Last Saturday night, Macau, China hosted the return of Manny Pacquiao in his quest to correct his faltering career following back-to-back losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez. Coming into the fight, Pacquiao’s opponent, Brandan Rios, issued a warning: “one Mexican knocked him out, this Mexican-American is going to retire Manny Pacquiao.”
With tensions reaching a fever pitch heading into the fight, culminating in a heated exchange between Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach and Brandan Rios’ camp that escalated into one of Rios’ trainers kicking Roach in the chest, both fighters had not only their legacies on the line but also the dignity of their training camps.
Entering this fight on the back of the first consecutive losses of his career, Pacquiao needed to win this fight to assure critics and fans alike that he has what it takes to return to his former glory and that his losses to Bradley and Marquez were nothing more than lapses of concentration in a career that could have had the potential to allow him to contend for the title of greatest lightweight boxer of all time.
A win for Rios, on the other hand, would have given him the bragging rights to say that he beat a guy who in his prime was one of the best in the world and would have acted as a stepping stone to get him closer to title contention following the loss of his Interim WBO Light Welterweight Championship.
However, whether that animosity would translate into a quality boxing match was very much anyone’s guess. Thankfully, though, the fight ended up delivering on all its promises.
Pacquiao started to control the fight early with his left hook finding a mark and even forcing a slip from Rios at one point. Pacquiao’s hip movement and feints are truly second to none and he continued to utilise it in this fight, making Rios cover up for shots that weren’t coming and open up for shots were. Rios tried valiantly to counter this with short shots on the inside but they just weren’t doing enough damage to even slightly phase Pacquiao.
The rest of the fight continued at this pace with Pacquiao landing ferocious lefts at will and Rios attempting to bully Pacquiao about the ring, only to have his efforts made vain by Pacquiao’s ability to cut angles and circle out. When Rios started to tire Pacquiao started to whip off ferocious combinations.
As the fight went on, Rios got increasingly frustrated and his inability to land meaningful punches on the much faster Pacquiao who was simply outworking him. This culminated in Pacquiao dancing around Rios’ punches in the final rounds and landing heavy combinations to ensure a dominant victory.
Ultimately, Pacquiao’s speed proved too much for Rios. From the opening frame, Rios was unable to really find his mark and Pacquiao made sure this continued throughout the fight with exquisite hip movement, feints and fakes. It is a compliment to Rios’ chin that he managed to make it to the decision and wasn’t knocked out in the process of this truly dominant beating.
The judges scored the fight 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 to the clear winner Pacquiao. With this impressive display under his belt, it appears that Pacquiao is truly on the road to redemption and, if last night is anything to go by, it might not be long until he is contending for best in the world status once again.