Why Pacquiao-Vargas Is Relevant
By: Sean Crose
Okay, first things first, I do not – I repeat, do not – think the Manny Pacquiao versus Jessie Vargas fight this weekend at the Thomas and Mack Center in Vegas is particularly pay per view worthy. Still, I believe it’s a pretty big bout. What’s more, I find it to be a pretty relevant, as well. Let’s just say I think Manny-Jessie is better than Manny-Chris or even Manny-Brandon. To be sure, Vargas (27-1) is the best opponent Pacquiao (58-6-2) has faced in forever not named Mayweather or Bradley. And even though the ridiculous realities of the boxing business placed this fight on pay per view rather than on HBO, where it clearly belongs, I’m nonetheless intrigued…and with good reason.
For starters, Pacquiao is still, until proven otherwise, the best welterweight in the world now that Floyd Mayweather is out of the game. He’s beaten Bradley for the second time recently, after all, and I would favor him against Garcia, Thurman, Porter, Brook, and even Spence, as well. That’s just how I see it. Even if you disagree with me, it’s hard not to admit that Manny isn’t way up there in the current welterweight stratosphere, regardless. Sure, he’s getting old. Heck, he may really even be on his way out. We haven’t seen any indication of that, yet, however, and so Pacquiao is still well worth keeping an eye on.
As for his opponent, well, Vargas may be just the kind of man to make Pacquiao show his age in the ring. Sure, Bradley took Vargas to school, but Vargas also came close to knocking Bradley out towards the end of their match a while back. No, I don’t think Vargas got robbed that evening, but I do believe he showed he can hang with upper level guys. Could he beat a prime Manny? Not unless he brought a bat. Still, the Manny of today isn’t the human lawnmower he was just a few short years ago – at least not in the sense that he knocks people out. That makes things intriguing.
Let’s also remember that there’s a title at play here, if that sort of thing is important to you (I’m personally no longer interested in belts – too much corruption/incompetence surrounding them). Sure enough, the WBO welterweight strap is on the line. Now that Thurman and Garcia are (supposedly) going to fight in a welterweight unifier while Spence may well be on his way to battling for the IBF strap, Manny (or Jessie) may be the man to go through should one of Al Haymon’s top welterweights wish to become the undisputed welterweight kingpin somewhere down the line.
Perhaps most importantly, though, there’s a chance that a new star will be born here. Vargas has gone from a guy who people felt got gift decisions to a man who feels he was screwed over in the Bradley match. This truly is the California native’s big chance. Should he win on Saturday, it will send shock waves through the fight world – big ones. The fact that Manny is past his prime won’t matter nearly as much as the fact that he was beaten by a man few gave a chance to…a man who will then be the toast of the sport.