Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao traveled all the way to Macau, China on his quest for redemption after suffering two consecutive losses, and he left with a win under his belt and a belt around his waist as he defeated Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios via unanimous decision for the vacant WBO International Welterweight title.
The victory had a little bit of everything that you'd want to see from Pacquiao after his most recent loss to Juan Manuel Marquez. Great footwork, solid combinations and a commitment to the game plan put Pacquiao up on the cards early and left Rios with very little hope of winning:
Rios being totally outclassed. Pacquiao is too fast, too quick. Combinations coming in bunches. Rios has to do something different here— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) November 24, 2013
After Pacquiao's usual aggressive style cost him dearly against a dangerous counterpuncher in Marquez, his ability to outbox Rios showed up in the stats and is an indicator that Pac-Man still has plenty left in the tank:
Though Rios continued to take the punishment without giving up, this was a fight that was never in question. Pacquiao looked like his vintage self in dominating the bout from bell to bell and came away with the decisive victory.
There were plenty of question marks surrounding Pacquiao heading into the fight after looking like a shell of his former self in a knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez nearly a year ago. That version of Pacquiao was nowhere to be found in his impressive victory on Saturday, though.
The 34-year-old Pacquiao may no longer be in the prime of his career, but he proved against Rios that he is still capable of competing at a very high level. This was pretty much a must-win fight from Pacquiao's perspective since another loss would have damaged his credibility significantly, and he came through in a big way when he needed to most.
In addition to the victory revitalizing Pacquiao's career, the fight meant so much more to Pac-Man. According to ESPN Boxing, Pacquiao was fighting for his countrymen in the Philippines after a devastating typhoon rocked the nation earlier this month.
Manny Pacquiao dedicates next fight to victims of Typhoon Haiyan http://t.co/6xFSOrDlck— ESPN Boxing (@ESPNBoxing) November 13, 2013
Although Pacquiao's win obviously won't bring back the lives that were lost, he provided a momentary distraction and brought joy to his homeland in the very least. Pacquiao clearly cares deeply for his home country, and there is no doubt that he had added motivation to come out on top.
Despite the fact that Pacquiao suffered losses to Marquez and Timothy Bradley ahead of the Rios fight, he seemed extremely confident that he would be able to regain his elite form. One of the big reasons for that, according to Bad Left Hook, was the fact that he took some time off from boxing in an effort to refresh himself.
It's not so much what I have learned from the Bradley and Marquez fights that is preparing me for my battle with Rios, it's what I have done in advance of my training camp for the Rios fight, and that is to rest. Taking the longest break of my professional career refreshed me physically and mentally. Though I always enjoy training for a fight, I was more eager than usual for this training camp. I missed boxing.
In many ways it can be argued that Pacquiao took a page out of rival Floyd Mayweather's book. Observers have always questioned whether or not Mayweather would be the same fighter after taking extended breaks, but he has seemingly always come back better than ever. That was true for Pacquiao as well.
Now that it is quite clear that Pacquiao is back, it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. While Rios was a solid opponent to get back on track against, he didn't carry the same drawing power as many of the boxers Pacquiao has competed against in recent years.
Who will Pacquiao fight next after defeating Rios?
It's obvious that Pacquiao vs. Mayweather is still the fight that every boxing fan wants to see, but it's difficult to imagine that bout coming to fruition. Each side has been unwilling to make concessions in previous negotiations, and now that Mayweather has developed the caveat of Pacquiao joining Mayweather Promotions in order to make the fight happen, the odds of an agreement occurring are slim and none.
Even if the dream fight of Pacquiao vs. Mayweather doesn't happen, Pacquiao has plenty of options. Adrien Broner, Amir Khan, Devon Alexander and Kell Brook are all fairly big names that he has yet to lock horns with.
Pacquiao was still going to be a draw to a certain extent whether he beat Rios or not, but the victory will surely re-energize boxing fans when it comes to wanting to see Pacquiao fight. Pac-Man announced with a vengeance on Saturday that he is back, which means the boxing world is once again on notice.
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