Manny Pacquiao needed a jump-start performance and Brandon Rios provided the suitable opposition.
Two years since he last savored a victory, Pacquiao again had his arm raised in triumph as the eight-division world champion won a lopsided unanimous decision against Rios late Saturday in Macau, China.
“I’m so happy and thankful to God,” Pacquiao said. “He answered my prayers that we will rise again. I proved it [Saturday night].”
Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KOs) frustrated Rios throughout the 12-round welterweight bout with superior speed. Rios repeatedly absorbed straight lead lefts to the head and left uppercuts.
The gradual punch buildup opened cuts around Rios’ eyes as the fight approached the middle rounds. Rios (31-2-1) gamely landed solid rights to the head, but his arsenal couldn’t match Pacquiao’s punch volume.
All three judges scored the bout for Pacquiao 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110.
The win was Pacquiao’s first since a majority decision result against Juan Manuel Marquez in November 2011. In his two bouts last year, Pacquiao lost a controversial decision against Timothy Bradley and suffered a sixth-round knockout loss to Marquez. Pacquiao took a longer-than-usual break of 11 months between the knockout loss and Saturday’s return bout.
“This is not my time yet,” Pacquiao said of doubts about his career after the Marquez loss. “My journey will continue.”
Despite his dominance, Pacquiao opted to last the distance instead of finishing Rios before the final bell. Pacquiao has not stopped an opponent since a 12th-round TKO of Miguel Cotto four years ago.
“In that last round, I didn’t want to get careless so I backed off a little bit,” Pacquiao said. “Boxing is not about killing each other. After 12 rounds, people are satisfied with my performance.”
Rios praised Pacquiao and was surprised with his speed. Saturday’s bout was Rios’ first above the 140-pound class.
“I put my heart and soul into this fight,” Rios said. “Manny Pacquiao was quick. I did train for quickness, but the best Pacquiao showed up. “I just think the quickness threw me off guard.
“I’ve had sparring partners that were very fast, but I think he was faster than my sparring partners.”
Now that he has overcome the bleakest stretch of his career, Pacquiao, 34, looks forward to additional marquee events. And the typical issue of a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight surfaced again.
“My job is to fight. Anybody that will fight with me, I will,” Pacquiao said. “I’m willing to fight Floyd. But it’s up to him if he’s willing also.”
Golden Boy show
Although Golden Boy Promotions has built up the majority of its fighter pool below the light-heavyweight class, the company is gradually adding heavyweights.
With unbeaten contender Deontay Wilder already under its wing, Golden Boy recently signed another heavyweight. Miami resident Luis Ortiz, who agreed to a co-promotional deal, will be featured in a Golden Boy-promoted show Tuesday night at BB&T Center in Sunrise.
A native of Cuba, Ortiz will face Alex Gonzales in a scheduled 10-round bout. Also fighting on the announced eight-bout card are former world light-heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver and popular Cutler Bay bantamweight Jessy Cruz.
Ortiz, 34, has won his first 19 professional bouts, including 16 by knockout, since he defected from Cuba in 2009. But Ortiz has been inactive for the past year.
“I’ll be looking for the knockout from the opening bell and, as excited as the fans will be, I’m even more excited to be fighting in and representing the United States, which has been my home for the past four years,” Ortiz said.
Like Ortiz, Tarver will return to the ring after a lengthy absence. Tarver, who turned 45 on Thursday, will face Mike Sheppard for a regional heavyweight belt. The Orlando native and Tampa resident has not fought since June 2012.