Pacquiao earns unanimous decision over Larios

Updated: July 3, 2006, 9:38 AM ET
Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines -- Manny Pacquiao battered Oscar Larios on Sunday, earning a unanimous decision and retaining the WBC International super featherweight title.

Manny Pacquiao

In the same arena where Joe Frazier and Muhammed Ali slugged it out in the "Thrilla in Manila" 31 years ago, the 27-year-old Pacquiao constantly showed off his speed and power in front of the home fans. He knocked down Larios twice in the 12-round bout and raised his record to 42-3-2.

Most analysts expected Pacquiao to look for an early knockout, but Larios appeared to win two of the first three rounds. The Mexican sprinted out to start the third, and a strong left hook had Pacquiao reeling on the ropes and close to going down.

But Pacquiao withstood the rally and opened a cut over Larios' left eye later in the round. Flurries of punches left the 29-year-old Larios looking slower as the fight wore on.

Pacquiao took control in the sixth, putting together several effective combinations that appeared to hurt Larios and reopened the cut. The crowd went crazy as a right hook dropped Larios (56-5-1) to one knee early in the seventh.

There was talk that commercial endorsements Pacquiao landed after beating Erik Morales in January -- along with a late-night lifestyle and the shortest training period of his career -- might erode his skills and leave him short on stamina in a long fight.

But Pacquiao stayed strong throughout. He was still throwing punches with force at the end, knocking Larios down with less than a minute to go. The Mexican shook it off and got back up, and Pacquiao tried in vain to finish him off.

The judges scored it 117-110, 118-108 and 120-106 for Pacquiao, who said he will face Morales for the third time on Nov. 18 in Las Vegas.

Metropolitan Manila Police Chief Vidal Querol said about 300 policemen were deployed in and around the packed 15,000-seat Araneta Coliseum in suburban Quezo City, which was awash in huge Filipino flags.

Hundreds of poor people traveled from far distances without tickets just to get a glimpse of Pacquiao, who has become a national icon and inspiration for his rise from poverty.

Vic Mar Echo, a 22-year-old amateur boxer with his knuckles covered with bruises and welts, came from Taytay town, in Rizal province near Manila, with only enough money for transportation.

"He's my idol," Echo said. "I want to hold his hands and feel how strong it is."

Filipinos prevailed in three undercard matches against Mexicans, with Cesar Amonsot beating Silverio Ortiz at 136 pounds, Gerry Penalosa downing Tomas Rojas at 118, and Jimrex Jaca defeating Hector Marquez at 131.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press