Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao (42-3-2, 33 KOs) overcame a strong start by Oscar Larios (56-5-1, 36 KOs) of Mexico to win a hard-fought, twelve-round unanimous decision in front of a packed house at Manila’s Araneta Stadium and successfully defend his WBC international super featherweight championship. Larios started the fight aggressively, peppering Pacquiao with stiff jabs and wide right hooks and making it known he not only came to fight, but also to win.

Larios was clearly in top form for the bout and quickly let Pacquiao hear the thud of his gloves. At the start of round three, Larios, the former WBC super bantamweight champion caught Pacquiao with a short right uppercut/left hook combination that stunned the Filipino. For the first two minutes of the third round Larios opened up on Pacquiao, driving him back against the ropes and occasionally catching him with wide swinging right hooks. Pacquiao regained his composure and fired back, nailing Larios with short, straight left crosses. Near the end of the round, one of the punches opened a small cut over the left eye of Larios. Pacquiao would focus on the cut for the remainder of the bout and Larios was clearly bothered by it.

Pacquiao adjusted to the assault of Larios in the following round, sliding right and attacking the body with vicious right hooks to the kidney and straight lefts to the pit of his stomach. With the crowd cheering “Manny, Manny,” the Filipino kicked in the afterburners, potshotting Larios at will and making him miss wildly.As the fight wore on, Pacquiao’s attack to Larios’ body slowed the Mexican fighter and allowed him to take command of the fight. In round seven, a short left from Pacquiao on the inside caught Larios clean on the chin, putting him down momentarily. The game Larios fought back bravely, but the speed of Pacquiao, combined with his punching power was too much for the Mexican.

Pacquiao continually landed short right hooks to the eye of Larios, pinpointing the cut above his eye time and time again and also causing swelling under the eye.  In the final round Larios moved forward, determined to reach the silky smooth Filipino. Pacquiao punctuated the win when with just seconds left in the round he again scored a knockdown. Larios rose quickly, smiling. No one in the audience would question his courage.

After the fight Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach heaped praise upon Larios, “He came to fight, no doubt about it. Larios is a tough opponent but he surprised me. I said Manny would knock him out because I didn’t think Larios could stand up to his power, but he proved me wrong.”

When asked to rate the performance of his fighter, Roach stated “a six.”

“Maybe I’m a little hard on Manny but I always want him to improve. He was cruising for the first six rounds, putting on a show for his fans and with a fighter of Larios’ caliber, this is dangerous.”

The judges scores: 117-110, 118-108, 120-106. The Sweet Science scored the bout 118-108 in favor of Pacquiao.

On the undercard:

Gerry Penalosa (50-5-2, 31 KOs) battled his way to a ten-round decision over Tomas Rojas (22-9, 14 KOs) in an action packed, seesaw battle. Penalosa hopes to challenge for a title later this year. Score: 97-93, 98-92 and 98-93.

Jimrex Jaca (26-2-1, 11 KOs) and Hector Javier Marquez (28-17, 21 KOs) battled for seven rounds until a severe cut over the eye of Jaca forced the doctor’s stoppage. The cut was caused by an accidental headbutt and thus the fight went to the scorecards. Winner by TD7, Jimrex Jaca. All three judges scored the bout 60-53.

Late replacement Michael Domingo (25-14-3, 11 KOs) showed surprising power, battering Alejandro Felix Montiel from pillar to post for the better part of six rounds before the referee finally stepped in and stopped the contest at 1:04 of round seven.