With the alternative being a third straight loss and possible retirement, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Manny Pacquiao is back following his 12-round whitewash of hard-charging Brandon Rios on Saturday at the CotaiArena in Macau.
A month shy of his 35th birthday, this might not have been the same Pacquiao who had dismantled top opponents at the peak of his prime with a spellbinding combination of speed and power. But in his first fight following a scary, one-punch knockout against Juan Manuel Marquez last December, coming off the longest layoff his career, it wasn’t too shabby.
Pacquiao simply had his way with the one-dimensional Rios, establishing himself early to the body before continuously peppering the Mexican-American fighter with combinations upstairs en route to an easy, unanimous-decision win.
Key moment: Round 1. Nearly all of boxing waited on the edge of their seats for that first moment in which Rios landed a clean shot against Pacquiao. In the end, the drama was short-lived, as Pacquiao took Rios’ best shots -- although he admitted after the fight to being hurt in Round 5 -- and showed no ill effects of his knockout against Marquez. With that hurdle cleared, it became clear that Pacquiao was simply a better fighter and Rios, despite plenty of heart, was in for a long night.
We've got your number: 20-5. That was the disparity in punches landed between Pacquiao and Rios in Round 1. The PacMan set the tone in the first three minutes that his speed and explosive accuracy were going to be a problem for Rios and went on to land 48 percent of his power punches over 12 rounds, according to CompuBox.
Last word: There’s no question Pacquiao’s comeback victory likely reopens the conversation regarding the outcry for him to finally face Floyd Mayweather Jr. Unfortunately, we aren’t any closer politically than we were during the original period the fight should have been made. Pacquiao, however, still finds himself in good position to land marketable rematches with both Timothy Bradley Jr. and Marquez in 2014. As far as Rios is concerned, the all-action brawler endured tremendous punishment for the third straight fight, following two memorable brawls with Mike Alvarado. A long break is in order.