Pacquiao's win no masterclass

Pacquiao's win no masterclass
Manny Pacquiao failed to showcase any ruthless killer instincts in the bout against Brandon Rios, being more contented to pile up the points on the scorecards rather than finish off his opponent when any opportunity arose.

MANNY Pacquiao celebrates his 35th birthday next month, and his customary lavish party can go ahead as usual, thanks to a landslide points victory over Brandon Rios at the weekend.

The mood at last year's event was soured by the brutal knockout defeat he suffered against Juan Manuel Marquez just nine days before it was held.

One year on, and with another candle set to go on the Filipino's cake, some pundits are claiming that he is back to his best after thoroughly outboxing the game, but limited, Rios in Macau.

However, this performance was no masterclass - the kind that dazzled Oscar de la Hoya into submission five years ago.

Above anything else, it lacked the punctuation of a stoppage win that seemed well within his grasp, and that Pacquiao used to relish delivering.

The demons of that stunning sixth-round loss to Marquez - which left him face down and unconscious in Las Vegas - clearly still haunt the Philippines' sporting icon, and understandably so.

He has swopped relentlessness for reticence, diluting the dynamic essence that propelled him through eight weight divisions with such alarming ferocity.

Some will say it is a natural, intelligent, adjustment as his career navigates the final phase.

But perhaps Pacquiao has simply lost his edge because of that lights-out looting.

He smiles and tells us it doesn't matter but, deep down, he knows he is vulnerable in a way he never understood before.

Already a millionaire, and with his place in boxing history long assured, perhaps he keeps going for his people, who adore him and also turned out in huge numbers in Macau to show their support.

One Filipino told me he didn't want a typhoon to define his country, he simply wanted Pacquiao to be the face of his proud nation again.

Around the world, for one day at least, that wish came true.

Many Pinoys, working so far from their home and families, created an electric atmosphere that was highly charged but never threatening. He is their hero and, you feel, they are his too.

But boxing is not a sport awash with sentiment, and talk has quickly turned again to a fight with Floyd Mayweather, who would represent the most difficult challenge of Pacquiao's entire career.

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