MACAU – Manny Pacquiao conjured up memories from his glorious past, using his blazing hand speed to batter Brandon Rios and cruise to a one-sided victory.
Rios was no match for Pacquiao, as he absorbed powerful blows from all angles throughout the bout before a sell-out crowd of 13,101 at CotaiArena. Rios showed a dogged determination and an iron chin, but he wasn't fast enough to fend off the aggressive Pacquiao.
The last time Pacquiao stepped foot inside of a ring, he was knocked cold by Juan Manuel Marquez last year in Las Vegas, creating fears that he was finished as a fighter.
He dispelled that notion on a Sunday morning in China, getting out of bed to deliver a frightful beatdown to a game but outclassed opponent. It was a win he dedicated to his countrymen, who were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan two weeks prior to the fight.
"This isn't about my comeback," Pacquiao said. "My victory is a symbol of my people's comeback from a disaster, a national tragedy."
Judges had it 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 for Pacquiao. Yahoo Sports scored it 120-108 for Pacquiao, calling all 12 rounds for the Filipino superstar.
"I just got beat by one of the best fighters in the world," Rios said in tribute. "He came with a game plan. He executed it and won the fight. He's very fast and has a lot of different angles. He's difficult to box against."
Rios' trainer, Robert Garcia, echoed his fighter. He said prior to the fight that he had "seen things" in Pacquiao that Rios could take advantage of, but there were no noticeable flaws on Saturday.
If there is a criticism of Pacquiao on Saturday, it was that he couldn't knock out a guy he was pummeling round after round. But he did a brilliant job and criticizing him is just splitting hairs.
"Pacquiao still has it," Garcia said. "He has a lot of quickness and speed. He'll be around a long time with a lot more fights."
Pacquiao broke a two-fight winning streak and won for the first time since 2011, when he eked out a decision in Las Vegas against Marquez. He lost a disputed decision to Timothy Bradley and then was knocked cold by Marquez in 2012.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, had said he would advise Pacquiao to retire if he were knocked out again. He was never in trouble, though, as he used lateral movement, a good body attack and his blazingly quick hands to repeatedly beat Rios to the punch.
"I was winning the whole fight, winning every round," Pacquiao said. "That's what mattered. He did hurt me, I think it was in the fifth round when he hurt me. He is a strong fighter, a very tough fighter. I am so happy."
So, too, was the crowd, which was overwhelmingly in support of Pacquiao. He delivered a first-rate performance that left them roaring their approval.
It should stop, at least temporarily, talk that Pacquiao is finished. He looked like he was on top of his game.
Judge Michael Pernick gave Pacquiao every round. Lisa Giampa scored only the eighth for Rios, while Manfred Kuechler gave Rios just the third and eighth.
"All I can say is, many, many punches," Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. "He fought the perfect fight. The body shots killed him. Manny let him off the hook. I wanted him to knock him out."
By the fourth round, Rios' eyes were swelling badly and in the sixth, a cut opened outside his left. Because of Pacquiao's hand speed, Rios was unable to get off his punches and so Pacquiao was able to deliver punishment without much risk.
In running his record to 55-5-2, Pacquiao set up an April 12 fight in Las Vegas, either against Ruslan Provodnikov or Bradley.
But that fight won't be a referendum on Pacquiao's career, as this one was. It will be business as usual for Pacquiao.