JOHANNESBURG – Manny Pacquiao beat Brandon Rios on points in Macau on Sunday and answered all the questions, but one, about his immediate future.
Pacquiao won the bout 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 and collected the WBO international welterweight belt.
The former eight-division champion dominated the bout from the opening seconds and gave Rios a hiding he will never forget. But Pacquiao again failed to knock out his opponent as he improved his professional record to 55-5-2, with 38 wins inside the distance.
Rios was the epitome of courage. But he took a beating that was bad for his future health as his record dropped to 31-2-1, with 23 knockouts.
The 34-year-old Pacquiao, who had lost on points to Timothy Bradley in June last year and was knocked stone cold in the sixth round by Juan Manuel Marquez in December, was out to prove that he could still fight on for at least another year.
Rios was a perfectly selected opponent to help the Filipino star prove whatever his fans wanted to see. And Pacquiao showed everything: hand speed, brilliant combinations, excellent footwork and focus. But no knockout.
There will be questions about that, especially when someone mentions Floyd Mayweather’s name.
Rios, a Californian, must have had a few fans in the crowd, but they were drowned out by the Pacquiao supporters.
He showed an amazing ability to take wicked punches and stay on his feet. Yet he kept going forward, despite a bad cut near the left eye, until the last round.
AP reports that Pacquiao said after the bout: "This is not about my comeback; My victory is a symbol of my people's comeback from a natural disaster and a natural tragedy."
It was an emotional victory for Pacquiao after the devastating typhoon that struck the Philippines earlier this month, killing thousands.
Returning to the ring after almost a year's absence, he wore Rios down with his trademark combination punching.
Rios went down in the first round but the referee ruled it as a slip and the American asserted himself in the third, landing some crisp blows that lit hopes of a genuine contest.
Pacquiao, spurred on by a capacity crowd at the 13 000-seat Cotai Arena, including many Filipino fans, dominated the rest of the fight.
After seven rounds, Rios was getting attention to cuts under both eyebrows, and with the scores going against him, needed something special.
Cautioned by the memory of his previous fight, in which he walked into a savage punch from Marquez, Pacquiao was on guard throughout the closing rounds but a tiring Rios offered little threat.
"Recovering from the knockout and giving a good show was what I wanted to prove to myself and everyone," Pacquiao said.
Pacquiao will now eye a potential rematch against Marquez, if the much-desired fight with Mayweather Jr does not eventuate.
Earlier Russian Evgeny Gradovich retained the IBF featherweight title after Australia's Billy Dib quit in the ninth round of their bout.
In a rematch of their bout in March, Gradovich knocked Dib down in the sixth round and staggered him with a left hook in the eighth. More punishment in the ninth prompted Dib's corner to ask the referee to stop the fight.
Mexican heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr extended his unbeaten record when his American opponent, Tor Hamer, quit after three rounds despite leading on the scorecards. Ruiz retained his WBO intercontinental belt and added the NABF title.
Zou Shiming, China's two-time Olympic gold medallist, improved his professional record to 3-0-0 with a unanimous points decision in his six-round flyweight bout against Mexico's Juan Toscano. – SuperSport