Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) vs. Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs)
When: Saturday, November 5, 2016
Where: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Weight Class: Welterweights: 12 Rounds
by Scott, Boxing Betting Analyst, Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Manny Pacquiao (-900), Jessie Vargas (+500)
Manny Pacquiao takes on Jessie Vargas for the WBO 147-pound belt in Las Vegas on November 5. Pacquiao emerges from a retirement that was so brief; it didn't even interrupt his boxing schedule. The Filipino legend will be nearly 38 by fight-night, taking on a once-beaten 27-year old titleholder who appears to be surging. Will it be another big win for the 8-division world champion or can Vargas come up with something to upset the odds?
Pacquiao's assets in the boxing ring are well-known. But what do we have with Vargas, the former Olympian from Los Angeles? He's a well-schooled fighter and a welterweight with some nice length at nearly six-feet. He was cruising along just under the radar before being matched against former Pacquiao nemesis Timothy Bradley. Moving up in weight from 140, Vargas was being beaten fairly soundly before lashing out with an impassioned rally in the final round. Vargas had Bradley careening all over the ring, with the bout inexplicably ending early with a premature bell, making some feel Vargas was deprived of a chance to win.
Vargas parlayed his dramatic, yet losing effort against Bradley into a title shot at WBO titleholder Sadam Ali. Vargas scored a nice 9th-round TKO win over the undefeated Ali to put his name among the top of the stacked and lucrative welterweight division. Vargas looks to be rounding into form nicely. Before he fought Bradley, he had scored ten straight decision wins, so this recent power spike as he rose in weight has been a pleasant surprise. He throws a nice left hook to the head and has a certain intangible quality that needs to be accounted for—the ability to thrive in a war. There is a definite blood-and-guts vibe to this guy, as Vargas isn't afraid to get down and dirty.
In 2014 while Vargas was still a 140-pounder, he was fortunate to get a decision against top contender Khabib Allakhverdiev. Many of us saw him get the worst of it against Bradley over 11 rounds before springing to life in the last round. So the messages are mixed. On one hand, we see a fighter filling out into a real man and becoming a force. And on the other hand, we see a spirited, but unimaginative battler who is out of his element from a skill and ability standpoint against the truly elite.
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The bottom-line is that against the man who had the measure of Vargas for 11 rounds, Pacquiao was pretty impressive in April. In his third fight with Bradley, he was crisp, flashed his typical speed, and won going away. He has scaled heights that Vargas never will. His ability, even at this age, is on a different level. The speed differential will be jarring once Pac-Man starts letting his hands go.
The daylight for Vargas exists more in concepts than matching up their various assets and deficiencies in the ring. At the top of the list is youth. Time and again, history has shown us that this is a young man's game. Pacquiao might not be that old from a chronological sense at 37, but his ring-age far surpasses that. We're talking about a guy that first won a world title in 1998. Fighting from 112 up to 154 wasn't easy and though he thrived again and again, the journey certainly exacted a toll on Senator Pacquiao. When we see him fight nowadays, we see a lot of the same things that made him a legend. It's just that those skills are performed by a body that is no longer as reliable as it once was. One can sense that the wheels can come off at any time.
Also in Vargas' favor is the element of overall ambition. Boxing is a sport where a singular focus is required, an almost psychotic obsession on getting to the top. Vargas is firmly on that course as a full-time fighter scratching and clawing his way to the top. Pacquiao's approach at this point is more that of a moonlighting fighter, an old lion hanging on for unclear purposes, perhaps motivated more by money than anything else.
It's also important to note that it's been a while now since Pacquiao wasn't rich or wasn't a legend. Yet he still maintained a certain fighter's hunger despite life having become comfortable for him a long time ago. Even if his motivations are financial, he knows that winning is key to keep that gravy train rolling, should he need it to. It's just that if a fight turns into a dramatic war, the more committed fighter has the edge.
Something does seem amiss about this latest Pacquiao comeback. There's a sense of distress to it, being that is was so brief. The selection of Vargas makes sense on some levels, but it also adds to a sense of aimlessness that this comeback possesses. It's not entirely clear what the point is. Is money that scarce? As a former gambler, is that mentality coming out now through his pushing of the envelope in his boxing career?
Not to belabor the point, but when you pour through boxing history, this period in Pacquiao's career is typically the most-problematic. When you've accomplished everything Pacquiao has, what else is there to strive for? Any rivalry he has involves fighters who are either retired or guys no one wants to see him fight anymore. There is no compelling counter-piece to Pacquiao at this point. That leaves him to fight without a spelled-out plan, as he is now just groping for something. More or less, he's just fighting again. And that's when bad things can happen.
On the positive side of things for Pacquiao, he's at least not rusty. Again, this retirement didn't even cause his schedule to do a stutter-step. His schedule has still been pretty relaxed lately and the fact that he's taken minimal punishment since being stopped by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012 has enabled him to make that downward trajectory less-steep. He still represents a whole list of problems, even for a young titleholder like Vargas.
Pacquiao has seen the rest of the welterweight division pick up a lot of steam and depth in the past several years. Against the best of that lot, guys like Keith Thurman, Kell Brook, Danny Garcia, and Shawn Porter, one would have to scrutinize where Pacquiao really stands in 2016. But Vargas represents the level just beneath that—a very good fighter who can give anyone a tough fight, but one who lacks that special dimension needed to compete at this level. I'm going with Pacquiao.
My Prediction to Win the Fight:
I'm betting on Manny Pacquiao. Though his career has reached the point of diminished returns, there is something clever about the matchmaking in this fight. Vargas has just enough credentials and not enough ability to beat Pacquiao, who should cruise to a routine win. But for those looking to time an upset on Pacquiao, you're probably on the right track, though we don't see it happening here. Bet your pick to win the fight using your credit card and receive a generous 50% bonus up to $250 in FREE CASH at Bovada Sportsbook!
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