American Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios promised a funeral, but the boxing world instead witnessed a resurrection.
With his boxing career on the line, Filipino ring icon Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao pulverized the highly-ambitious but extremely limited Rios in 12 rounds to salvage his reputation that was left in ruins by a crushing right hand from Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez last December.
Truth be told, Rios was given only a puncher’s chance of scoring an upset, but what made the fight intriguing was the possibility of Pacquiao manifesting in the ring the harrowing effects of the setback to Marquez. Serious questions were raised on Pacquiao’s overall fistic ability after the loss to Marquez, with some quarters even suggesting retirement for the former eight-division champion. Aged 34, without a knockout win in the last four years and coming off back-to-back losses, Pacquiao seemed due for a swan song.
When the smoke of battle cleared, however, all the nosy insinuations about Pacquiao being washed up vanished into thin air, at least for the time being. After a cautious start, Pacquiao got his rhythm going and started pelting the recklessly lunging Rios with well-timed left straights. Pacquiao handled the wild bull that is Rios with the grace of a matador; wisely sidestepping the latter’s lunges and retaliating with punches thrown at precise angles. Pacquiao brought out his masteral degree in boxing and taught Rios a neat boxing lesson.
As envisioned by the experts, Pacquiao’s handspeed and ring guile proved to be the big difference. Rios was just too slow and predictable, giving Pacquiao all the time in the world to concoct combinations. Notable during the fight is the way Pacquiao planted his feet more on the canvas. Pacquiao has acquired the habit of punching off the balls of his feet in the past, but against Rios he made it a point to firmly plant his feet before throwing a punch. The adjustment was necessary because it was while trying to punch while bouncing off his feet that Pacquiao stepped on Marquez’s left foot, lost his balance and walked straight into a vicious counter right hand punch from the Mexican.
Rios was pretty banged up at the end of the fight. He was cut on both eyes, on the nose and sported swollen cheeks. Rios insisted he was never seriously hurt, but Pacquiao admitted after the fight that he held back his offense to avoid committing the same mistakes he made against Marquez. That Pacquiao decided to play it safe is understandable. The fight with Rios was all about getting his boxing mojo back. After nearly a year in the cocoon, Pacquiao needed to work up a sweat to fine-tune everything in his boxing arsenal. By going 12 hard rounds with Rios, Pacquiao convinced many that he remains headline material and is far from being yesterday’s news.
Pacquiao was awarded a lopsided decision by all three judges. One judge even scored all 12 rounds for the Filipino with a score of 120-108. Post-fight statistics also showed that Pacquiao landed 36 percent of his punches (790 punches thrown, 281 landed) compared to Rios’ 27% (502 punches thrown, 138 landed).
Pacquiao raised his record to 55-5 with 38 knockouts. He is eyeing another fight in April, and the prospective foes include WBO junior welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov, WBO welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., Marquez, and reigning junior middleweight kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr. Bradley and Marquez appear to be the frontrunners, with Mayweather Jr. a long shot.
Time is running out for Pacquiao and he should zero in on the fights that will add to his legacy. Verily, you can scratch from the list Provodnikov and Bradley and leave only Marquez and Mayweather. Pacquiao needs Marquez for a fifth fight if only to exorcise the demons of the knockout loss he suffered in the hands of the Mexican. On the other hand, a win over Mayweather Jr. will give Pacquiao’s boxing career a never-before-seen fairy tale ending.
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