqueror. “It was his speed and his awkwardness that beat me,” he told reporters afterwards. “I haven’t faced a southpaw for a long time. He didn’t hurt me once. He’s a great fighter and was too quick for me. But I’ll be back.”
Rios’s trainer Robert Garcia added: “He is not only a great fighter, he is a great person.” Roach said he would now like a rematch with Mexican arch-rival Juan Manuel Marquez, who knocked “Pac-Man” out in their fourth meeting last December.