Three thoughts on Manny Pacquiao’s lopsided unanimous decision win over Brandon Rios for the WBO international welterweight title in Macau:
Pacquiao is back. In the aftermath of a horrifying knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last December, questions about whether Pacquaio would be the same fighter lingered. But while Pacquiao is not the same human wrecking ball he was through 2009, he proved against Rios that, at 34, he still has plenty left. Boxing brilliantly, Pacquiao moved in, out and around Rios, peppering him with combinations, bruising his face with thudding power shots. It was an easy fight to score — evidenced by the 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 scorecards — with little controversy.
Rios was selected for this fight for a reason: He’s a tough guy with a television-friendly style who is easy to hit. Pacquiao needed a confidence-rebuilding fight, and he got it against Rios, who, save for a handful of decent punches, was never able to mount much of a threat. The punch stats backed that up: Per CompuBox, Pacquiao landed 281 of 790 (36 percent) while Rios connected on 138 of 502 (27 percent)
Thanks for coming, Brandon. Few expected Rios to beat Pacquiao. But Rios’ unwillingness to go for broke, to chase a knockout when it was clear he was way down late in the fight was disappointing. Rios and his team talked tough before the fight but did little to back it up. He never adjusted to Pacquiao’s speed, and despite his insistence that he wasn’t bothered by Pacquiao’s power, refused to stand and trade shots with him. For a $4 million payday, Rios left little doubt that he is not in Pacquiao’s class, and probably never will be.
Moving on. Let’s get this out of the way right now: A Floyd Mayweather fight isn’t happening. Money and politics scuttled any chance of that fight long ago. Moreover, making that fight right now, after years of frustrating excuses from both sides, would be insulting. Pacquiao has clearly lost a step, clearly isn’t the same fighter who emerged as the best in the world from 2008 to 2010. It would do nothing to settle the dispute of who is the best fighter in this generation.
For Pacquiao (55-5-2), a fifth fight against Marquez is a likely option. Marquez has not committed to continuing his career following a loss to Timothy Bradley, but another career-high payday against Pacquiao would be a nice carrot to lure him back to the ring. For all the talk about Pacquiao-Marquez fatigue, the two have rarely fought a dull round, much less fight, and it guarantees more than one million pay-per-view buys. Putting the fight in Mexico could create a little more spice to matchup.
Rios (31-2) has plenty of options, too. A third fight against Mike Alvarado is inevitable and a matchup against the rugged Ruslan Provodnikov would be a can’t-miss. Expect him to get a softer touch in his next fight to rebuild his confidence after back-to-back losses, then get right back in the ring for a high profile matchup.
– Chris Mannix