What we learned from Manny Pacquiao vs. Jessie Vargas


What we learned from Manny Pacquiao vs. Jessie Vargas
By: Kirk Jackson

As expected, Manny Pacquiao 59-6-2 (38 KO’s) soundly defeated former WBO Welterweight Champion Jessie Vargas 27-2 (10 KO’s), capturing the WBO title for a third time.

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The result was not a surprise. Pacquiao is still one of the best fighters in the world, proving this by defeating a top pound for pound fighter, Timothy Bradley 33-2-1 (13 KO’s) earlier this year. Although the results against Vargas were expected, we learned a few things in the process.

We learned the validity of Pacquiao’s star power is questionable.

The polarizing star that was Manny Pacquiao since simmered due to the sound defeat by the hands of retired rival, Floyd Mayweather 49-0 (26 KO’s).

Was Pacquiao’s popularity and commercial success is stemmed from his association with Mayweather’s name? Has his social stances and involvement in politics played a factor?

Whether the decline of popularity stems from the backlash of his derogatory comments about homosexuals, the myriad of excuses as a result of losing to Mayweather, or what some would consider lack luster performances against Mayweather and Bradley, it appears the star power is no longer there.

Pay-per-view numbers are down, attendance is down and the fans do not want to see these match-ups. Pacquiao-Bradley 3 was not on the wish list, nor was Pacquiao vs. Vargas.

Speaking of Pacquiao vs. Vargas, the event itself was lackluster; not too many casual fans even knew about the fight. HBO, the home network for Pacquiao dating back more than 10 years, wanted nothing to do with this fight and for good reason.

The bout was advertised as The Legend (Pacquiao) vs. The Champion (Vargas), speed (Pacquiao) vs. power (Vargas), the recently retired, future Hall of Famer returning one more time to take on the surging star, seeking to cement his placement and legacy among the boxing landscape.

We learned this was nothing more than another mismatch; a trend we’ve witnessed many times from Bob Arum when match-making for Pacquiao. Think Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios. Rios, Algieri, and Vargas are by no means bad fighters. They are clearly not on the same tier as Pacquiao.

With this recent match-up, clearly we have a case of false advertisement. Vargas and the term “power” do not necessarily belong in the same sentence; he boasted a whooping knockout rate of 35 percent entering his fight against Pacquiao.

Real power would be Pacquiao versus Keith Thurman 27-0 (22 KO’s), or Danny Garcia 32-0 (18 KO’s), or Shawn Porter 26-2-1 (16 KO’s) or even Errol Spence 21-0 (18 KO’s).

These matches mind you, are now an open possibility now that boxing lords Bob Arum and Al Haymon have seemingly established a temporary truce and they handle all of the fighters mentioned.

Against Vargas, Pacman held the advantages of speed, power, skill, experience; every variable imaginable. There was a longer layoff between fights for Vargas compared to Pacquiao, and Pacquiao is supposed to be the “retired” fighter.

The other potential match-ups for Pacquiao mentioned however, present a different story and a different series of problems compared to Vargas.

We learned The Senator from the Philippines is still a pretty good boxer and should not quit his day job.

No he is not the fighter he once was at age 28. But the hand speed is still there, the fluidity of feet, his movement is there, punching power is still present, along with his ability to overwhelm opponents with his experience and ring intelligence as opposed to relying on the punch output of his younger years.

Obviously as a fighter ages he physically declines to an extent, but he can make up for those minor deficiencies with his intelligence. Speaking of intelligence…

We learned Stephen A Smith should not do commentary for boxing events. Ever. As talented and intelligent as Mr. Smith is, boxing is not his strong suit.

He even had the audacity to argue back and forth with fellow play by play commentator, former world champion, Timothy Bradley.

Incorrectly addressing Guillermo Rigondeaux the “Ax Man,” a moniker reserved for Nicholas Walters, improper timing, inaccurate analysis of the fights generally speaking, Smith appeared out of place.
We learned Pacquiao never retired.

It’s difficult to imagine Pacquiao actually retired in April, only to return in November. That is about as believable as the mystical healing properties of the ocean healing Pacquiao’s shoulder injuries as he claimed last year.

There’s much to speculate about regarding why Pacquiao continues to fight. He is a senator and holding a seat in political office is a full-time job.

So why continue to fight? Especially when you’ve conquered the sport a few times over, winning multiple world titles across several weight classes.

What else is there to prove? Is Pacquiao seeking redemption? Or is he seeking redemption, along with an extravagant amount of money? Speaking of which…

We learned this was an audition for a rematch against Mayweather.

Why else was the “retired” Mayweather in attendance? Be hard pressed to believe he was there solely to support his former fighter Jessie Vargas.

It’s fair to suggest, Floyd “Money” Mayweather loves money and would capitalize on an opportunity to reel in a ton of it. Coincidentally, so does Pacquiao and Arum.

A rematch featuring Pacquiao and Mayweather would generate hundreds of millions. Much to the chagrin of another interested spectator in attendance of Pacquiao’s last fight, Terence Crawford 29-0 (20 KO’s), who would love a piece of the Pacquiao pie.

Crawford, the two division world champion, 2014 Boxing Writers Association of America Fighter of the year recipient, would love nothing more than to capitalize on an opportunity to fight Pacquiao.

Crawford’s trainer Brian McIntyre, wants the same and constantly expresses confidence his fighter will defeat Pacquiao if the two ever meet, which appears unlikely any time in the near future.

But as the days pass, manifest destiny becomes ever so clear.

Mayweather recently had a sparring session, came to watch Pacquiao fight, Pacquiao winked at Mayweather in route to comprehensively defeating his opponent who stood no real chance of winning; the stars are aligning ladies and gentlemen.

The shoulder injury and drama to follow their encounter in May of 2015, left the door open for a rematch. This is something all parties involved wanted. Because who can pass up all that money?

No matter how many the fans complain, people will pay to see Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. And it’s a decision that actually makes the most sense for Pacquiao.

The only thing he can lose is the match. Another potential loss against Mayweather will not negatively impact his legacy, while a win can only boost his legacy. A win against Mayweather trumps any significance a win from gathered against Spence, Thurman, Garcia or Porter.

We learned this is a serious discussion regarding the two. Money talks and more than likely, we can anticipate seeing Manny Pacquiao in the ring for the foreseeable future.

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