By Kweku Turkson
Las Vegas -- Fighting at the Thomas and Mack Center on the UNLV Campus, Manny Pacquiao came out of a brief retirement to convincingly defeat defending Champ Jessie Vargas by unanimous decision Saturday night in a twelve round title bout for Vargas’ WBO Welterweight title.
The 38-year-old former eight division champion and current Senator from Serengani Province in the Philippines, was able to drop the 27-year-old native of Las Vegas midway through the second round with one of his patented flurries, and dominated most of the fight the rest of the way in wresting away the World Boxing Organization title.
Official scores were 118-109 (Glenn Trowbridge and Glenn Feldman), and a ridiculous 114-113 scorecard turned in by Dave Moretti. The DSH's unofficial scorecard had the Pac-Man winning by a tally of 117-110.
With currently retired ring icon and pound-for-pound Picasso Floyd Mayweather sitting at ringside with his daughter Ayanna and others from his Money Team, Pacquiao looked to prove that perhaps a rematch between the two titans of the sport might actually be worth discussing, as there likely isn’t another more profitable opponent for either man, with the exception of undefeated middleweight knockout artist Gennady "GGG" Golovkin for Mayweather.
Here’s how we observed the fight unfolding round-by-round from our seats at ringside:
Each man comes out cautiously, looking to feel his man out. Feinting frequently, Vargas looks to get his jab off. Each man tries to open up a bit and steal the round in the closing ten seconds of the frame. The Pac-Man lands a nice straight left and a scooping uppercut to the solar plexus with about 5 seconds to go in the round, winning him the opening frame in this reporter’s book. 10-9 Pacquiao
Pacquiao opens up more about halfway through the round, coming in with his trademark frenetic pace, and throwing fast-paced punches from awkward angles. This would result in him dropping Vargas with an explosive three-punch combo. 10-8 Round for Manny. 20-17 Pacquiao
Following the knockdown in the previous round, each fighter came out noticeably looser, yet wilder. One such swing saw an off-balance Vargas’ glove touch the canvas following a wild swing and miss. Pacquiao for his part was caught a few times off his feet while lunging in. Nonetheless, Vargas was able to land more clean shots, unofficially earning him the round. 29-27 Pacquiao
Vargas begins to counter Pac-Man’s timing jab with a check counter left hook, and his patented straight left with an overhand right. Vargas actually is countering effectively and making Pacquiao miss, or tying him up on the inside when he can’t. In other words, Vargas is showing his own experience and is fighting intelligently. Round to Vargas. 38-37 Pacquiao
Manny is using his fast feet and subtle footwork to turn Vargas and keep his man off-balance. Vargas’ right eye is beginning to swell -- although is not yet closed, nor a hindrance -- from repeated lightning fast lefts launched by the southpaw Pacquiao. Manny carries this round as well. 48-46 Pacquiao
Vargas is looking to show that he isn’t yet out of this fight, so he sticks to his jab, and then launches and lands a pair of big right hands that snap the Filipino Senator’s head back violently. Vargas’ round. 57-56 Pacquiao
The first half of this round actually saw Manny control Vargas with his right hand, which is still rare for the Filipino fireplug. However, Vargas would soon respond with some nicely timed jabs of his own. Pacquiao, however, was the more active and accurate fighter in this round. 67-65 Pacquiao
While each man had his moments to begin the eighth, it was after Vargas was warned for the umpteenth time by Referee Kenny Bayless for hitting low/behind the back on the hip, that Pacquiao really began to open up, and really wound up getting the better of the exchanges by landing the heavier shots, leading to a cut opening up on Vargas’ head. 77-74 Pacquiao
Pacquiao, possibly smelling blood, continues to box aggressively. Vargas appears to be tiring as Pacquiao continues to land heavy left-handed leather on the Mexican champ. 87-83 Pacquiao
Pacquiao, undoubtedly in control, has Vargas looking like a man lacking answers. Pac doesn’t look to be fatigued, or even tiring at this point. Which is quite surprising considering he is the senior combatant by a full eleven years. Another round for Pacquiao who is now totally in control. 97-92 Pacquiao
The eleventh was an action-packed and exciting round, as each man presses on. Pacquiao lands a hard left and then follows it up with a right, but Vargas, who has been a game competitor all night, fires back with a pair of hard rights of his own. Vargas, looking to land another right, is countered by the Pac-Man with a stinging straight left, followed by a right, that appears to drop Vargas for the second time on the night. Veteran referee Bayless rules it a slip however, leading to boos from many in the pro-Pacquiao crowd. Another round in the bank for Pacquiao. 107-101 Pacquiao
Vargas comes out looking to press the action, as he clearly needs a knockout to have any hope of winning the fight, and retaining his WBO Welterweight title. Pacquaio is wisely not looking to trade, and merely circles away and counters. Pacquiao opens up with a minute to go in the fight, and catches Vargas at the end of a nice combination, putting him on the canvas. Bayless again appears to miss a call, ruling it a slip, again much to the chagrin of most in attendance. Pacquaio smiles and bounces side to side, even doing a quick Ali-esque shuffle at the final bell. Unofficial score 117-110 Pacquiao by decision.
In the ring after the fight, Pacquiao had the following to say . . .
On how he felt getting back in the ring:
"Happy. I’m trying every round to knock him down, (but) I’m very careful to go inside because I know he will counter me."
On who he might fight next:
“I’m going to go back to senate (in the Philippines), and the next fight, I (will) talk to Bob (Arum)…whoever the people want me to fight (next) I am not picking an opponent, whoever my promoter gives me, I will fight.”
When specifically asked about the prospect of a fight with 140-pound kingpin Terrance Crawford (who was in attendance, and who spoke to us in length, off the record) Pacquiao replied that a Crawford fight was “Not a problem,” and would be “even better.”
On the televised undercard, undefeated junior featherweight Jessie Magdaleno might have battered former 122-pound titlist Nonito Donaire into retirement, taking a unanimous 12-round decision.
Chinese Olympian Zou Shiming also impressed in a clinical dismissal of Thai challenger Prasitak Papoem in garnering the WBO Flyweight championship.
In the chief support, 25-year-old Mexican phenom Oscar Valdez stopped Japanese challenger Hiroshiga Osawa with a vicious onslaught to get a TKO win.