MACAU, CHINA — Brandon Rios brought a measured and cautious approach to the ring, but Manny Pacquiao’s speed and accuracy were still too much as the Filipino star made a successful return Saturday night (November 23) with a wide decision win.
Rios tried to work off the backfoot in the opening rounds and make Pacquiao come to him. This strategy was nullified by Pacquiao shooting straight lefts to the body and timing uppercuts and hooks around Rios guard and sliding out before he could retaliate.
By the fifth, Pacquiao began to increase his flashy combinations while Rios slowed and lumbered after him. Although Pacquiao never showcased a sustained whirlwind of movement as seen in previous, he picked spots to rely on his footwork to land lead power shots and quickly pivot laterally to turn Rios and prevent counters. A right, left hook combination in the sixth opened a cut above Rios left eye, and the Oxnard brawler found himself saddled with swollen and bruised eye sockets headed into the championship rounds.
Aside from a few sloppy haymakers in the tenth, Rios never attempted to “sell out” and become the wildy aggressive fighter that made for his thrilling war and win over Mike Alvarado last year. Pacquiao added right hooks upstairs to keep Rios’ gloves high, and utilized his potent straight left through the guard to continue punishing Rios down the stretch.
A stoppage attempt appeared briefly in the 12th when a right hook and straight left combination made Rios briefly stumble into a corner. Pacquiao, noting how Juan Manuel Marquez caught him rushing in last time with a KO shot, elected to back off and settle for the decision.
“I feel I’m back. I tried to finish him but my opponent is very tough, so credit to him,” said Pacquiao, who won on all three cards via scores of 120-108, 119-109 and 18-110. “I don’t want to get careless in the last round so I backed off.”
Rios, who late in the fight only had his pride on display is shaking his head at Pacquiao’s best shots, pointed to the speed that kept him neutralized.
“He’s very fast and I had trouble there, but his power didn’t bother me too much,” explained Rios. “What can I say, I fought one of the best boxers in the world besides Mayweather. I had fast sparring partners, but he was faster than them.”
Pacquiao did not name a potential next opponent. His promoter, Top Rank CEO BobArum, has advised in the weeks leading up to Saturday night that he would seek to pair Pacquiao with former sparring partner Ruslan Provodnikov in early 2014.
ESPN HIGHLIGHTS[youtube http://youtu.be/7KmY6XN6bFs]