I am a little late to the Pacquiao-Rios fight coverage but sometimes you have to take the time required to allow an action packed boxing match to digest in your system. Certain things send you directly to the keyboard. Others allow you to wait. After I watched the fight at a house full of boxing gents young and old, I was on the road to KC in less than 6 hours. Out in the country of DeSoto Kansas, there isn’t a lot of internet reception for you to play with. So the Pacquiao triumph on the other side of the world didn’t hit the page until now. What transpired in Macau last Saturday night? The reinvention of one of the best boxers of our generation. Manny Pacquiao is back friends.
Facing a young bully puncher in Brandon Rios, living on a prayer in his highest paid fight card ever, Pacquiao had a lot to lose. He could have ran into another right hand and slammed into the canvas. His career could have ended far far away from Las Vegas, where he gathered most of his glory. You can tell me all day how Rios was a straight forward moving talentless puncher, but I will remind you in the sport of boxing anything can happen at any time. Manny knew that and so did Brandon.
From the first round, though, Manny was in control. He was back at his crafty sharpness in the ring, jumping in like a rattlesnake with fierce combinations and darting and turning out of trouble. At his best, Pac-Man doesn’t just stand in the middle and exchange. He bounces around, fires left jabs and right hooks and slowly takes opponents apart who wrongfully judge a man’s size next to his punching power. Rios smiled all night in an attempt to throw crazy snake eyes at a fighter who knew damage was being done. Rios’ face usually doesn’t bruise that much. He can take a punch and stand there and exchange. The difference tonight was Pacquiao’s defense and quickness didn’t allow Rios to set his feet and fire anything back in return. Sure, he landed a solid shot every once in a while but each time, Manny shook it off like his mother just slapped him and came right back. Manny was relentless and boxed the younger fighter into exhaustion and frustration. It was a clinic that PAC badly needed to put on for his fans and doubters.
A fair share of boxing fans were ready to bury Pacquiao’s career out in China. You just couldn’t make out the invisible shovels next to their seats. I knew Manny had a few great fights left in him. I watched the Bradley fight over and over and saw how highway robbery. I saw a guy starting to pound the opposing fighter’s face into bloody submission before that said opposer(Juan Manuel Marquez) landed a magical counter hook and knocked out our protagonist. I didn’t see a disastrous loss of skill in Pacquiao. Sure, he has aged a bit and lost some of his punching power. However, smart boxers adapt and get better as they get older while others rely on the same old tricks and get flat lined quick.
When people say Pacquiao has lost something, I agree with them but leave out the negativity. Every boxer loses something as they get older, and they must adapt to stay strong and at the top of their game. Every boxer carries the every fight danger of getting dropped and Pac knows about this full well. However, watching him fight against Rios, I noticed a stronger minded fighter than I had seen in his career. Pac isn’t the killer he used to be and doesn’t have the blazing power that can stop Ricky Hatton in 2 rounds or destroy Oscar De La Hoya. He is 34 years old and has to rely on different tricks, like punch accuracy and speed. Pacquiao still has the speed and has brilliant accuracy when it comes to utilizing his jab and landing combinations. If you have those two things in check, victory and time are in your corner. Manny has lost something, as every great fighter not named Floyd Mayweather Jr.(as deadly at 36 as he was when he was 26) runs into at some point. Pacquiao has rebounded by using a more tactical approach, one that includes even more head movement, jabs and combinations. At his worst, Manny stands and trades. At his best, against Rios, he darts in, picks apart his opponent and slips away. He controls the space inside the ring and makes it torturous for the other fighter to get comfortable.
Manny is a changed fighter, but as we saw November 23rd in China, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The movement and speed he showed could keep him going for another 2-3 years. Judging by the face of Rios’ at the end of 12 brutal rounds, his power isn’t looking so bad either. Manny’s shots would have destroyed other boxers quicker. I give credit to Rios for being super tough, eating those punches and earning a decision loss.
Ladies and gentlemen, Pacquiao is BACK!
Thanks for reading,
Dan L. Buffa
@buffa82 on Twitter
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org