Pacquiao beats Rios in unanimous decision

Natashya Gutierrez

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Pacquiao bounces back from two consecutive losses taking down Brandon Rios via unanimous decision

POWER PUNCH. Manny Pacquiao delivers a left hook straight to the face of a bleeding Brandon Rios. Photo by Team Pacquiao / Mike Young

MACAU (SECOND UPDATE) – And Manny Pacquiao is back in the game. 

Pacquiao defeated the younger Brandon Rios on Sunday, November 24 via unanimous decision here at the Cotai Arena in Macau to win the WBO International Welterweight title In front of an overwhelmingly pro-Pacquiao sellout crowd of over 13,200.

Pacquiao outboxed and outclassed his much younger opponent as expected, clearly the faster, smarter fighter. Rios, known for his iron chin, powered through however, but had a bloody face by the end of the fight compared to Pacquiao who looked virtually unaffected.

Official scorecards: 120-108, 119-109, 118-110. Two judges gave Rios the 8th round.

The Filipino champion looked impressive in the ring, landing punches from unorthodox angles, then quickly moving away making him hard for Rios to hit. The bigger Rios tried several times to pin Pacquiao up against the ropes to force him to trade punches but Pacquiao slipped away. 

In a press conference after the fight, Rios insisted Pacquiao was unable to hurt him and said it was Pacquiao’s “speed and awkwardness” that caught him off guard. Rios said Pacquiao was faster than he expected him to be.

“It just sucks. I trained my ass off for this fight. I really wanted to win,” he said.

Even Rios’ trainer Robert Garcia was impressed by Pacquiao’s performance. “Pacquiao fought great tonight. I think [tonight] we’ve all seen the best Pacquiao,” he said.

Pacquiao too was pleased with his own fight, saying he thought he proved his critics wrong.

“I’m so thankful to God that he answered my prayers that we will rise again,” he said, adding, “I said I would be like the young Manny Pacquiao… I think I proved it. I’m happy.”

Pure domination

Paquiao’s domination was evident, as shown by the numbers. According to CompuBox, “Rios landed just 9 power punches per round after landing 21 per round in his previous 6 fights” showing how difficult it was for him to catch the much faster Pacquiao.

Additionally, @ESPNStatsInfo said “Pacquiao landed 281 total punches, 241 of which were to the head,” showing Pacquiao’s precision.

Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach also praised his fighter’s showing, calling it a “perfect fight.”

“Manny Pacquiao, he’s back. I never really thought he went anywhere. He’s a great work horse. He really boxed well tonight,” Roach said.

He also gave credit to the opponent, adding, “Rios is a very tough guy. Im not sure how he stood up the whole time.”

Roach said he thought Pacquiao could have finished Rios off in the 12th round, but said his fighter “took it easy” on Rios because he saw no reason to hurt him.

The Filipino fighter was picked by analysts and sportswriters to win over his less experienced counterpart. His victory comes at an ideal time. Pacquiao is coming off two losses in 2012 — this is his first win in two years. Another defeat could have fueled talks of retirement.

Pacquiao said retirement is not yet on the horizon.

“This is not my time yet. My journey will continue. I said we will rise again and that’s what happened.”

Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva/Rappler

Win for the Philippines

The triumph is extra special for the Philippines – especially for the victims of the recent Super Typhoon Haiyan – which needed uplifting after the monster storm ravaged areas of the country. Pacquiao earlier dedicated his fight to the typhoon victims.

At the press conference, Pacquiao thanked his Filipino fans and said he hoped his win brought “honor and happiness” to the country, particularly those affected by the typhoon. He said not being able to leave his training in General Santos to visit the victims was difficult, but that he sent as much aid and relief as he could.

“I promised them after the fight I will go to Tacloban to visit them. (I plan to go) as soon as possible,” he said.

Mayweather fight?

Before the fight, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said this was the best he has seen Pacquiao in years. Pacquiao, who trained completely in his hometown, took time off his duties as Sarangani congressman to focus on the fight. He too was confident of a win.

After the win, names of Pacquiao’s next opponent were thrown around at the press conference namely American Timothy Bradley who defeated Pacquiao early last year by split decision in one of the sport’s most controversial decisions; Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao’s bitter arch rival who dealt Pacquiao a devastating 6th round knockout in December 2012 triggering his one year lay-off; and Floyd Mayweather Jr, widely considered the sport’s top boxer right now, with whom past fight negotiations versus Pacquiao have consistently fallen through. 

Pacquiao called out Mayweather, saying he is open to fighting him.

“My job is to fight. Anyone who will fight me, I can fight. I’m willing to fight Floyd, but it’s up to him if he’s willing also,” he said.

Boxing promoter Bob Arum said Pacquiao will next fight on April 12.-

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.