Seven months after he announced his retirement from boxing and despite now being a senator in his native Philippines, Manny Pacquiao will be back in the ring in Las Vegas on Saturday night. The 37-year-old will be taking on the fighter who took his vacant WBO welterweight title, Jessie Vargas, for the belt at The Thomas and Mack Center.
For Pacquiao, the challenge is to show that, a month ahead of his 38th birthday and having been splitting his time between the gym and the Philippines Senate in, he can still get the job done in the ring.
“I want to prove that I am still one of the best pound-for-pound fighters,” Pacquiao said ahead of the fight. "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.”
A belt-holder at eight different weight classes and considered one of the finest pound-for-pound boxers of all-time, Pacquiao’s legacy in the sport is already cemented. Yet his once devastating hand-speed has shown signs of decline in recent times. He has not stopped an opponent since 2009, and in May 2015 he lost a points decision in his long-anticipated contest with rival Floyd Mayweather.
However, Pacquiao enters the fight with a win under his belt, having scored an impressive victory over veteran Timothy Bradley in a unanimous points decision before announcing he was hanging up his gloves.
And it was against Bradley that Vargas suffered his only defeat in his 28-fight career, going down by unanimous decision in June last year. Still, the 27-year-old Los Angeles native bounced back to stop Sadam Ali in the ninth round to take the vacant welterweight crown in March.
Betting Odds: Pacquiao -650, Vargas +425, via Bovada.lv
Start Time: Undercard begins at 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: HBO PPV
Outlook: Pacquiao may clearly not be the fighter he once was, but he showed against Bradley that he is still a force. And, as long as his political career has not taken away too much of his sharpness, his huge experience edge against a fighter that has never faced an opponent of Pacquiao’s pedigree and never been on such a big stage should help give the Filipino star the edge on points. Pacquiao should prevail in a unanimous decision.
Danny Garcia, welterweight champion boxer: Pacquiao in a unanimous decision
Juan Manuel Marquez, welterweight champion: Pacquiao by KO
Dan Rafael, ESPN: Pacquiao by decision
Teddy Atlas, ESPN: Pacquiao by decision
Joe Cortez, ESPN/Former Referee: Vargas by unanimous decision
Bobby Ilich, International Business Times: Pacquiao in a majority decision
Greg Price, International Business Times: Pacquiao in a unanimous decision
Anthony Riccobono, International Business Times: Pacquiao in a unanimous decision