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    Smarter Pacquiao batters Rios in rout
    By Dino Maragay Updated Sunday November 24, 2013 - 2:55pm
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    Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, right, lands a right to Brandon Rios of the United States during their WBO international welterweight title fight Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Macau. (AP Photo/ Vincent Yu)

    MACAU - Manny Pacquiao was in his usual fiery self, this time spiking his fighting with a huge dose of patience against an opponent made perfectly for him, in pummeling a game but overmatched Brandon Rios to cruise to a lopsided victory in their heavily hyped welterweight bout at the sold-out Cotai Arena here.

    Pacquiao, on his toes for most of the fight and clearly more cautious in an effort to avoid  another devastating counter shot, made Rios look like an amateur who was constantly startled with his opponent's lateral movement and quick flurries.

    Rios tried to lure Pacquiao into a phone-booth battle by initiating clinches, and oftentimes would attempt to bully the Filipino to the ropes. But Pacquiao wanted none of it and simply spun his way out of trouble and took the fight to the center of the ring.

    The three judges had it 120-108, 118-110 and 119-109 for Pacquiao, who took home the WBO international welterweight title to the satisfaction of the highly partisan crowd here. Philstar.com had it a shutout for the Filipino.

    After a short feeling-out period in the opening round, Pacquiao started to pepper Rios with left straights to the face and body. Rios would retort occasionally, but most of the time he just ended up eating leather as Pacquiao unleashed timely flurries.

    The Mexican-American banger had some bright moments wherein he would land some shots on his quicker opponent. However, Rios often succumbed to Pacquiao's effective side-to-side movement, leaving him bewildered.

    Rios says it's Pacquiao's speed that did the most damage.

    "His best punch was his quickness," said Rios.

    His trainer, Robert Garcia, agreed.

    'Speed is really the factor here. Manny's just too fast,'' he said.

    Sunday's fight was reminiscent of Pacquiao's previous meetings with similarly flat-footed opponents like Oscar Dela Hoya and Antonio Margarito. Rios was just another top for Pacquiao to spin whenever he wanted to.

    By round five, Rios started folding up as Pacquiao continued to strafe him with shots from various angles. Eventually, it boiled down to the question of whether Pacquiao wanted to dispose Rios off with a knockout, something he needed to again jumpstart a career that's been hounded with speculations of his declining skills.

    After back-to-back losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao was on the verge of a successful comeback on Sunday afternoon. And he wouldn't let another well-timed counter shot to spoil things.

    In the last four rounds, Pacquiao tried to tire Rios off, hoping to land the coup de grace that the crowd is craving for. It never came though, as Rios likewise proved to be a tough nut to crack.

    Pacquiao admitted he played it safe and just stuck to the game plan.

    ''I had to be careful. [With the lead] You don't need to be aggressive,'' he said, stressing he didn't want to commit the same mistake he did against Marquez last December that resulted in a shocking knockout setback.  

    On Sunday, Pacquiao fought smarter than he did against Marquez. It resulted to a successful comeback, something he and his calamity-struck countrymen badly needed.

    Rios, who prior to the fight vowed to send Pacquiao into retirement, concedes that his conqueror still has what it takes to be a top prizefighter.

     ''It (loss) is what is. I tip my hat off to Pacquiao. He still has it.'

    Pacquiao, for his part, is just finally glad to be back.

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