Photo by HBO Boxing
By Rich Mancuso
Jessie Vargas felt it back in March when he stopped Sadam Ali in the ninth round for the vacant WBO welterweight title. He wasn’t supposed to win and there were the negative comments. One year ago, in June, he almost got the decision over Timothy Bradley but lost on points.
But that win over Ali, and new handlers have got Vargas what he wanted. Manny Pacquiao comes out of a supposed retirement and will meet the 27-year old Vargas for the title on November 5 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Nevada.
The one issue still to be determined is who will handle the pay-per-view distribution. HBO Sports, home for a majority of Pacquiao thrillers has dropped the eight-division champion and Pacquiao’s promoters at Top Rank are without a distributor but with their manpower could take over.
That issue is in the balance and eventually Vargas and Pacquiao will be a pay-per-view fight. For now, Vargas is focused and determined and setting up training camp in his hometown of Las Vegas at the Top Rank Gym.
“We look forward to this fight November 5,” Vargas said Tuesday afternoon from Las Vegas. “The number one thing in mind is perform well and do well and give fans a great performance. Manny Pacquiao is a boxing icon world wide and I respect him as a fighter and his legacy.”
And then Vargas, who has been fighting since the age of 18 and once a member of the Mexican National team said, “It’s my time now. I’m going to show I’m better and defend what I have to do.”
True, Pacquiao looked like his old self back in April. He easily won a 12-round unanimous decision in a third fight with Timothy Bradley. That was supposed to be his last fight and Pacquiao would focus on a political career as a Senator representing his people in the Philippines.
But with Pacquiao, as with every legendary fighter it is hard to say goodbye. And the speculation still mounts that he wants to take Floyd Mayweather Jr. out of retirement and get revenge for his loss in the mega fight of last year.
Vargas is well spoken and has a nice delivery of words as good as his punches. The respect for Pacquiao will always be there until they throw punches in November.
“I have full confidence in my trainer and my team,” Vargas said. “Switch from one style to another with ease. You beat Pacquiao being faster. It will be an entertaining matchup and fireworks from both sides. I’m in my prime. It’s my time now. He had his best moments, now it’s my time.”
Boxing is mental and an adjustment. The confidence comes from a new team. Robert Garcia is on board who met Vargas when he was 8-years old in Los Angeles. Now a young trainer, Dewey Cooper is on board who works on power, speed and rhythm.
Those three components are important for a welterweight, and opposing Pacquiao they are essential to scoring points or getting the knockdown. Vargas hurt Bradley with a short right in their fight and the same happened against Khan.
Pacquiao may be looking for that, but the speed that Vargas exhibits could also play a factor. It’s called strategy, and Jessie Vargas has a plan to become the fighter who wants to make sure this is his time and says the Bradley fight was the experience he needed.
That fight made Vargas more determined and when Adrian Broner, who was approached first as a Pacquiao opponent, but became too demanding, the call came for the most lucrative opportunity of his career.
Vargas has heard the critics. They are saying he is not the proper opponent and that frustrates him, more so it has made this fighter more determined to shut up the negative vibes.
To that, Vargas says, “Every now and then negative comments give me that extra bit of fire to come out on fire. Living my dream…the fight I been waiting for years and I know I have to live the dream now. I want to prove to everyone you can dream on and accomplish your goal.”
And with that, Jessie Vargas is a fighter at peace with himself. There will be the usual and large contingent of fans for Pacquiao. Vargas fighting in Las Vegas before the hometown fans, and for the first time in a long time will also have plenty of support.
But the one thing he wants is a victory. And this new strategy just may get to Pacquiao.