MACAU – Manny Pacquiao whipped up the perfect storm in his comeback fight.
Inspired by a nation still in mourning and by his own personal quest for redemption, Pacquiao ushered his ring return with a dominant performance against Brandon Rios, scoring a unanimous decision against the tough-fighting American at the soldout Cotai Arena of the Venetian Hotel on Sunday.
Cheered on by an animated crowd of 13,101, the 34-year-old Filipino hardly showed the effects of an eleven-month layoff as he relentlessly punished his game opponent over 12 rounds.
And when everything was all over, the boxing legend from General Santos City was obviously the clear winner, running away with scores of 120-108 (Michael Pernick), 119-109 (Lisa Giampa), and 118-110 (Manfred Kuchler) - the three giving Rios a grand total of three rounds.
As always, Pacquiao was magnanimous in his 55th career victory (5 losses, two draws, with 38 KOs), offering his lopsided beating of Rios to the grieving people of the Philippines, especially those badly affected by super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that left over 5,000 people dead, thousands more still missing, and almost P10 billion in properties damaged.
“This is not about my comeback,” Pacquiao said afterwards. “My victory is a symbol of my people’s comeback (from a natural disaster and natural tragedy).”
The eight-time world champion scored at will against the 27-year-old Rios, who just doesn’t know how to back down and instead, repeatedly came forward against Pacquiao.
“His speed and awkwardness were the difference,” said Rios in the post-fight interview. “His quickness was his best punch (today).”
Pacquiao admitted being hurt by the native of Oxnard, California in the fifth round, but was able to withstand the onslaught.
He praised Rios, the former lightweight champion of the world whose record now stands at 31-2-1 with 22 KOs, whom he described as a very tough opponent notwithstanding the lopsided manner in which he won the fight.
“Rios is not any easy opponent, one of the toughest I’ve faced in my career,” the Filipino boxing star said.
The win also put to a halt Pacquiao’s longest losing streak in his career after back-to-back setbacks against Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez last year.
His loss against his 40-year-old Mexican rival was the most devastating as Pacquiao was knocked out cold in the sixth round of their welterweight showdown last year.
But by outclassing Rios, Pacquiao said he’s fully recovered from that stunning setback.
“I wanted to give a show and wanted to show that I have recovered from that knockout,” he said.
Robert Garcia, Rios’ trainer, agreed with the Pacman.
“Manny still has it,” he said. “He can still fight for a long time.”