MANNY “Pacman” Pacquiao did not do anything new in reclaiming the World Boxing Organization welterweight belt but considering where he was coming from, his unanimous decision victory over erstwhile champion Jessie “The New Generation” Vargas was still commendable, this according to one fight analyst.
After a six-month “retirement” to focus on his local political career, Mr. Pacquiao, 37, who holds a seat in the Philippine Senate, trumpeted his return to top-level boxing by getting the better of 27-year-old Vargas in their title fight on Sunday (Manila time) at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The eight-division champion was, for the most part, solid in his ring return en route to fashioning out an impressive 118-109, 118-109 and 114-113 unanimous decision win over Mr. Vargas.
The victory made Mr. Pacquiao a WBO welterweight champion for a third time while also padding his overall record to 59 wins, six losses and two draws.
“Overall, it was much of the same Pacquiao in the past few years that we saw in that ring [on Sunday],” said fight analyst Carlos Cinco when asked by BusinessWorld for his assessment after the fight that was witnessed live by some 16,000 people at the popular arena in Las Vegas.
“He picked his spots well, pushed when he wanted to and rested when he wanted to. As much as Jessie Vargas wanted to win against a legend, Pacquiao is just a different class of fighter. Tim Bradley said it best during the broadcast. He said you can have the best strategy to beat Pacquiao going in, but once you’re there trading punches with him you quickly realize that the job is easier said than done,” Mr. Cinco added.
The analyst further said that for fans and observers, the Vargas fight was a good indication where Mr. Pacquiao is at the stage of his career.
“Pacquiao looked like he was happy being back in the ring, and that’s a good thing. He spent the first few rounds chasing Vargas around the ring and trying to trap him in a corner using his tremendous footwork. But visibly, Pacquiao just couldn’t sustain that type of action. He turns 38 this December! So it’s understandable. He’s way past his prime, and that’s no longer disputable,” he said.
Mr. Cinco added. “Pacquiao threw a mere 400 punches in total over 12 rounds. That’s over a hundred less than Vargas’s 500-plus punch count. To put things in perspective, at the height of his powers, Pacquiao once threw over a thousand punches against Joshua Clottey. That’s more than a significant decline -- that’s just extraordinary. So he’s no longer the same fighter, to anyone who thinks otherwise. It’s just something that fans have to live with and accept.”
NO KO VICTORY
Despite the impressive win, the Vargas victory marked the 10th time that Mr. Pacquiao failed to finish a fight via knockout, although the latter knocked down Mr. Vargas in the second round last Sunday. The last time that the Filipino boxing superstar scored a knockout win was in 2009 when he put the lights out on British Ricky Hatton in the second round of their light welterweight clash.
Mr. Cinco said it was not really surprising and chose to put things in perspective.
“As for the lack of knockouts, as long as Pacquiao continues to fight bigger guys at welterweight, he will have a rough time finding a finish. Fighters at welterweight can take punches better than lower weight fighters. Vargas was huge in there against Pacquiao. Pacquiao gave up nearly 5 inches in height and 4 inches in reach. He was most likely also outweighed by at least 10 pounds it appeared,” he said.
“Pacquiao fighting bigger guys ever since he moved up to 147 pounds has a lot to do with his lack of knockouts. Freddie Roach has also stated in previous interviews that Pacquiao has been unable to carry his knockout power to welterweight. As long as Pacquiao fights welterweights, don’t expect him to be knocking guys out,” the analyst added.
Following his latest win, Mr. Cinco said he is interested to see the direction that Mr. Pacquiao’s handlers would take as far as future fights go for the certified boxing Hall of Famer.
“As for possible next fights, well Bob Arum wants him (Pacquiao) to take on Canelo Alvarez next at a catchweight. Well, that’s not really a wise move because Alvarez is a middleweight and would probably put Pacquiao in the hospital. Terence Crawford at junior welterweight is also an option given that he is under Arum’s Top Rank banner. But aside from Crawford or Alvarez, there is Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman, the other two welterweight champions who fight early next year. Pacquiao can fight the winner of that bout to unify the 147-pound titles,” he said.
“Floyd Mayweather was also in attendance [last Sunday]. He sat ringside with his family and it’s the first time in a long time Mayweather has come out to see Manny fight. Does it mean anything? Probably not. But a Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch would still be the biggest fight in boxing if it ever happens,” Mr. Cinco added.