Manny Pacquiao dominated Brandon Rios to recapture the imagination of the boxing public while captivating a region devastated by a massive typhoon, if only for a few moments.
Pac-Man barely lost a round, bludgeoning the younger Rios with left hands throughout the fight. Rios has made a career out of coming forward, taking punishment, and dishing out his own, banking on the fact that he hits harder than his opponent. But in this fight, Rios learned an important lesson about speed, looking a step behind and a punch too slow for the entire 12 rounds.
With the win, Pacquiao shook off any lingering doubts from his 0-2 2012, in which he lost a questionable decision to Timothy Bradley and was brutally KO'd by rival Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao didn't show any signs of ring rust after a year-long layoff, nor did he lack confidence.
Simply put, Pacquiao returned to form and took a brash, younger foe to school. Though his days of challenging Floyd Mayweather for the top pound-for-pound lists in boxing may still be behind him, Pacquiao won in such fashion that he'll be one of the top dogs in the welterweight division, and should be able to handpick his next opponent—assuming he already fights for Top Rank. This means that the big money fight everyone's been waiting to see—Mayweather/Pacquiao—is still unlikely even though promoter Bob Arum hinted at the possibility. "If all sides cut out the crap, it can get done," Arum said to ESPN. "Where there's a will, there's a way."
The more likely possibility is a rematch against Bradley to avenge the robbery from the judges, or, of course, a fifth fight with Marquez. Either would be moderately enticing, but as is the case for both Pacquaio and Mayweather, the needle won't really move unless the conversation involves the two of them in a ring. Both boxers have proven their mettle against every wannabe A-lister in the game, and though both still attract attention simply for entering the ring, neither will recapture the sporting world until the big fight finally happens.
Whether that will be anytime soon remains to be seen, though, with each day that passes the fight loses significance. Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis danced to similar music during their reign on top of the sport, and only faced each other towards the end of their careers when there was seemingly nowhere else to go. Though there are many promotional issues keeping Mayweather and Pacquaio apart, that's the boat the two Hall of Famers are currently in. Sooner rather than later, they'll have to face each other to keep the ship from sinking.