LAS VEGAS (AFP) - Manny Pacquiao announced his retirement seven months ago but after serving his first stint as a rookie senator, the fire was rekindled and the stage set for a return to boxing.
Pacquiao is hoping to reclaim the WBO welterweight title for the third time. But juggling two jobs, including his new gig as a full-time politician in the Philippine Senate, has cut into his training camp. Pacquiao, who turns 38 next month, is going up against the younger WBO champ Jessie Vargas, who has a height, reach and weight advantage.
Pacquiao tipped the scales at 144.8 pounds (65.7 kilograms) in front of a crowd of about 900 at Friday’s weigh-in at the Encore Theater inside the Wynn hotel and casino. Vargas (27-1, 10 knockouts) weighed in at 146.5 pounds.
“I know I am the challenger going in and I have to fight that way,” Pacquiao said Friday. “It is not enough to do well, I have to take the title away from him.”
Pacquiao arrived first stripping off his black and gold track suit and stepping on the scale wearing grey boxer shorts and trademark white socks.
“I want to make history. It would mean a lot for me to win this fight,” he said.
Pacquiao won the WBO title for the first time in 2010 when he beat Miguel Cotto. He lost it two years later to Timothy Bradley, then got it back by winning the rematch with Bradley in 2014. He then lost it to Floyd Mayweather last year.
Pacquiao (58-6-2 with 38 KOs) still has a lot left and a seven-month hiatus can hardly be considered a retirement. But he’s not getting any younger and hasn’t had a knockout victory since 2009.
No fighter can go on forever. It remains to be seen if his part-time training routine and the wear of 66 professional fights finally brings Pacman to a halt against Vargas, who is 10 years younger, five inches (13 centimeters) taller and has a four-inch reach advantage.
Pacquiao said he was retiring following his April 9 two-knockdown victory over Bradley in their third fight.
Pacquiao looked impressive in stopping Bradley, showing that he has recovered from a shoulder injury which hampered him in his fight against Mayweather in May 2015.
Now it remains to be seen what Vargas’ youth and size advantage means against the highly skilled and more experienced Pacquiao.
Vargas is making his first title defense after winning the vacant WBO crown by beating Sadam Ali.
“Manny Pacquiao has had a great career,” said Vargas, who is from Las Vegas but says he is fighting for Mexican pride. “Everybody that beats him becomes a legend and I look forward to becoming a legend.”
Not many of the fans inside the Encore Theater on Friday were giving Vargas much of a chance.
“Manny will win because he favors this type of boxing style,” said Alex Picarra, of Henderson, Nevada. “Vargas is a good fighter but he is also a brawler and that plays into Manny’s style.”
Picarra, who works for an air conditioning company, said Vargas is out of his league.
“Manny’s still got it,” he said. “I watched Vargas fight Bradley and Bradley dominated him. If Bradley can dominate him, then what is Manny going to do?”
Mikael Osorito, of Daly City, California, is an example of the Manny mania of Filipino expats.
The 41-year-old airport worker flew to Las Vegas just so he could attend the weigh-in.
Osorito will fly home Saturday morning and enjoy the fight on a big screen TV with about 30 friends and family.
“I come to all of Manny’s weigh-ins,” said Osorito, who paid $100 just to watch the weigh-in prior to the Mayweather mega fight in 2015.
“Manny has more explosive power. He is not afraid in the ring. It’s do or die.”