Manny Pacquiao victory raises talk of Floyd Mayweather bout

Whatever doubt there may have been about his ability after two losses, Manny Pacquiao removed it with an emphatic victory over Brandon Rios in Macau.

Pacquiao won on a 12-round unanimous decision roughly 350 days after his shocking knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez. In the Cotai Arena, Pacquiao was stronger, faster and smarter in beating Rios in a WBO international welterweight bout scheduled for mid-day to accommodate U.S. pay-per-view.

“This is not about my comeback,” said Pacquiao, a congressman from the Philippines (via the Associated Press). “My victory is a symbol of my people’s comeback from a natural disaster and a national tragedy [the recent typhoon]. My journey will continue. I said we will rise again and that’s what happened.”

Quickness was the key, Rios said.

“What got me was just the speed and his awkwardness,” Rios said. “He never hurt me at all, and I never got stunned at all, but the quickness just caught me off guard.”

Pacquiao was simply more athletic, as Sports on Earth’s Chuck Culpepper saw it. From Culpepper:

From the first bell of the 24th, that reality governed Pacquiao’s return after 350 days. The ring contained a fighter and an athlete. Brandon Rios’ attacks would meet futility because an athlete would duck them. Rios’ self-protection would unravel because an athlete would unlock it with speed and angles. Even in the closing round when Pacquiao backed off, the athlete had not tired. “I’m doing that because, you know, boxing is not about killing each other,” he said.

All around the aftermath rang with chatter about that dusted-off old subject: the speed with the punches and the legs. Rios had trained for speed, he said, just not that speed. “The speed, that’s what got me,” he said. “He’s faster than I thought he was. That [expletive] is fast.” The speed forced Rios’ chin to make an account of itself, which it did impressively. It enabled viewers to see Rios’ penchant for smiling when hit in the face. The speed hadn’t returned from hiatus or anything — it carried on even through Pacquiao’s two-match lull of 2012, present but occluded in talk of one shocking decision (against Timothy Bradley) and one shocking punch (against Juan Manuel Marquez) — but it regained the fore. It might be 2009-level speed. It might be a mite off. It’s still compelling.

Said Roach, “Manny Pacquiao, he’s back, but I never really had the thought he went anywhere.”

Perhaps he never did, but there was doubt and Pacquiao will turn 35 next month. He may be back, but that doesn’t mean the fight everyone had wanted to see until about two years ago is going to happen. From SI.com’s Chris Mannix:

Let’s get this out of the way right now: A Floyd Mayweather fight isn’t happening. Money and politics scuttled any chance of that fight long ago. Moreover, making that fight right now, after years of frustrating excuses from both sides, would be insulting. Pacquiao has clearly lost a step, clearly isn’t the same fighter who emerged as the best in the world from 2008 to 2010. It would do nothing to settle the dispute of who is the best fighter in this generation.

For Pacquiao (55-5-2), a fifth fight against Marquez is a likely option. Marquez has not committed to continuing his career following a loss to Timothy Bradley, but another career-high payday against Pacquiao would be a nice carrot to lure him back to the ring. For all the talk about Pacquiao-Marquez fatigue, the two have rarely fought a dull round, much less fight, and it guarantees more than one million pay-per-view buys. Putting the fight in Mexico could create a little more spice to [the] matchup.

Pacquiao danced around a question about Mayweather, although his trainer, Freddie Roach, acknowledged “that’s the fight the world wants to see.” His promoter, Bob Arum, was touting it, too. From Greg Bishop of the New York Times:

That is true, even if the chances of that happening fall between zero and a number really close to zero. Regardless, it is good for the sport when that matchup is discussed as a possibility, even when it is not. It drives interest from the casual sports fan that opponents like Rios cannot draw, that boxers other than those two cannot draw — the allure of the impossible, more or less.

“That fight should happen,” Arum said of Mayweather-Pacquiao. “Particularly after that performance.”

Pacquiao, Yahoo’s Kevin Iole reported, seemed almost too numb to talk about Mayweather. From Iole:

He was in a funny mood after the bout, very introspective in the brief time he met with the media, and didn’t seem to want to talk much about Mayweather.

“My job is to fight, and I’ll fight anybody who will fight me,” Pacquiao said.

Asked what obstacles there are to making the bout, Pacquiao shrugged.

“You’ll have to ask him,” he said, referring to Mayweather.

Also on The Early Lead

Thunder fan hits half-court shot for $20,000, celebrates with Jay Z (video)