Manny Pacquiao made a triumphant comeback from his short retirement by claiming the WBO welterweight title from the holder, Jessie Vargas. It was a comfortable victory for the former eight-division world championship, as he won by unanimous decision is Las Vegas, and his decision to invite former rival Floyd Mayweather ringside sparked rumours that a rematch may be on the cards.
Despite being a decade older than his opponent, Pacquiao started the match on the front foot, showing good movement and controlling the fight. The first round was fairly scrappy, but a solid left hook late on in the second round sent Vargas to the canvas, and gave the Filipino extra momentum. This seemed to knock the confidence of Vargas, as he didn’t really pressure Pacquiao in the third round, allowing the veteran time to relax and recuperate. The American finally showed some of the skills that won him the world title back in March during the fourth round, landing some good hits with his right to remind Manny that he wouldn’t be able to cruise his way through the match.
The age difference between the two fighters meant it would be inevitable that Pacquiao would need to conserve energy at points during the match. Vargas took advantage of this to edge the fifth round, but with the right side of his face beginning to swell up, he was susceptible to hits from Manny, as he solidified his advantage at the half way point of the match. Pacquiao continued to concentrate his punches on the American’s face during the seventh and eighth rounds, with the constant pressure, plus a clash of heads, opening a cut above Vargas’ nose.
Sensing that he had a sizeable advantage, Pacquiao began to relax more in the final four rounds, as both of the fighters began to tire. Vargas began to have the look of a defeated man, as he realised the knockout he would need to win the match wasn’t coming, with Pacquiao feeding off of the crowds energy, in an attempt to try and knockout his opponent for the first time since 2009. In the end, he ran out of time before he had a chance to knockout Vargas, but Pacquiao’s performance through the twelve rounds was enough to win by a unanimous decision, with two judges scoring the fight 118-109, with the third judge deciding that Manny edged it 114-113.
With rumours about Mayweather vs Pacquiao II circling after the fight, as well as IBF champion Kell Brook targeting a unification match, it will be interesting to see whether we see the Filipino in the ring any time soon. Manny has been involved in politics in his home country since 2010, and took up a position on the senate of the Philippines in June. Boxing is clearly no longer his top priority, as he flew back home straight from the fight, stating that he was ‘excited to get back to work’. On the other hand, his retirement lasted less than a year, and it will be interesting to see whether another big purse would be enough for him to make the transition from senator to sportsman once again.
Photo Credit: AP