MANILA • A top boxing analyst feels that financial gains are behind Manny Pacquiao's decision to fight Jessie Vargas on Nov 5.
Max Kellerman, who analyses major bouts for HBO, the same broadcast company that airs some of Pacquiao's big fights, said the Filipino is playing it safe by choosing Vargas over rising star Terence Crawford, the unbeaten World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organisation super-lightweight champion.
Pacquiao, 37, confirmed on Wednesday that he is coming out of retirement to fight American Vargas, 27, the WBO welterweight champion, in Las Vegas.
"Yes, the fight is on. Boxing is my passion. I miss what I'd been doing inside the gym and atop the ring," he said in a statement.
Kellerman said on ESPN's First Take: "Terence Crawford is one of the best in boxing and he's sitting right there waiting for a fight with Pacquiao. He's a very dangerous fighter. That's a 50-50 type of fight.
"I think most boxing insiders might even favour Crawford in that one. And that's a bigger money fight than against Jessie Vargas."
Selecting Vargas over Crawford has led Kellerman to conclude that Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) is in it only for the money, a fact reinforced by the Filipino's statement on Wednesday that "boxing is my main source of income".
"Vargas is a harder sell than Crawford. So if you're coming back, and you'd rather fight the guy that's harder to sell for the money for a pay-per-view fight than a guy that is easier to fight - what does that mean? It means you're just doing it for money and you're avoiding the bigger risk at this point," said the analyst.
Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs), for his part, has promised to put up a stiff and entertaining fight.
And Filipino boxing pundit Ronnie Nathanielsz believes it will not be as easy as Pacquiao's previous bouts because the Filipino is 10 years older and has been dividing his time between politics and sport.
Pacquiao was elected to the Philippine senate in May. After winning a unanimous decision against American Timothy Bradley in April, he had said that he would retire to focus on his political career.
"It is dangerous for him to fight a young man like Vargas," said Nathanielsz, who has followed the Filipino fighter's career for many years.
"Manny has been fighting for 17 or 18 years, so there's a degree of wear and tear."
While Pacquiao still has power and speed, he has slowed down in recent years, Nathanielsz added.
"He certainly isn't the fighter he was before, which means he's past his prime," observed the pundit.