There was a moment in the twelfth round of Manny Pacquiao’s bout with Brandon Rios that was both indicative of the change in temperament of the fighter and, perhaps, a maturity that will allow him to prolong his career. He backed off.
For twelve rounds Manny Pacquiao beat Brandon Rios silly. But in those moments when it looked as though Rios may have been teetering on shaky pins, Pacquiao assessed the situation and decided to rely more on his boxing skills than leaping in for the quick kill.
And he’s being criticized in some quarters for that approach. It’s not vintage Manny Pacquiao read the complaints.
What I saw was an aging fighter realizing he has to refine his approach, use caution when necessary, but also remain true to form. That’s exactly what Manny Pacquiao did. He befuddled Rios with angles, good footwork and multiple combinations that always left Brandon on his back foot.
Ironically, Floyd Mayweather is criticized for just the type of fight Manny Pacquiao fought, most often by Pacquiao diehards. In retrospect both Floyd and Manny took apart their recent challengers, Saul Alvarez and Brandon Rios, in much the same fashion. And for those who say Pacquiao’s offense was still more impressive and conclusive than Floyd’s, be reminded that Mayweather has been staying in the pocket or on the ropes in his last several fights. Despite a reputation for relying only on defense Money Mayweather has been laying right in wait, inviting his opponents to hit him. And they still can’t, so his critics say he’s boring.
With Pacquiao it’s just the opposite, but equally frustrating. He hasn’t knocked out an opponent since 2009 when he took apart Miguel Cotto. But he beat fighters like Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley to pieces, regardless that they all heard the final bell. Another decision in his fight against Timothy Bradley, which inexplicably went against him, led many to believe his best days were in the rear view mirror.
And then came the knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last December. In that fight both men were intent on ending their seemingly unending rivalry. Pacquiao was taking over when he got concussed.
Suddenly he became one big question mark. It didn’t matter that he’d beaten all of those fighters, save for Marquez, conclusively. He didn’t knock them out, so he wasn’t as good anymore.
Mayweather boxes to perfection, he’s boring. Pacquiao doesn’t knock his opponent out, he’s over the hill.
Boxing is unforgiving in so many ways.
The fact of the matter is, both Pacquiao and Mayweather looked great against very good opposition who just weren’t on their rarefied level.
But Pacquiao shouldn’t be criticized, at least in this fight, for stepping off the gas pedal in those final moments. This was a comeback fight, after all. Expectations may have either been way too high or way too low for those on either side to appreciate just how good Manny looked against Rios.
He boxed beautifully. His footwork was quick and precise. He got in and out, sometimes landing four or five punch combinations. It was a win he needed and he won going away.