Pacquiao makes comeback with punishing win over Rios

Manny Pacquiao, in his first fight since a loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last December, beat American Brandon Rios by unanimous decision on Sunday.

Manny Pacquiao won by scores of 120-110, 119-111 and 118-112 for a unanimous victory on Sunday. Dale de la Rey / AFP
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Manny Pacquiao defeated Brandon Rios by unanimous decision on Sunday, returning to his winning ways after consecutive losses.

Back in the ring for the first time in almost a year, Pacquiao wore Rios down with his trademark combinations and won 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 on the scorecards at The Venetian casino in Macau.

Pacquiao, who grabbed the WBO international welterweight title with the victory, got the better of the opening two rounds, sending Rios to the canvas in the opening frame, although the referee ruled it as a slip rather than a knockdown.

The American asserted himself in the third, landing some crisp blows that raised hopes of a genuine contest before Pacquiao – spurred on by a capacity crowd at the 13,000-seat Cotai Arena, including many Filipino fans – dominated the remainder of the contest.

Rios was game, continually walking forward to challenge Pacquiao, but was unable to land any significant blows.

After seven rounds, Rios was getting attention to cuts under both eyebrows, and with the scores going against him, needed something special.

Cautioned by the memory of his previous fight when he walked into a savage Juan Manuel Marquez punch that knocked him out, Pacquiao was on guard throughout the closing rounds but a tiring Rios offered little threat.

“Recovering from the knockout and giving a good show was what I wanted to prove to myself and everyone,” Pacquiao said.

Pacquiao will now eye a potential rematch against Marquez.

It was an emotional victory for Pacquiao after a devastating typhoon swept through his Philippine homeland this month, killing thousands.

“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 natural tragedy.”

The fight was broadcast to thousands of survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippine city of Tacloban, who jammed a damaged sports stadium and public plazas to watch the telecast of the Filipino boxing icon’s bout on giant screens.

Officials said watching Pacquiao’s fight against American Brandon Rios in Macau on Sunday would help traumatised survivors take their minds off the massive death and devastation wrought by the typhoon and inspire them to pick up the pieces. More than 5,200 people have died since the typhoon hit two weeks ago.

Thousands trooped to the Astrodome stadium, its roof ridden with holes, to watch the fight. One man carried a Philippine flag.

Pacquiao had dedicated his comeback fight to storm victims.

Featherweight Gradovich remains undefeated

The undefeated Russian Evgeny Gradovich stopped Australia’s Billy Dib in the ninth round to retain his IBF world featherweight championship, on the Manny Pacquiao undercard in Macau.

Dib received a standing eight count in the sixth round, thereafter took continual punishment and was staggered in the eighth round by a big left hand.

The fight was stopped 70 seconds into the ninth round when the referee decided the former champion had taken too much punishment to continue.

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