Pacquiao is champ again
LAS VEGAS—Manny Pacquiao reclaimed the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title for the third time, although he failed to knock out defending champion Jessie Vargas in his comeback fight on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Darting in and out, connecting from side to side, Pacquiao beat Vargas by unanimous decision and regained the welterweight crown before a sellout crowd of 16,132 at Thomas & Mack Center here.
Though he knocked down Vargas with a left straight late in the second round, Pacquiao was unable to finish off the American champion as the bell sounded afterward.
“I was looking to finish him,” said Pacquiao, who added another chapter to his boxing career as the first incumbent Philippine senator to win a world title. “I wanted a knockout.”
It never came, as Vargas, realizing how powerful Pacquiao’s punches were, shifted gears.
Always known as the aggressor, Vargas opted to just wait for Pacquiao to lunge in starting the fifth round.
Despite his failure to end a seven-year, 12-fight knockout spell, Pacquiao expressed satisfaction with the result, 118-112 twice, and a bum 114-113 count.
“I’m so happy with my performance. I wanted to win every round. Walking into the ring as a challenger energized me,” he said.
Pacquiao won the WBO title for the first time in 2010 when he beat Miguel Cotto. He lost it two years later to Timothy Bradley, then got it back by winning a rematch with Bradley in 2014.
He then lost it last year to the now-retired Floyd Mayweather Jr., who had a ringside seat for Saturday night’s bout.
The presence of Mayweather at ringside also revved up Pacquiao, now 59-6-2, with 38 knockouts.
“I noticed that he (Mayweather) was my guest,” said Pacquiao, who is trying to lure Mayweather out of retirement and fight him in a rematch.
In what was billed as the Fight of the Century on May 2, 2015, Mayweather bested Pacquiao, who suffered a right shoulder injury in the course of the bout.
Mayweather notched his 49th victory and eventually bowed out of the sport.
Pacquiao did not appear in the postfight press conference on Saturday as he needed 16 stitches after a collision of heads near the end of the 12th and final round.
Vargas appeared, wearing dark shades to hide the marks of the 147 shots landed by Pacquiao.
“He was very fast and very sharp,” said Vargas, who suffered his second loss in 29 bouts.
In the ring interview earlier, Vargas claimed Pacquiao “didn’t hurt me at all,” drawing a roar of disapproval from the crowd dominated by Filipinos with a sprinkling of Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese and Thais.
Eager to attend the Senate sessions, Pacquiao is leaving on Sunday on a private jet to catch the late night flight to Manila.
“I can’t wait to get back home and start my legislative work,” said Pacquiao, who expressed his readiness to come back and fight.
Had he knocked out Vargas, a slew of bigger, more rewarding bouts would have been lined up for him next year.
For now, Pacquiao’s radar is confined to Top Rank stablemates Terrence Crawford, Vasyl Lomachenco and Danny Garcia as possible opponents.
Unless, of course, Mayweather enters the picture.
Mayweather stopped by on Saturday to see an old foe. He took a ringside seat alongside his daughter to watch the man who helped him make untold millions when they fought here last year.
Just before the bell rang to start the fight, Pacquiao smiled and waived a fist at Mayweather.
Mayweather did not answer questions about a possible return to the ring shouted at him by writers at ringside.
“I invited him to be here tonight,” Pacquiao said, saying “we’ll see” when asked if the two could meet again.
With Mayweather watching intently from the ringside, Pacquiao worked on Vargas, systematically dismantling the former champion despite his size and reach advantage.
Pacquiao, who earned a reported $100 million in the fight against Mayweather, was guaranteed $4 million plus a percentage of the revenue of the fight.
Vargas got $2.8 million. —WITH REPORTS FROM AP AND AFP
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