Pacquiao pummels a pseudo-Mayweather

Manny Pacquiao is now back in form givne his clinical unanimous decision win over Brandon Rios. His Mexican-American opponent tried to do a Floyd Mayweather (connecting with body and head shots while clinging to an opponent) but Rios failed to bring the Pacman down (photo by Chris Farina of Top Rank)

Manny Pacquiao is now back in form givne his clinical unanimous decision win over Brandon Rios. His Mexican-American opponent tried to do a Floyd Mayweather (connecting with body and head shots while clinging to an opponent) but Rios failed to bring the Pacman down (photo by Chris Farina of Top Rank)

 

 

 

MANILA—Brandon Rios looked slow to elude Manny Pacquiao’s combination punches, both the hard pummels and the short-distanced little jabs. Even before the top of Rios’ right eye got cut up, the Mexican-American got clingy many times, to the crowd’s boos —shouts he shunned,  just to connect some head and body shots.

But the Filipino eight-time world champion shrugged off his own ring rust, his humiliating knockout loss from a year ago, his homeland’s spate of major calamities that almost knocked out a nation’s self-esteem, and Rios’ sneak punches in-between bodily hugs in a comeback win that washed away a shutout of a 2012 for his boxing.

For the fourth straight year, it wasn’t a knockout win for the future Hall of Famer from poverty-stricken Sarangani province. He could have brought down the bloodied Rios (especially on the 12th and final round that ended with Pacquiao’s left straight). The Pacman didn’t.

The boxers, with the bell banging the fight’s end, dropped their hands onto their sides, then smiled, then they embraced.

So did a partisan Pacquiao crowd at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Macau, embracing the fighting pride of the Philippines with cheers. “He’s back,” bellowed ring announcer Michael Buffer, after announcing the unanimous decision win. The Pacquiao cheers were also back.

At 34 and soon turning 35 this Dec. 17, Emmanuel Pacquiao’s comeback win comes 12 years after he rose to prominence on the grand stage of Las Vegas with a stunning knockout of Lehlonoholo “Hands of Stone” Ledwaba for the IBF super-bantamweight title. (“I miss Las Vegas,” Pacquiao tells Top Rank’s commentator Larry Merchant afterwards.)

But he tried to be “like the young Manny Pacquiao.” Like that guy who, even as a last-minute replacement and still sporting a brown-tanned hair, drubbed the Hands of Stone. He wasn’t that 33-turning-34-year-old guy whom Juan Manuel Marquez, at 39, stunned almost a year ago with a right counterpunch and a debilitating, typhoon Haiyan-like knockout with a second left in round 6.

Being “like the young Manny Pacquiao” was among the more important things he had to show in this Sunday afternoon fight from Macau, he told Merchant.

With the 12 years of experience in his way, Pacquiao’s quick combination punches didn’t hold sway.

This time against Rios, Pacquiao tried something different. It’s called his “left-left” punch. If you are accustomed to Pacquiao’s matches, it’s a flurry of combinations. Those four-to-at-most-eight combination punches Rios felt all night, so are Pacquiao’s powerful left straights. Like in previous fights, the right hand is working.

But left-left?

At round 1, a left hook, a second of a pause, and another left hook from Pacquiao. Then back to the four-combo punching. It became five combo-punches in round 2.

Then again, just above 30 secs. lapsed in round 3, two quick lefts, then another left-left. At the fifth canto, some 44 secs into it, a big Pacquiao left stunned Rios’ right eye for the Mexican- American’s first cut. The second cut came just some 25-35 secs. into round 6, courtesy of Pacquiao’s left straight to the right eye.

With Rios, 27, on the receiving end of a Pacquiao clinical job, the former got clingy. Referee Genaro Rodriguez just let them go many times. The ring’s third man also warned Rios in the latter rounds for repeated holding.

But on every occasion the two fighters held up, or Pacquiao was cornered into the ropes, Rios’ shoulders tried to hold up the Filipino champion. What follows are shots to the waist. Then the side of Pacquiao’s head, sometimes to the back of his neck. Then back to the body. Then Pacquiao breaks up.

This wasn’t wrestling of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) type. But what Rios did was reminiscent of the master of such a strategy: the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (Mayweather, now 36, won over Saul Alvarez  last September, also via unanimous decision, without any knockout registered.)

The problem was Rios was slow to make his clinging to Pacquiao’s body, and his body and head punches, stun the Filipino champion (Pacquiao, during a hold, had his head snapped at round 7 after a Rios right to the Filipino’s left chin).

But why is Mayweather’s shadow in this fight? Pacquiao didn’t even mention the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter after his demolition job with Rios.

It is because Top Rank promoter Bob Arum wants that megabuck deal this September 2014. (The impact of those words from the ageless promoter, however, fizzles out annually every time the two boxers fight, or at every backdoor negotiation with the Mayweather camp.)

It is also because Rios tried to be a Mayweather, save for the skin color and the punching when both he and Pacquiao cling to each other. Visibly, Pacquiao’s head snaps out of Rios’ sneaking right punches and so the Filipino had to break up the bodily holding. Good thing head butts were eluded.

“Rios is among my toughest opponents,” Pacquiao said.

But after pummeling a slower, physically-bulkier opponent in Rios, can the 34-year-old Pacquiao still fight the elite fighters, Merchant asked. “I can still fight,” Pacquiao replied. “Rios is not an easy opponent.”

“I can still fight like the old Manny Pacquiao. I can still fight tougher opponents. ”

Like the older but tougher Mayweather?

For now, Pacquiao’s boxing got back its fiery form. He wants an April fight. He wants back at MGM Grand.

Arum wants a colossal September showdown with Mayweather. On this day, against a pseudo-Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and the world got a taste of a bodily clinging tactic that, if the opponent were Mayweather, will brew excitement on which modern-day boxer will hold up.

 

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About JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO