Brandon Rios may not want to relive his fight against Manny Pacquiao—would you want to relive getting punched 281 times while you only landed 138 in retaliation?—but that's exactly what we are going to do here.
Pacquiao was utterly dominant in his first bout since being knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez last December, winning a unanimous decision (119-109, 120-108 and 118-110). He was faster than Rios, stronger than Rios and consistently took the fight to Rios over the duration of the bout.
In a word, it was a clinic.
From the gate, it was clear that Pacquiao was going to be dominant. He came out aggressively in the first round, throwing a flurry of dizzying combos that Rios simply couldn't handle. It was clear the Pac-Man had some demons to extinguish.
The fourth round was vintage Pacquiao. He came at Rios from awkward angles the challenger seemed unable to defend. He dipped in and out, landing quick yet heavy blows.
Of course, it was also in the fourth round that Rios most assertively tried to enforce his strategy, turning the fight into an all-out brawl. He held and clutched at Pacquiao. He landed body shots in close. He frustrated Pac-Man.
It was, in many ways, a cross section of the entire fight. But Pacquiao brought his A-game in the fifth and decided it was time to simply out-box the challenger.
In the fifth, it appeared Pacquiao wouldn't just win but would do so in style, knocking Rios out. A straight left had Rios pulling away the cobwebs and definitely seemed to stun him, but give Rios this—the man can take a punch. Actually, the man can take 281 punches.
The only thing that came close to being as impressive as Pac-Man's performance was Rios' toughness.
Perhaps the old Pac-Man would have gone for the knockout after again stunning Rios with a pair of devastating combos in the sixth, but this was a new, perhaps wiser Pacquiao still aware of getting caught by Marquez.
Instead, Pacquiao was methodical, continuing to dominate rounds and inflict damage, seemingly satisfied with battering Rios unmercifully if he couldn't knock him out. By the later rounds—where Pac-Man has been accused of letting off the gas pedal in the past—he essentially turned Rios into a sentient punching bag, almost in direct response to any critique his naysayers might levy at him.
This was a revival of sorts, a comeback for a man whose relevance in the sport has taken a major hit over two winless years. It may have ultimately been an easy victory, but the stakes were huge.
Does this victory mean that a superfight with Floyd Mayweather will happen? That still seems unlikely. But is it at least still in the realm of possibility?
It sure is. And that's all we can ask for. On this night, Pac-Man was back. For both the boxer and his sport, that was the most important moment of all.
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