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Manny’s Back

Manny Pacquiao punches Brandon Rios
(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)

Article written By Steve Kim

Manny Pacquiao may never again be the whirlwind he was between 2007 and 2009 when he ripped through the likes of Oscar De la Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto. It was during this run in which we saw him become not just a noted prizefighter but a transcendent figure outside the sport. Fast forward to 2013; in the wake of a 2012 that saw the “Pac-Man” go winless, Pacquiao showed that perhaps the reports of his ultimate demise were perhaps a bit exaggerated. Over 12 active rounds, Pacquiao conclusively outpointed Brandon Rios at the Cotai Arena in Macao, China this past weekend.

No, it wasn’t necessarily the Pacquiao of old but it wasn’t an old Pacquiao either.

He’ll probably never be that guy ever again but he showed on this night that he’s still good enough to beat a certain level of fighter. There was a reason “Bam Bam” Rios, a rough and rugged brawler, was tabbed by Top Rank and the Pacquiao brain trust: he was a known commodity, a colorful character who could help sell this promotion from Asia and he brought a rather unsophisticated style. And throughout this bout, Pacquiao beat Rios to the punch time and time again and unload his combinations without much hindrance.

The big question coming into this fight surrounding the Filipino icon was just how well he’d react to taking a hard punch to his whiskers in the wake of his frightening knockout loss at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez last December. He wasn’t just knocked out; for a few minutes, he was a lifeless corpse on that MGM Grand Garden Arena canvas. Referee Kenny Bayless didn’t so much need to render a count but perhaps draw a chalk line around his prone body. Common sense would tell you most boxers simply don’t bounce back from this kind of occurrence.

But against Rios, Pacquiao looked like a reasonable facsimile of himself. He was willing to let his hands go and exchange with the heavy-handed Rios and easily glided around the ring to avoid the oncoming salvos. Is Pacquiao now fragile? Maybe his chin is now fine China but we didn’t get to find out in China as Rios simply couldn’t land punches on a consistent basis. You could make the argument that Alex Ariza’s feeble front kick to Freddie Roach was the most notable shot landed by anyone in that camp throughout the week.

While it was a one-sided affair, like most of Pacquiao’s other fights, it was entertaining. By nature, inside the ring, Pacquiao is an attacker willing to take risks. The mere fact he was willing to continue his career after his harrowing experience in his last bout itself is an act of courage. But then, while he has many other interests, boxing is what he’s best at. It’s what he does, ultimately. Perhaps there really was no other choice but to resume his career and let it go its natural course. It’s safe to say that at age 34 and with many miles on the fistic odometer, he’s no longer in his physical prime. But upon closer inspection, if you go back to his last three outings, the overwhelming consensus is Pacquiao deserved the decision over Tim Bradley last year. Before getting starched by Marquez, he was actually having the best success against him since the first round of their initial encounter back in 2004 and was flashing the best form he had in a couple of years. Against Rios, he pitched a shutout.

No, there is no more debate as to whom is the sport’s best. That’s certainly Floyd Mayweather but Pacquiao still makes a strong case that he is still among the very elite in the sport. As the recently deceased Bum Phillips said of his franchise running back, Earl Campbell, during his days as head coach of the Houston Oilers, “I don’t know if he’s in a class by himself but I do know that when that class gets together, it sure don’t take long to call the roll.”

Perhaps Manny is a bit like Kobe Bryant (pre-injury) where he may no longer be at the level of a LeBron James, Kevin Durant or some of the other hungry young turks who were mere toddlers when the “Black Mamba” began his career as a Los Angeles Laker. Bryant may no longer be able to will his teams to championships (and quite frankly, it’s not like he has the supporting cast anymore) but there are times when Kobe could still turn it on, recapture his youth and exuberance and drop a 45-point game. Who knows what version of Bryant will return to the floor? But only judging against the past version of himself does he really show a visible decline.

Pacquiao can still defeat a vast litany of opponents and it will still take a truly elite fighter to best him. Moving forward, Top Rank Promotions founder Bob Arum was making statements that a long-awaited showdown with Mayweather could finally come to fruition in 2014 (again, seeing is believing). But in the meantime, he did announce that Pacquiao’s next outing would be on April 12th in the United States.

Will that be a rematch versus Bradley or perhaps a fifth chapter against Marquez (who has stated numerous times that it’s a book he’s closed)? Regardless, even with this version of Pacquiao, it will take a pretty damn good fighter to topple him.


For eight rounds, it looked like George Groves was well on his way to becoming the new IBF and WBA super middleweight champion as he was outclassed “The Cobra,” Carl Froch with a blend of sharp boxing and an ability to mix it up on the inside. Groves floored Froch with a right hand at the end of the first round, which had him dazed as he trudged back to his corner after his mandatory eight-count.

Throughout the large majority of this contest, Froch looked every bit his 36 years. He was consistently beaten by Groves’ jab and out-fought and out-executed when he traded punches with Groves, who was simply more compact and sharper with his shots. But if Froch is any one thing, it’s dogged. And he started to turn the tide in the eighth frame as he ramped up his aggression and came forward. Then in the fateful ninth inning, Froch hurt Groves. He finally had things going his way and the stage was set for a fantastic finish to a fight that had more than lived up to its billing at the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester.

But then inexplicably, referee Howard Foster, who was shaky throughout this whole contest, waved off the contest. Yes, Groves was buzzed but certainly not as bad as Froch was when the titleholder was sent to the canvas earlier. And given the circumstances and how well Groves was performing, he absolutely had earned the benefit of the doubt from Foster. Simply put, it was a terrible stoppage. No other way to put it.

Foster not only robbed Groves; he robbed Froch from finishing the fight in grand style. He also robbed the sold-out crowd in the U.K. of a truly memorable finish.

Froch-Groves was why we love and hate boxing - all at the same time. If there were any justice (and there rarely is in the business), there will be an immediate return bout.

Steve tweet spoiler on The death of Brian - Family Guy.
WEBMASTER’S NOTE From Chee - R.I.P. Brian (Family Guy)... I found out about his death on twitter! For more sick fun like this, that may spoil your DVR habits, visit / follow Steve ’K9’ Kim on twitter at - @stevemaxboxing


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