After nearly a year-and-a-half away, Manny Pacquiao will make his return to the ring Saturday against Jessie Vargas in a 12-round clash for the WBO Welterweight Championship.
Pac-Man was unable to stay retired despite his burgeoning political career in the Philippines, and while he defeated Timothy Bradley decisively in what was supposed to be his final fight, it feels as though the future Hall of Famer is still trying to prove himself and fully bounce back from his loss to Floyd Mayweather.
Pacquiao will have a golden opportunity to take back the title he lost to Mayweather, and here is everything you need to know about how to follow the fight both on pay-per-view and via Bleacher Report.
Where: Thomas & Mack Center in Paradise, Nevada
When: Saturday, Nov. 5 (pay-per-view card starts at 9 p.m. ET)
Watch: Top Rank PPV
Follow Bleacher Report's live blog for updates throughout the night as well as round-by-round analysis of the main event between Pacquiao and Vargas.
What Pacquiao Is Saying
At 37 years of age, Pacquiao has essentially done it all in boxing. Despite that, his comments and actions suggest he isn't ready to give up the sport he dominated for so long.
Even though Pac-Man is the only eight-division world champion in boxing history and was long considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, his desire to remain at the top of his game is obvious, as evidenced by comments he made to Gilbert Manzano of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
I want to prove that I am still one of the best pound-for-pound fighters. I feel I still have a lot to prove. I am not done with boxing. I will continue to keep fighting as long as I love boxing and boxing still loves me. I do not feel old. I feel like I am still 27.
[Vargas] is the champion and he is wearing my championship belt. I want that belt back, which is the reason why we are doing this fight.
Pacquiao's drive and will to win can't be questioned, but it is fair to wonder if he is anywhere near the same fighter he once was when he was at the top of the heap.
Pac-Man has a career record of 58-6-2 with 38 knockouts, but his explosiveness has seemingly lessened with each passing fight.
His last knockout win came seven years ago against Miguel Cotto, and Pacquiao explained the reason behind his perceived drop-off in power, per Carlos Boogs of BoxingScene.com:
Remember my minimum weight is —I can still make 135 [lbs.]. I can still make 135 [lbs.] and my natural weight is 140 [lbs.]. When I move up into the higher weight divisions it changes my preparation—I eat a lot to make 147 [lbs.]. Where I may gain a pound of two between the weigh-in and the fight, my opponent may be a lot heavier.
I am not saying that I cannot [get the knockout], but what I am trying to do in every fight I try to do my best. It just so happens that my opponent is tough and bigger than me. But I am still trying to do my best to get a knockout in the fight. I am not saying what I am predicting for this fight but if the knockout comes, it will come—it is the bonus for all of your sacrifices in training.
Pacquiao often doesn't need a knockout to come out on the winning end, but with three losses in his past seven fights to Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Mayweather, respectively, losing the power threat has made him a less dominant fighter.
Vargas can't afford to sleep on Pac-Man's power due to his track record, but there may be no better time to trade haymakers with Pacquiao and make it a slugfest against him than right now.
What Vargas Is Saying
Despite being 10 years Pacquiao's junior and having just one loss on his record, Vargas enters Saturday's fight as a substantial underdog.
While Pacquiao undoubtedly represents the biggest and toughest challenge of Vargas' career, the fact few expect him to win means he can fight without much pressure on his shoulders in comparison to Pac-Man.
According to Dyan Castillejo of ABS-CBN News, Vargas fully intends to be aggressive in his title defense: "I'm 10 years younger than him. This is my time. I'm going to hit him in the chin."
The only common opponent between Vargas and Pacquiao is Bradley. Pac-Man went 2-1 against him, although Bradley's victory was beyond controversial.
Vargas, on the other hand, dropped a unanimous-decision to Bradley last year in the first and only loss of his career to this point.
La Nueva Generacion bounced back to beat Sadam Ali by knockout and win the WBO Welterweight title, but he has yet to prove he is anywhere near Pacquiao's level.
Even so, Vargas is brimming with confidence and eager to prove he can defeat one of the all-time greats, per Mitch Abramson of The Ring:
[Pacquiao's] best performance against [Bradley] in his three fights was in his last fight. It was only a few months ago and I'm happy he was able to give that performance. That way people can still see when I defeat [Pacquiao] I will defeat a good [Pacquiao] that is still performing at the highest level. That's the [Pacquiao] I want to beat.
Vargas has enjoyed a great deal of success during his career thus far, but he isn't yet a big-name draw like Pacquiao is or Mayweather was.
Beating Pac-Man can change that, so there is plenty riding on the fight for Vargas as it relates to future opportunities and earnings.
Vargas will be a made man if he defeats Pac-Man, and if he media comments are to be believed, he has no doubt that he can do what so few before him have.
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