Manny Pacquiao reversed the slump in his boxing career and provided some desperately needed inspiration to the disaster-stricken Philippines with an authoritative victory over Brandon Rios on Sunday. Pacquiao entered the fight coming off successive defeats, a year out of the ring and with his own trainer publicly declaring he should retire unless he convincingly beat Rios.
Such pressures were enough to burden any fighter, but Pacquiao carried the added weight of being the favorite son of the Philippines and the man the nation looked to as a source of joy and hope in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which left thousands dead this month.
Thousands of fans watched the fights on screens set up in the plaza of Tacloban, the city worst hit by the disaster which killed more than 5,000 people and left huge numbers of the population homeless. If Pacquiao felt the pressure of the nation, he did not show it in the ring at The Venetian casino in Macau as he put on a vintage display of his trademark combination punching to wear down a gallant Rios and take a unanimous points decision, claiming the WBO international welterweight title. The judges scored it 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110. The Associated Press scored it 119-109.
“This is not about my comeback,” Pacquiao said in the ring. “My victory is a symbol of my people's comeback from a natural disaster and a national tragedy. “My journey will continue. I said we will rise again, and that's what happened.''
Pacquiao's points loss to Tim Bradley last year was widely regarded as a judging error, but when that was followed by a severe knockout at the hands of veteran Juan Manuel Marquez, many doubted the feisty Filipino lawmaker could ever get back to the kind of form that had made him the world's pound-for-pound champion.
Once again he failed to stop his opponent —he has not done so since 2009 — but everything else about Pacquiao's performance suggested he could get back to the pinnacle, even with his 35th birthday looming next month. Commercial impediments count against a much-awaited bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr., but Pacquiao is still eager for it to happen. “Anybody who wants to fight with me, I can fight,'' Pacquiao said. “I am willing to fight Floyd but it's up to him, if he is willing also.''
Pacquiao got the better of Rios over the first two rounds, sending the American to the