By Ian S Palmer
Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines will be attempting to wrest away the WBO Welterweight Championship from Jessie Vargas of Los Angeles at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday, November 5th. The 12-round bout can be seen live in North America on pay per view while fans in the UK can catch the action on BoxNation. Pacquiao last fought back on April 5th when he beat Timothy Bradley by a 12-round unanimous decision to win the rubber match of their trilogy. Vargas took on Sadam Ali in his last outing back in March and stopped him in the ninth round to win the vacant WBO title.
The 37-year-old Pacquiao of General Santos City, a southpaw, will climb through the ring ropes with a record of 58-6-2 with 38 Kos while the 28-year-old Vargas has an impressive record of 27-1 along with 10 Kos. While both of these fellows have some excellent boxing skills neither of them is now known as a one-punch knockout artist even though Vargas’ power seems to be improving with each outing. But neither boxer can underestimate the punching power of the other as a punch right on the button could drop either man.
Pacquiao hasn’t stopped an opponent in more than six years and Vargas’ stoppage of Ali was his first since 2011 and just the 10th of his 28-fight career. Pacquiao has more natural power than Vargas though, but the last man he stopped was Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico when he finished him in the 12th round back in 2009. Pacquiao’s knockout ratio currently stands at 58 per cent while Vargas’ is just 36 per cent. Even though he’s now hitting a little bit harder, it doesn’t appear Vargas has enough dynamite in his fists to do any serious damage to Pacquiao unless he lands the perfect punch, just like Juan Manuel Marquez did when he stopped the Filipino in the sixth round back in December of 2012.
Pacquiao has been on the canvas a few times during his career though and needs to keep his focus at all times since his chin could now be somewhat questionable. Vargas has shown in the past that he has a pretty solid chin, but has been down before from a body shot. Pacquiao didn’t show any ill effects from his shoulder surgery against Bradley, so should be back in peak condition for this contest. Vargas wants to make a name for himself on the world stage here and the best way to do that will be to win this fight in a convincing manner. But to do that he’ll have to dominate this contest or by hurting or dropping Pacquiao somewhere along the way. If not, then his chances of winning will fly out the window.
Pacquiao is simply the more talented of the two, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. He’ll need to work hard for all 12 rounds and make sure he doesn’t get tagged directly on the chin. Vargas has proven to be quite a durable fighter, but may have problems with Pacquiao’s speed and movement. The only man to beat Vargas so far has been Bradley, who took a controversial 12-round unanimous decision from him in June of 2015. He lost his WBO title to Bradley in that contest after struggling early, but then suddenly staggering him in the 12th and final round and appearing to have him out on his feet. However, the referee made a crucial mistake and called the fight off with about seven seconds to go as he thought he heard the final bell.
Vargas won the WBA Junior Welterweight Crown in April of 2014 against Khabib Allakhverdiev and defended it twice against Antonio DeMarco and Anton Novikov before meeting Bradley. He’s a talented boxer/puncher with exceptional skills, but as mentioned earlier, lacks big punch. Vargas likes to establish his jab to set up short, quick flurries to both the head and body. His other notable opponents have been Steve Forbes, Josesito Lopez, Walter Estrada and Vivian Harris. He stands 5-foot-10 with a wingspan of 71 inches while Pacquiao is just over 5-foot-5 with a 67-inch reach. Vargas turned pro in 2008 and has 189 rounds under his belt and Pacquiao has boxed 431 rounds since 1995.
There’s no doubt that Pacquiao is in the twilight of his boxing career at the moment and every time he steps into the ring could end up being his last fight. Pacquiao has the disadvantage when it comes to age, height and reach, but should still have enough speed and boxing skills to take care of Vargas by a decision. This should be a pretty close contest though and a lot will depend on who takes the initiative.