Manny Pacquiao vs. Jessie Vargas: Preview

To those who thought that Manny Pacquiao’s retirement after his third fight with Timothy Bradley would not last long, congratulations. You were right. While the Philippine Senate remains Pac-Man’s priority, the fighter has found time in what has to be a pretty rigorous schedule to train for Jessie Vargas, a man not necessarily known to casual fans but a stringent test regardless.

For those unfamiliar with Vargas, he’s the current WBO welterweight titlist, and has risen from relative obscurity to become one of the best fighters at 147 lbs. He was a member of the 2008 Mexican Olympic team, and has some impressive wins on his record.

The Fight

Location: Thomas & Mack Center, Paradise, Nevada, USA

Time: 9:00 pm Eastern /8:00 pm Central Time /6:00 pm Pacific

Channel: Top Rank PPV

Undercard: Nonito Donaire (37-3) vs. Jessie Magdanelo (23-0) WBO Super-Bantamweight title bout

Oscar Valdez (20-0) vs. Hiroshige Osawa (30-3-4) WBO Featherweight title bout

The Fighters

Manny Pacquiao

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen, Getty Images
Christian Petersen, Getty Images

From: Kibawe, Philippines

Record: 58 Wins, 6 Losses, 38 Knockouts

VAVEL Welterweight Rank: 3rd


Lineal Welterweight Champion (Current)

Former Eight Division World Champion [1]

Last Five Fights:

Win - Unanimous Decision vs. Timothy Bradley

Loss - Unanimous Decision vs. Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Win - Unanimous Decision vs. Chris Algieri

Win - Unanimous Decision vs. Timothy Bradley

Win - Unanimous Decision vs. Brandon Rios

Strengths: For starters, Manny Pacquiao is at worst the 2nd best welterweight fighter of his lifetime. He’s defeated fighters of every style, stance, weight, creed, and color over his illustrious career and even at his age is still a top pound-for-pound fighter. His aggression is second to none in the ring and even after all these years, the Mexicutioner fights like he has nothing to lose.

His southpaw stance alone gives right handed fighters fits, and his ability to get inside negates the height and reach disadvantage he seems to have in every fight (Search: Pacquiao-De La Hoya). In addition, the Filipino fighter has gotten more strategic with age to make up with a physical skill set that has hit a plateau with age.

Weaknesses: Speaking of a declining skill set, Pacquiao’s most glaring weakness is the lack of knockout power that made him a menace in the mid to late 2000s. Since his TKO of Miguel Cotto in 2009, Pacquiao has not earned a single knockout victory, even versus inferior opposition such as Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios.

In addition, his aggression tends to leave him open to counters such as fights against Floyd Mayweather where “Money” comfortably countered him from the 4th round on while Juan Manuel Marquez knocked Manny out cold in 2012 after Pacquiao left his chin exposed while on the offensive.

Jessie Vargas

Chris Hyde, Getty Images

From: Los Angeles, USA

Record: 27 Wins, 1 Loss, 10 Knockouts

VAVEL Welterweight Rank: 9th


WBO Welterweight Champion (Current)

WBA Super-Lightweight Champion (Former)

IBO Super-Lightweight Champion (Former)

Last Five Fights:

Win – Technical Knockout vs. Sadam Ali

Loss – Unanimous Decision vs. Timothy Bradley

Win – Unanimous Decision vs. Antonio DeMarco

Win – Unanimous Decision vs. Anton Novikov

Win – Unanimous Decision vs. Khabib Allakhverdiev

Strengths: While not known historically as being a knockout artist, Vargas has shown some unprecedented punching power in his last two fights as he knocked down Timothy Bradley en route to a controversial loss, and earned his WBO strap after knocking out Sadam Ali in round 9. It’s extremely noteworthy that the increased power came through Vargas’s two most difficult opponents.

Against a fighter like Pacquiao, the 5’10” Vargas will have to do what bigger fighters fail to do against the all-time great: keep his distance and choose his shots. If his newfound power carries over to Saturday, Vargas could succeed if he frustrates Pacquiao by maintaining distance and forcing him to bum rush inside where Vargas could then sneak in a power shot or two and cause some damage.

Weaknesses: Inexperience, mostly. Vargas has no glaring fundamental flaws, but he’s only fought two fighters who are on a world level (and even then, Ali’s status is debatable at best). Pacquiao’s had a dozen fights on bigger stages than this, so he will not have the butterflies that Vargas might have going into this fight. Experience aside, Vargas is fighting one of the best fighters in the last two decades and only a few have walked away with a win against.Pac-Man.

The Verdict

Vargas is not to be slept on and will have a great career. Pacquiao may not be the knockout machine that he used to be, but he’s still a top 10 P4P fighter. Vargas could have succes frustrating Pacquiao, but maintaining it for 12 rounds could prove problematic.

While Pacquiao might not break his KO draught, there’s no doubt that he’s the favorite to win this fight by a wide margin.

Pacquiao by Unanimous Decision.