Manny Pacquiao keen to fight on after commanding win over Brandon Rios
Manny Pacquiao is back. And it looks as if he might still be around for a while after he delivered a commanding performance that will have helped lift the spirits of his struggling nation.
On one of the biggest days of his career on Sunday and in front of a galaxy of stars at Macau’s Cotai Arena that included soccer star David Beckham and heiress Paris Hilton, the 34-year-old Philippines icon handed Mexican-American Brandon Rios an unforgettable boxing lesson as he lifted the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) international welterweight title.
It was a welcome win for the Philippines still suffering the effects of Typhoon Haiyan.
A sell-out crowd of 13,200 witnessed a spectacular day of boxing as The Clash of Cotai tournament lived up to its hype. Pacquiao, coming off two successive defeats, outboxed, outmatched and outpunched the 27-year-old Rios.
The biggest surprise of the 12-round bout, that ended with Pacquiao winning by unanimous decision, was that “Bam Bam” Rios was still standing at the end of the fight after receiving so much punishment.
Pacquiao’s quickness with his deft hands and his famous footwork shone through once again. Rios tried to land that one big knockout punch time again. He hit Pacman with solid body shots, but Pacman was too quick and smart for the American in the end.
“As I said, this fight was for all the people, and the families that were affected by the typhoon. I’m very happy that God answered my prayer,” said Pacquiao, who raised his record to 55-5-2, 38 KOs.
“It was very difficult for me [not to visit the ravaged areas] because I was in the middle of the training camp and I wanted to go, but I couldn’t. I was just praying for them and I just sent my staff there to bring them help and relief goods. I promised them that after the fight I would visit them. I plan to go there as soon as possible,” he said.
“In the beginning of the fight I wanted to show everybody the real Manny Pacquiao and to use my boxing skills. I think I proved I still have them. I’m happy God gave me the strength.”
Asked about the critics who had thought his time was over, Pacquiao said: “This is not my time yet. I will continue. As I said, we will rise again. That’s what happened.”
Rios, now 31-2-1, 22 KOs, was defiant to the end. “He didn’t hurt me,” said the brash American, who was wearing sunglasses in the post-match interview. “I tried my hardest. I worked my butt off in the gym. But Pacquiao was too fast and too awkward for me. What got me was his speed. He proved he still has it. But I’ll bounce back, too,” he said.
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, said his protégé showed “compassion” in the end and could have finished the bout inside the distance.
“He [Pacquiao] didn’t step on the gas pedal. He could have. He knew Rios was beaten in every round and had had enough. He saw Rios was hurt and they touched gloves. He fought a great fight. He followed the game plan to a tee,” said the Hall of Fame trainer.
Even towards the end of the 12-round bout, Pacquiao was still able to string together a series of beautiful combinations. At the end of the fight, when the end was near, the crowd got up on their feet. They chanted “Manny, Manny, Manny!” Rios tried to land that one decisive punch but it was clear who was the winner. At the sound of the bell, the two embraced, ending any animosity there might have been between them after the training camp bust-up on Wednesday.
“Rios is a tough kid. He took the beating like a man,” said Roach. “But Manny showed that he’s back. He’s a great warhorse. Overall, he boxed very well,” said the American trainer.
Asked whether he was surprised that Rios was still standing at the end of the fight, Roach said: “I told Manny that if he stuck to the game plan, he would easily win. He was too fast for him. He threw great combinations.”
Does Pacquiao think he has a chance to bring about the fight everybody has been waiting for – Pacquiao v Floyd Mayweather Jnr? The Filipino congressman replied: “My job is to fight. Anybody who wants to fight with me, I can fight with them. I’m really wanna fight. It’s up to Bob Arum [Top Rank chairman and CEO].