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Manny is the man in Macao

Updated: 2013-11-25 07:52
By Murray Greig in Macao ( China Daily)

Philippine boxing great utterly outclasses Rios in WBO title bout

Manny Pacquiao gave himself - and the typhoon-ravaged Philippines - an early Christmas present on Sunday in Macao.

In keeping with the festive theme of 'The Clash in Cotai' at the Venetian Resort & Casino - complete with elves, decorated trees and fake snow - Pacquiao attacked Brandon Rios like Tiny Tim tearing into the holiday turkey, pounding out a lopsided 12-round decision over the gutsy American to win the WBO international welterweight title.

Manny is the man in Macao

Manny Pacquiao makes Brandon Rios eat leather during their WBO International welterweight title fight on Sunday in Macao. Pacquiao defeated Rios by unanimous decision to take the title and return to his accustomed winning ways after successive defeats. Vincent Yu / Associated Press

The outcome was foreshadowed by the fighters' body language during ring announcer Michael Buffer's introductions. Pacquiao, an eight-time world champion in as many weight classes, looked positively predatory while Rios, pacing back and forth just a few feet away, looked like a man waiting for root canal surgery.

In his first comeback since being KO'd by Juan Marquez 11 months ago, Pacquiao, a Philippines congressman who dedicated the fight to the thousands of his countrymen victimized by Typhoon Haiyan earlier this month, wasted no time.

The first round set the tone for the rest of the bout, with Pacquiao landing four punches for every one that got through from Rios. Two minutes after the opening bell, Rios hit the deck after being cuffed by a short chopping left, but referee Geno Rodriguez ruled it a slip.

By Round 3, Pacquiao added a variety of body shots to his arsenal, and Rios appeared to be hurt by a triple hook to the ribs. When Rios tried to spring off the ropes to escape the line of fire, Pacquiao went up the middle with a volley of jolting lefts that again had the taller man reeling.

Manny is the man in Macao

A similar scenario played out over the next several rounds: Pacquiao stalking his man like a timber wolf, while Rios was content to do the best he could in survival mode. Pacquiao's punch volume never let up, and as a result Rios' face began to look like it had been run through a meat grinder.

The American's best round was the fifth, when he hurt Pacquiao with a four-punch combination, but as quickly as that offense materialized, it vanished.

By Round 8 it was obvious to the sold-out crowd of 15,500 at Cotai Arena that Rios needed a knockout to win, but Pacquiao never relented until the 12th, when he finally took his foot off the gas pedal to spare Rios further punishment.

The judges' scores reflected Pacquiao's dominance: 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110.

"I want to thank God for answering my prayers for a victory that will bring some happiness to those in my country who lost so much in the typhoon; this is to honor them," said Pacquiao, who improved to 55-5-2.

"I also want to thank Brandon Rios for making this a great fight. He is a very tough man ... one of the toughest I have faced in my career. He took a lot of left hands but just kept coming forward."

While acknowledging he was shaken by Rios' flurry in Round 5, Pacquiao said he made a conscious effort not to abandon his all-out attacking style until the fight was all but finished.

"I learned from my last fight not to hesitate or change when things are going well," he said "I was very careful not to make that mistake. I just wanted to keep punching, no matter what. Manny is the man in Macao

"In Round 12 we knew it was won, so my corner told me to hold back a little. This is boxing; we are not trying to kill each other. There is no sense trying to hurt the guy more."

Rios said Pacquiao's speed and "awkwardness" made the difference.

"Manny is very quick ... he punches much faster than I thought he did," said the former WBA lightweight champ, who dropped to 31-2-1. "And I was surprised he went to the body so much, too.

"He is also a really awkward guy to fight. Whenever we got close, he grabbed or held me, and it was very frustrating. He didn't give me a lot of room to punch in there."

Rios, who was given two warnings for punching on the break and punching behind the head, said he would welcome a rematch.

"By going the distance with one of the best fighters ever, I think I proved to the world that I'm nobody's punching bag," he said. "I'd love to fight Manny again."

That's not going to happen, because Pacquiao proved something to the world, too: even at age 35 (as of Dec 17), he's still in a class all by himself.

(China Daily 11/25/2013 page24)