MACAU, Macau -- Manny Pacquiao defeated Brandon Rios by unanimous decision on Sunday to take the WBO international welterweight title in a victory the Philippine lawmaker dedicated to the victims and survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, that devastated his home country this month.
Returning to the ring after almost a year's absence, Pacquiao wore Rios down with his trademark combination punching and won 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 on the scorecards at The Venetian casino in Macau.
It was an emotional victory for Pacquiao as the Philippines is still struggling to recover from the devastating typhoon that killed thousands of his countrymen.
"This is not about my comeback," Pacquiao said in the ring. "My victory is a symbol of my people's comeback from a natural disaster and a national tragedy."
Pacquiao got the better of the opening two rounds, sending Rios to the canvas in the opening frame, although the referee contentiously ruled it as a slip rather than a knockdown.
The American asserted himself in the third, landing some crisp blows that raised hopes of a genuine contest before Pacquiao -- spurred on by a capacity crowd at the 13,000-seat Cotai Arena including many Filipino fans -- dominated the remainder of the contest.
Rios was game, continually walking forward to challenge Pacquiao but was unable to land any telling blows.
After seven rounds, Rios was getting attention to cuts under both eyebrows, and with the scores going against him, needed something special.
Cautioned by the memory of his previous fight when he walked into a savage Juan Manuel Marquez punch that knocked him out, Pacquiao was on guard throughout the closing rounds but a tiring Rios offered little threat over the final four rounds.
"Recovering from the knockout and giving a good show was what I wanted to prove to myself and everyone," Pacquiao said.
Rios had prepared for the bout with the quickest sparring partners his camp could find, but even that could not prepare him for the fusillade of Pacquiao punches from all angles.
"What got me was just the speed and his awkwardness," Rios said.
"He never hurt me at all, and I never got stunned at all, but the quickness just caught me off guard."
Pacquiao will now eye a potential rematch against Marquez, if the much-desired fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. doesn't eventuate.
Rios, who has now lost his past two bouts after having previously being undefeated, had come up two weight classes in three fights but said he would now stay at welterweight and perhaps even move up to super welterweight.