Manny Pacquiao is back.
That was apparent enough by looking at Brandon Rios' battered face from Venetian Macao in Macau, China, after Pacquiao was named the winner via unanimous decision.
It was not a knockout or TKO for Pacquiao, but it was a dominant showing nonetheless as HBO illustrates through the final scorecard:
As SportsCenter details, Pacquiao looked unstoppable in the bout:
Absolutely dominant showing by Manny Pacquiao. Lands nearly TWICE as many punches, cruises in unanimous decision over Brandon Rios. #PacRios— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 24, 2013
Landing almost twice as many punches as an opponent is an impressive feat for any boxer. For Pacquiao at the highest stage of them all, it's a return to form that will put the rest of the boxing world on notice.
Pacquiao was exquisite with his footwork and movement, which did more than enough to neutralize a heavy hitter such as Rios. His left hand did enough damage to create grapefruits sure to be basketballs by the next morning on the sides of Rios' face.
ESPN summarized the lopsided affair efficiently via numerals:
According to CompuBox, Pacquiao landed an avgerage of 23 of 66 punches per round... Rios landed just 12 of 42 per round tonight— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 24, 2013
Apologies for the resend - Pacquiao landed 281 total punches, 241 of which were to the HEAD #PacRios— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 24, 2013
Was it a mismatch of styles? Absolutely. Pacquiao easily sat back and avoided the advances of Rios all night before landing wicked counters to a devastating effect.
Could Pacquiao have gone for the knockout? Sure, but an overly aggressive style with the match in hand is a bad idea against a fighter like Rios.
The comeback story for Pacquiao is complete. After a loss to Timothy Bradley in June 2012 and a brutal knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao needed a strong fight to put himself back in boxing's upper echelon.
Or did he? Controversy engulfed the Bradley decision, and Marquez had little control over the fight before landing a devastating blow (one Pacquiao was wise to avoid on Sunday). Steve Kim puts it best:
going back to his last 3 fights, most thought Pac beat Bradley, was looking good vs JMM till the last punch and just beat Rios decisively #— Steve Kim (@stevemaxboxing) November 24, 2013
Who should Pacquiao fight next?
Perhaps Pacquiao never left, but money talks in this violent sport. Pacquiao needed to convince promoters, fans and countless others he hadn't lost a step.
So what's next? Pacquiao doesn't have the clout to earn a fight with Floyd Mayweather just yet. A fifth bout with Marquez would make the most sense for both parties as it would draw the most cash. Even a bout with Bradley is a strong option.
Regardless of which way Pacquiao and his camp decide to go, the world has now officially been put on notice—Pacquiao is back and remains a force until further notice.
The era of boxing dominance by Pacquiao has yet to see an end.