Learning from Pacquiao-Rios
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - November 25, 2013 - 12:00am

There were many learning we as an audience gleaned from the WBO International Welterweight title clash between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios yesterday. A lot of it helps redefine how professional boxing can be done, and some of it has to do with how we are maturing as an audience. On the whole, it has been a positive, uplifting experience, especially for Filipinos still weighed down by the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda. But let’s look deeper.

This writer had the privilege of working the inhouse pay-per-view event of Solaire Resort and Casino along with fellow veterans Noel Zarate and Anthony Suntay. Solaire did everything humanly possible to live up to its self-styled “ultimate viewing experience” tag. They set up a ring, and performers, round girls, a ring announcer (Suntay) and even live commentators (Zarate and myself) exclusively for the paying patrons. In lieu of the actual fighters, a gigantic LED cube hung above the ring, making it look like actual boxing coliseums. Tickets ranged from P1,500 to P3,500 and came with food, drinks and discounts to hotel and casino outlets.

Manny Pacquiao looked cut and trim, more so than he did against Juan Manuel Marquez last year. He was loose and relaxed, even smiling in between rounds for most of the fight. He started off well, with his lefts getting through the former world lightweight champion’s defenses. It became gradually apparent that Rios was one-dimensional, moving forward, covering up, then taking interminably long to respond to a Pacquiao attack. The Filipino hurt Rios several times during the fight, but Rios pretended to smile it off. Eventually, he was bleeding from both eyes and his nose, so his smile became a plastic mask in a failed attempt to feign confidence.

Perhaps only round 3 and 8 went well for Rios, who was not really throwing as much as Pacquiao was by far. Rios was content with clinching and infighting, but this did not look good for the former champion. Pacquiao was quicker, more mobile, and harder to hit, and it was proven early on that each fighter could take the punches of the other, so it would be a question of who outworked who. Pacquiao’s vaunted speed was still there, but some questioned his power and inability to put Rios away.

But look at it this way: Pacquiao has been fighting bigger men for the last four years, and has been beating them, albeit in catchweight fights. He stopped Miguel Cotto four years ago, though the latter was naturally much bigger. The fifth against Rios was a sound, solid technical win for Pacman. He won it cleanly, consistently and convincingly, and the judges’ scores (120-108, 119-109 and 118-110) bore this out. Rios was simply outwitted and outboxed, period.

What did we learn as an audience? First of all, that it is feasible to have a world title fight in Macau, so close to home, albeit with the concession of fighting in daylight for the live pay-per-view audiences in North America. We have talents like Jessica Sanchez, who sang both the American and Philippine national anthems resoundingly, sending chills down spectators’ spines. And it is possible to have a great, blockbuster fightcard in this part of the world, where large taxes for professional athletes may be avoided. If we build it, people will come.

What is next for Manny Pacquiao? I would think perhaps a rematch with Timothy Bradley to retrieve the belt many thought was wrongly taken away in a questionable decision. Given Pacquiao’s showing against Rios, the smaller Bradley should be worried. If they have a rematch and Pacquiao beats him, this may set up a fifth bout with Juan Manuel Marquez. Top Rank boss Bob Arum has already hinted that he wanted the Pacquiao-Marquez series to extend beyond the five fights between Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta, so you know they’ll meet at least twice more. Then perhaps Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather can meet in a retirement match.

* * * *

“All-Star, All-Out Para sa Pinas”, a charity concert and basketball game featuring pro players and entertainment celebrities, will be held today at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig for the benefit of typhoon Yolanda victims. It is organized by PBA All-Star guard LA Tenorio and his Barangay Ginebra and Gilas Pilipinas teammates. Joining the celebration are old friend Jhong Hilario, Vhong Navarro, Billy Crawford and many others. 

On Saturday, Nov. 30 at 4 p.m., the “Heroes for Hope” sports memorabilia auction will be held at Heroes on Bonifacio High Street in Taguig. Famous athletes from the PBA, UAAP, Philippine Azkals, women’s volleyball, the UFL and other sports will donate signed jerseys, shoes, awards and other autographed memorabilia.

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