The Manny Pacquiao versus Jessie Vargas welterweight fight might not be the most exciting matchup for Pacquiao's fans, but outside the ring at least some intriguing developments are afoot.
Not only has Top Rank promotions put together an interesting undercard featuring Nonito Donaire, but it has also essentially elected to televise the event itself and name its own broadcasting team.
Included in that group of journalists will be ESPN television personality, Stephen A. Smith, a casual observer and self-proclaimed fan of the sport, but not necessarily the most informed person when it comes to the sweet science. Smith is known primarily for his coverage of the NBA.
"To say I'm incredibly excited would be an understatement," said Smith. "Anyone who knows me knows I fell in love with boxing from the time I was three-years-old, when my Dad showed me Muhammad Ali beating Jerry Quarry in October 1970. Ever since that day, Boxing has been a passion of mine. But never -- ever -- in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd ever get a chance to actually call a fight. November 5 can't get here soon enough."
In addition to Smith, the ringside broadcast team will consist of Brian Kenny, Charissa Thompson, and current boxing star Timothy Bradley.
"I'm thrilled to once again call a Manny Pacquaio fight," said Kenny, who has hosted Friday Night Fights on ESPN2. "Pacquaio remains one of the most exciting athletes in not just boxing, but in all of sports. After his win over Timothy Bradley, he is also still at the top of the incredibly competitive welterweight division. Jessie Vargas, coming off a tough win over the talented Sadam Ali, will present Pacquaio with a challenge that will test his world class talent."
The bout will take place Saturday, November 5, at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and will be produced and distributed live by Top Rank Pay-Per-View.
Part of the reason Smith got the gig was for his crossover appeal, as Top Rank hoped to pull in some of Smith's ESPN audience.
Smith, along with Max Kellerman, is a featured commentator on ESPN2’s First Take weekdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET, discussing and debating the sports topics of the day. He joined First Take on a permanent basis in 2012.
"We wanted to give the viewers a different perspective that informs and entertains and I think we have accomplished that with this fantastic team," said Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank. "It's a great combination with Brian, one of television's top TV announcers, color commentary from Stephen A., and Charissa 's balanced hosting style. The expert analysis from Tim will round this out perfectly as he is considered one of the best fighters in the world and has secured victories against both Pacquiao and Vargas. We will expand the reach of this event beyond the boxing fan to an audience that has watched Stephen A., Brian, and Charissa as regular fixtures in covering other major sports."
Bradley, meanwhile, brings the unique perspective of a current top fighter who has fought both Vargas and Pacquiao.
"It is an honor to work in collaboration with such a respected crew on a historic night for Top Rank as they host their very own pay-per-view. I hope this is the first of many to come and look forward to seeing everyone on November 5," said Bradley.
Besides the main event, the broadcast team will have plenty to discuss during the undercard bouts as Donaire and Óscar Valdez, WBO junior featherweight and featherweight champions, respectively, will be risking their crowns in mandatory title defenses against their respective No. 1 contenders Jessie Magdaleno and Hiroshige Osawa.
This marks the first time Pacquiao and Donaire, the two biggest boxing stars to come out of the Philippines, have ever shared the same card.
Donaire (37-3, 24 KOs) is a five-division world champion. He regained the WBO junior featherweight crown on December 11, 2015, winning a 12-round unanimous decision over No. 1 world-rated contender Cesar Juarez for the vacant title.
"Jessie is a great challenger, a mandatory title defense and I know he's hungry because he has been calling me out on social media," said Donaire. "I am working great with my new trainer Ismael Salas. We are learning about each other and he's instructing me on a more precise, compact way of fighting while still being very explosive as everyone is going to see on November 5."
Magdaleno (23-0, 17 KOs) enters this fight having won eight of his last 10 bouts by knockout. He is a southpaw whose aggressive style and fierce punching power has produced a victory by knockout ratio of 73% en route to becoming the WBO's No. 1 contender and mandatory challenger.
The pay-per-view telecast will open with Chinese Olympic icon Zou Shiming in a 12-round rumble with Prasitak Papoem for the vacant WBO flyweight world title.
Already the war of words has started between the two camps.
"Prasitak may look like Manny Pacquiao, but he sure doesn't fight like him," said Zou's Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. "He's dirty as hell. The last time we fought him, Prasitak was head butting and landing low blows on Shiming throughout the fight. But just to play it safe, I'll have Shiming spar with Manny when we get back from Manila so we're extra prepared."
Since his loss to Zou, Prasitak has fashioned a two-year, 12-bout winning streak, with all of his victories coming by way of knockout, including five defenses of his WBO Oriental flyweight title. Prasitak, who will be making his U.S. debut, is currently world-rated No. 3 by the WBO.
"Zou is rated No. 2 and I am rated No. 3, but that is the only thing that has remained the same from our first fight," said Prasitak. "I am a much different fighter than the man Zou fought in China two years ago. I have knocked everyone out since that fight and I have developed elephant strength punching power. I look forward to avenging my only loss and becoming world champion on November 5."
Remaining tickets to the Pacquiao vs. Vargas world championship event are priced at $1,000, $700, $500, $300, $100 and $50, not including applicable service fees.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services