By John J. Raspanti
As he prepares to meet former eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao this Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV, WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas isn’t feeling much love.
“I’m probably the only champion that has not got credit,” Vargas told www.fightnews.com a few days ago. "I have busted my ass to get here. I was with Mayweather Promotions and put on other promoter’s cards as they were setting me up with tough fighters. They didn’t care if I lost since I was not with that promoter.”
Vargas, 27, has been rolling lately. He captured the WBO belt last March when he defeated previously unbeaten Sadam Ali. Vargas started slowly, but appeared to kick himself into high gear as the bout progressed. He stalked and rocked Ali, stopping him in the ninth round.
“I tore him apart piece by piece,” Vargas said after the most impressive victory of his career.
Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) was last seen in the ring cementing his superiority over Timothy Bradley. He boxed and slugged, winning the fight by unanimous decision. The only real surprise was how good he looked. He was sharp, focused and ready. He didn’t fight like a 37-year-old boxer-senator.
Pacquiao is not taking Vargas for granted.
“He is a lot taller than me,” said Pacquiao. “I don’t want to underestimate him. He is a champion. Many people think it will be an easy fight. I will be ready for him and expect to be victorious.”
Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs) has embraced his fall guy status.
“I know that I’m the underdog in this fight but, what’s changed?” Vargas said. “Come November 5th, I will prove you wrong. You will be surprised by my performance.”
Vargas could spring the upset if Pacquiao is unfocused or suddenly gets old in the ring. Maybe he’ll be mulling over his senatorial duties in the Philippines.
Vargas is a decade younger, but Pacquiao has a ton more experience. Vargas is hungry. He’s a man on a mission. But even an older version of Pacquiao is the better fighter.
Chip or not, I see Pacquiao winning the match by a wide 12-round decision.