Manny Pacquiao’s fans had hardly begun celebrating his decisive victory over Brandon Rios yesterday before speculation began regarding the identity of his next opponent, with Floyd Mayweather Jr prominently mentioned by the promoter Bob Arum.
The Filipino boxer, who had lost his previous two bouts, made a triumphant comeback with an overwhelming points victory in the World Boxing Organisation international welterweight championship.
The three ringside judges scored the fight 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110, as Pacquiao handed out a lesson in clinical boxing to his less-experienced American opponent before a capacity crowd of 13,200 at Macau’s Cotai Arena.
“I’m so happy,” Pacquiao said. “Because my time is not over.”
It had been widely speculated that he would retire had he lost to his younger, taller opponent. But after 12 rounds of domination, the topic has moved forward to “who is next?”
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, said he would like to see a fifth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, the Mexican who is the Filipino’s rival. In their meeting last December, Marquez knocked out Pacquiao. But some have suggested that Marquez’s asking price for a fight is too steep.
Timothy Bradley, the unbeaten American who won a controversial split decision over Pacquiao last year, defeated Marquez last month and has been mentioned as a potential opponent, as has the Russian Ruslan Provodnikov, the WBO light welterweight champion.
Arum, the chief executive of Top Rank, the firm which promotes Pacquiao’s fights, said the tentative date for his next fight is April 12, likely in the United States.
Arum also holds out hope that a long-mooted match with the unbeaten Mayweather finally could happen.
“I know it’s a fight that should happen, and where there is a will there is a way,” Arum said, expressing his frustration that the fighters’ conflicting affiliations continued to be an impediment. “If all sides cut out the [nonsense], it can be done.”
Pacquiao took the 12-round contest to Rios from the first bell, connecting with quick combinations to the body and head behind a stinging left-hand lead.
Rios was on the canvas following a body shot in the first round, but the referee ruled no knockdown because the former world lightweight champion slipped.
Pacquiao was understandably emotional afterwards.
“This is not about my comeback,” said Pacquiao, a congressman in the Philippines, which was ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. “This is about my people’s comeback from a natural disaster and a natural tragedy.”
The only question was whether the Filipino would register his first knockout since 2009.
“Manny fought a perfect fight,” Roach said. “The body shots killed him. Manny let him off the hook. I wanted the knockout. It was there for him. But I’m very happy with his performance.”
Roach said a week ago that he would tell his charge to retire should he lose to Rios.
There will be no thoughts of quitting after Pacquiao showed that his speed, skill and agility had returned after almost a year off and an intense, eight-week training camp leading up to the fight.