In one of its darkest hours a nation in mourning dares to break the eerie silence and seek the redeeming light that is embodied in one man. Manny Pacquiao knelt in his corner and bows down his head to pray to the creator. Hovering high above his head a big screen shows the gods of boxing- Ali, Norton, Leonard, Duran... as if to send down an encrypted message to a humbled warrior, who shall soon be amongst them, that his time is not up; there is much to be done down the road. Around the vicinity of this sacred fighting ground swaggers a young man waving his hand, tongue stuck out, mocking the crowd that arouses a base of boos and high pitched jeers. The sharp contrast of this sacrilegious act against the effect of holiness, wisdom, hope, and resilient humility that surrounded him, or, that of his presence against the greats before him could very well be likened to human folly. 

The first round of the match showed a very disciplined Manny Pacquiao. In his whole career I don't think I can remember him ever throwing a jab to the body and his arms were more consistently up. He threw side-long jabs to the head against an opponent who was hard to miss. The Mexican American, Brandon Rios continued to mock him after every punch he willingly absorbed, as is his fighting style. Pacquiao started to release his controlled left hooks and straights yet it didn't efface that annoying smirk. 

The fighting congressman from Sarangani Province, who'd recently suffered a shocking knockout loss in the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez showed once more that learning never stops despite his age and long boxing career- a quality common among great men regardless of field of expertise. Rios, on the otherhand, who loved to clown around was starting to realize as the fight progressed that the joke was actually on him. He looked comically amateurish either covering up ala peek-a-boo, or like a tortoise inside its shell whenever the Filipino threw punches in bunches. He didn't have the gift of anticipating punches and merely waited for the super typhoon-like flurry to strafe him. On many occasions he opened up only to find out Manny Pacquiao had literally revolved behind him, or side-stepped to a safe angle, and took another round of flogging to the enjoyment of the crowd. 

Those whipping side-long jabs had pernicious effects and blood started to show around the corners of Rios' eyes. Pacquiao was graceful in employing his tactics and it was beautiful watching him box instead of fight, but it was very clear the people wanted a knockout. It was like the gods of boxing smiled down on this event as it unfolded. Pacquiao was light on his feet as if partly carried by a spirit, pivoting, barely grazing the canvas. He timely blocked incoming punches and countered with precision that answered all the lingering questions about a possible slip in his career. If anything at all, the highly religious Pacquiao was heavenly. Brandon Rios, on the otherhand, has become more of a punching bag in the later rounds by being too slow (not that he's known for his speed) with his footwork, wide punches, and perhaps the only reason the Mexican outlasted those twelve rounds of beating is because you couldn't possibly knockout a punching bag. 

It was all Manny Pacquiao from start to finish. He didn't show subtle signs of slowing down and his stamina was terrific. The matchup was a smart decision to showcase one's talents by pitting him against a fighter with deficient defense, but we all need that sometimes to reclaim our confidence on the way up from a hard fall. 

In the end, Manny Pacquiao's victory (by Unanimous Decision) was ceremonial. 

Meanwhile, Brandon Rios ought to be content to have shared the spotlight at that level, which many felt he didn't deserve in the first place, except as being a sacrificial lamb to the gods of boxing.


Mark F. Villanueva
(Founder) Villanueva Boxing Academy


Mark currently lives in Iloilo City and can be followed through http://twitter.com/markfvillanueva