Manny Pacquiao is back, dominating over 12 rounds tonight in Macao with a rout of Brandon Rios, proving again that speed and skill will almost always beat determination and toughness at the high levels of boxing.
Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KO) completely had his way in the fight, with his speed giving Rios (31-2-1, 23 KO) fits from the first round until the end of the fight. Manny landed at will with his left hand early, and mixed it up with more body shots than usual, it seemed, landing thudding blows to the body that mixed in with sharp punches down the pipe upstairs.
Rios was as determined as he always is, but he just couldn't solve the Pacquiao puzzle. There was far too much speed, movement, and variety from Manny, who turns 35 next month, and definitely isn't the fighter he was at his peak in perhaps 2008-09, but this is still a top fighter. Is his power the same? Maybe not. Is the killer instinct the same? I'd say it is not. But Manny remains one of the best in the world, and he showed tonight that he's at least a solid level above a tough, game, and strong guy like Brandon Rios.
"I feel I'm all the way back," Pacquiao told HBO's Max Kellerman. "I tried to finish the fight, but my opponent was very tough, so give the credit to him."
When asked if he ever felt Rios' power, Pacquiao admitted that he was hurt in the bout. "He hit me with a good, solid punch, and I tell you, it's hard. It's hard. I was hurt. I think it was the fifth round."
"I consider this fight one of the toughest of my career," Pacquiao said.
When asked who he wants to face next, Pacquiao as usual deferred to his promoter Bob Arum's planning.
"It's part of boxing. Manny did a great job. He's very fast. Power-wise, eh, he didn't bother me that much. But quickness, that was it," Rios told Kellerman.
"I fought one of the greatest boxers in the world besides Mayweather. The speed just got to me. I had fast sparring partners, but I think he was faster than them."