Pacquiao comeback devastating
MACAU—Like a supertyphoon, Manny Pacquiao ravaged Brandon Rios on Sunday.
For 12 rounds, Pacquiao relentlessly battered the Mexican-American fighter, heralding his comeback with a lopsided unanimous decision in the headliner of “The Clash in Cotai” at The Venetian Macao.
And when his fury subsided, Pacquiao announced the victory wasn’t about his personal mission as a fighter—his victory was dedicated to his countrymen still reeling from the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” on Nov. 8.
“It (the victory) isn’t about my comeback. It symbolizes my people’s comeback,” said a teary-eyed Pacquiao, who will visit Tacloban City—one of the areas hardest hit by Yolanda—soon after his return home on Monday.
Pacquiao, the country’s richest congressman and $18-million richer after Sunday’s welterweight title bout, is certain to inflate the bulging donation coffers for the typhoon victims, but the amount seems hardly important.
What he did against Rios was enough to put smiles back on the faces of the millions of Filipinos who suffered in Yolanda’s wake.
Showing vintage form, Pacquiao hit Rios at will, wobbling his opponent in the sixth round with a three-punch combination, en route to a 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 decision by judges Michael Pernick, Lisa Giampa and Manfred Kuchler, respectively.
The INQUIRER scored it 120-108.
The outcome was never in doubt.
In victory, Pacquiao showed compassion, touching gloves with Rios midway in the 12th round, seemingly to signify he would let his opponent, who got overwhelmed by the Filipino’s speed, to finish standing.
The paying crowd of 13,101 fans, majority of whom were Filipinos, applauded both fighters even before the scores were announced. They had been treated to a show by Pacquiao with Rios a willing partner.
Now, the world knows that Pacquiao has put the memory of his devastating one-punch knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last December behind him.
His other message is that at 34—turning 35 on Dec. 17—and after 18 years of ring campaign, he’s still the same elite fighter who held crowns in eight weight divisions.
‘We will rise again’
“This is still my time. My time isn’t over,” said Pacquiao, who improved his ring record to 55-5-2 with 38 knockouts. “My journey will continue and we will rise again.”
Despite dominating Rios, Pacquiao gave credit to the iron-chinned former lightweight champion for hurting him in the fifth round and giving him one of his toughest fights ever.
The Compubox statistics reflected how the fight for the World Boxing Organization’s international welterweight belt went—Pacquiao landed 281 of 790 punches for a connection rate of 36 percent while Rios sneaked in 138 of 502 for 27 percent.
‘I couldn’t catch him’
Though Pacquiao failed to knock out Rios as he had predicted, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach said Pacquiao fought the perfect fight and he couldn’t ask for more.
“He followed the game plan and executed it well,” said Roach, who lauded Pacquiao for being a workhorse during their six-week training in General Santos City.
Rios, who sustained a bloody cut on the left eyebrow and a lump near his right eye, said Pacquiao’s speed was too much for him to handle.
“He’s very fast. I couldn’t catch him,” Rios said.
Known for his granite chin, Rios claimed Pacquiao never hurt him. It was clear though that like his friend, Antonio Margarito, in 2010, Pacquiao virtually turned him into a punching bag.
Other Filipino winners
With his second straight defeat, Rios fell to 31-2-1, with 22 knockouts, but earned the respect of Pacquiao for his gutsy, albeit futile, stand.
Two other Filipinos—Harmonito Dela Torre and Dan Nazareno Jr.—showed their mettle by disposing of their foreign rivals.
Dela Torre, 19, a rising star from General Santos, knocked out Indonesian Jason Butar-Butar in the third round. Nazareno, 24, stopped Briton Liam Vaughan—with whom he shared sparring duties for Pacquiao—in the second round.
Promoter Bob Arum announced that Pacquiao’s next fight would be on April 12 in Las Vegas against a yet to be named opponent.
Pacquiao’s immense popularity was again highlighted with the crowd cheering whenever his video clips were flashed on the hanging giant screens.
His pregnant wife Jinkee and mother Dionisia were around to provide moral support.
Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada also watched the 10-bout card, along with football icon David Beckham and international celebrity Paris Hilton.
The Filipinos’ newfound unity and their patriotism were also evident as they joined “American Idol” sensation Jessica Sanchez in singing the latter part of the national anthem “Lupang Hinirang.”
Filipino visitors, many of whom work in this gambling haven or in nearby Hong Kong, crowded the hotel lobbies, hoping to catch a glimpse of Pacquiao, their national treasure.
They left wearing smiles on their faces.
For them and for the millions back home who suffered in the wake of Yolanda’s fury, the fight seemed like a happy break.