It’s a long way from the Philippines Senate to the boxing ring, but Manny Pacquiao will make that trip this weekend when he challenges Jessie Vargas for the WBO welterweight title in Las Vegas.
The action will be broadcast live on SS6 from 3am CAT on Sunday morning. The recently installed senator continues to box, but at 37 the end is nearing. Vargas, his opponent this weekend, is a full decade younger. He is also taller and has a longer reach, presenting the legendary Filipino with a substantial challenge.
Despite the wear and tear of 66 professional fights, Pacquiao is said to have shown great form in the gym. “He’s as good now as he ever was,” said long-time trainer Freddie Roach. After the disappointment of last year’s mega-fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pacquiao rebounded with an outstanding defeat of Tim Bradley to remind everyone that he remained a world-class operator. Interestingly, Vargas’ only career defeat came against Bradley, but he had Bradley on the brink of a stoppage defeat before the round was brought to a premature (and highly controversial) end by the referee, who thought he had heard the bell.
Vargas has beaten top contenders like Josesito Lopez, Khabib Allakhverdiev and Sadam Ali, but Pacquiao is a significant step up in class. Vargas’ brawling style appears tailor-made for Pacquiao, who can hold a shot and is a whirlwind puncher who will thrive on Vargas’ defensive failings.
Although he hasn’t scored a stoppage win since 2009, Pacquiao has heavy hands and can hurt his opponents if they opt to trade with him. Whatever happens, the fight represents one of the final times that fight fans will be able to watch the future Hall of Famer in action.