Boxing: Veteran shows he has plenty of fight left

American Jessie Vargas reeling against Manny Pacquiao during the latter's victory in their WBO welterweight championship fight in Las Vegas on Saturday.
American Jessie Vargas reeling against Manny Pacquiao during the latter's victory in their WBO welterweight championship fight in Las Vegas on Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pacquiao pummels Vargas for WBO belt as Mayweather's presence sparks rematch talk

LAS VEGAS • Manny Pacquiao showed he still has plenty of energy by dominating Jessie Vargas in a World Boxing Organisation (WBO) title fight in Las Vegas on Saturday - and his former rival Floyd Mayweather was there to watch the bout from a ringside seat.

The Filipino boxer, who turns 38 next month, floored Vargas in the second round en route to a one-sided victory, which allowed him to reclaim the WBO welterweight title which both he and Mayweather held previously.

Pacquiao surrendered that title when he lost last year to Mayweather in the richest fight in boxing history.

The retired Mayweather's appearance at ringside on Saturday, at Pacquiao's request, will certainly stir talk of a possible Pacquiao-Mayweather rematch.

"Yes I invited him to come tonight," Pacquiao said of Mayweather. Asked if he wanted a rematch with Mayweather, Pacquiao said: "We will see."

Mayweather, 39, took his seat with his daughter just before the fight started. He watched attentively, then left before the fighters had cleared the ring.

Pacquiao beat Vargas with a unanimous decision - all three judges scored the bout for Pacquiao, two of them by 118-109 and the other by 114-113 - to capture the WBO belt for the third time.

After the fight Vargas was asked if he wanted to see Pacquiao and Mayweather go at it again.

"Of course," Vargas said. "I wouldn't mind seeing it again. We are still very interested in seeing what could happen again."

But both Pacquiao and his promoter Bob Arum were non-committal about a second fight with Mayweather.

"Floyd Mayweather is retired. As far as we're concerned he's retired and we respect that," Arum said at the post-fight news conference.

Pacquiao had to skip the event because of a cut that needed 16 stitches after a head butt.

Arum, however, did mention other potential Pacquiao opponents, including Ukraine's Vasyl Lomachenko as well as Americans Terence Crawford and Keith Thurman.

In Manila, Filipinos in cinemas, bars, restaurants and at basketball courts erupted in jubilation yesterday as they watched Pacquiao hammer Vargas.

The boxing icon and senator put on a dazzling display in his return to the ring after a brief retirement, even fighting with more intensity and energy and dominating the 27-year-old American in the final rounds to close out an emphatic victory.

The presidential palace led the nation in sending a congratulatory message to Pacquiao, though it did not say if President Rodrigo Duterte, Pacquiao's political ally, watched the fight.

But it did say "the courage and grit displayed by our Filipino boxers in Las Vegas are the same qualities we must demonstrate as a nation to rid society of drugs, criminality and corruption".

"Once again, Manny's triumph united and brought joy to our people and our nation."

Pacquiao systematically dismantled the former welterweight champion despite Vargas' size and his reach advantage.

He used a short right-handed counter-punch to floor Vargas in the second round in front of a crowd of 16,132 at the Thomas & Mack Centre.

"I feel happy," he said. "I'm trying every round to knock him down but also not (to) be careless."

Pacquiao, 59-6 with two draws and 38 knockouts, showed he still has a lot left in the tank but he failed to get the knockout victory that has eluded him for the past seven years.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2016, with the headline 'Veteran shows he has plenty of fight left'. Print Edition | Subscribe